Your credit is a crucial piece of the puzzle

Unless you're Bill Gates, you probably will need to borrow money — a lot of it — to buy a home. That means your credit history will come into play in a big way, because that's primarily what lenders will use to decide how big of a risk you are. The prospect of a credit check can bring to mind all sorts of unpleasant things, like whether you paid your credit card bill on time this month — or a year ago this month. Oops.

While you can't undo your credit history, the good news is that you can access it very easily. Your credit history is maintained by three private credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian. Each of them will, for a small fee, provide your credit report on-line or via snail-mail. Get a copy of all three reports, because one might list errors that the others don't, and you want to know all of the issues a lender might raise so there are no surprises.

Your credit report will show all the consumer credit that has been extended to you over the past seven years, including

Have a less-than-stellar credit history? Well, I won't lie to you: that could mean lenders will charge you significantly more for a given loan than someone with a good credit score. However, keep in mind that:

Because your credit history is crucial, if you're thinking about buying a home — or even if you're not — order your report today.

Below is the contact information for the three credit agencies.

Source: The National Association of Realtors

Rino Maddalena is an Associate Broker with Llewellyn Realtors. To contact Rino for all of your Real Estate needs call (301) 717-1075 or via e-mail at rinomaddalena@mris.com.