Improve Your Credit Score

What steps should I take to improve my credit score if I want to buy a house in the next year or so?

What steps should I take to improve my credit score if I want to buy a house in the next year or so?

First, check your credit record with all credit bureaus and fix any errors. You'll have a separate credit score based on your credit record from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). Mortgage lenders usually get all three FICO scores and use the middle one. You can order a free credit report (but not free score) from each of those three bureaus every 12 months at www.annualcreditreport.com. Or you can order all three reports and FICO scores from MyFico.com for $44.85 (or $39.84 for a yearly subscription), which is a good idea to do at least six months before buying a house.

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Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.