Today’s post is an interview with my friend April Brigman on how she and her husband Jeff took steps to rebuild their credit so that they could buy their first home. I hope you all enjoy it!

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Q: Tell me about yourself and your family. Where are you from? How did you meet your husband, Jeff? What do both of you do for a living?

A: I’m a wife, and loving mother of three, and I am driven and self employed. I consider motherhood to be my greatest joy and hardest role to undertake. I am a North Carolina girl at heart who currently resides in East Tennessee. Jeff and I first met years ago as teenage neighbors, our paths crossed again 11 years ago when I was a single mother raising 3 kids, and the second best thing to happen to me. I have worked out of my home caring for little ones of friends and family for many years. Jeff is in Maintenance.

Q: When did you decide to initially try to buy a house? What obstacles did you encounter when you began this process?

A: We had gone to a financial seminar at our church our first year of marriage. We went home and looked over our finances and the materials. They had us write a list of 3 things we would like to accomplish with our budget. Buying a house and being debt free was on both of our lists. We prayed over it and decided to start tithing and trusting God to help us become debt free. We originally looked into buying a home 3 years ago. I had been in the process of building up my credit while being a single parent, due a bankruptcy from my previous marriage. It had already dropped off my report by the time we had married and I had a good credit history going but my score wasn’t where I wanted it to be. Jeff had past credit debt that needed to be cleaned up and a history established.

Q: Exactly what steps did you take that helped you and Jeff to bring up your credit score? How long did it take? How much of an increase did you see over time?

A: We met with a mortgage broker at Academy Mortgage, who pulled our credit history and scores. She advised us on steps to take. First we needed to call past creditors to pay a settlement on any judgements that showed up. That part took us 3 years to complete. We would save up enough to call a creditor to be able to pay the settlement. What we learned is they will usually settle $300 on every $1,000 owed. That’s the rule of thumb we offered on all the debts as we went and it worked. They sent us the discharge paper in the mail for each debt and reported it as paid on the credit report. However your discharge amount that you didn’t have to pay back does get put as earned income at tax time. You will receive a letter every year for discharged debt you didn’t have to pay as earned income. That one we didn’t know about the first tax year, it was a surprise at tax time. We were putting money back for our current debts also one debt at a time to become debt free during those years. We stopped using credit cards and saved up for things, paid off our car during that time, while experiencing multiple set backs due to life issues (surgery, cars breaking down, income fluctuating.) We went in to have our credit score checked again after 3 years. We still expected to have a year or two left in our minds to be able to buy a home. We thought we needed to save for a down payment and our scores showed average scores but not great for 3 years of hard work. Jeff sat down with the same mortgage lady to see where we were. She rechecked our scores and credit. The credit reports came back clean and perfect. Jeff’s score 3 years ago was 620 and was now 807. My score was around 780 and is now 802. Notice Jeff beat me! He left that day with a pre approval letter for a home loan! All our hard work paid off when we least expected it, ultimately we give God all the praise! We were able to get a USDA loan with 4% interest and no down payment required!

Q: Tell me about the house that you just bought.

A: Our forever home is a charming 2.5 acre farm house, that sits in the country surrounded by pastures and lovely scenery.

Q: What did you learn on this journey? What advice can you give to others who want to buy a house, but who need to improve their credit score?

A: We learned it is hard work. We did try a get rich quick business on the side, that didn’t succeed. At the end dedication, persistence and trusting in God paid off. Be patient, live life while saving or you will get stressed. Budget for both. Be gracious to your spouse while paying down debts usually you both will have different views of what a budget should be and ways to go about it. Make your plans together or it will fail. Find a good mortgage broker before you start the home process and follow their advice and be persistent with your plan.

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April Brigman and her husband, Jeff, reside in East Tennessee. They both love Jesus, the outdoors, and hiking.