Liz Schneider, President, North Coast Building Industry Association

This week’s consumer tip focuses on credit-

Credit scores are one of those things that has consumers (and sometimes lenders) scratching their heads and saying, “How did they come up with THAT credit score?”

The one you hear about the most are FICO scores (acronym for the Fair Isaac Corporation, the creators of the FICO score). It’s the one that most mortgage lenders use as one of the benchmarks to see if you qualify to refinance or purchase another home.  Usually 3 scores are provided, and the lender uses the middle score as the basis for granting (or denying) a loan.

The thing about FICO scores is that the credit score may vary from lender to lender.  Why?  Because over the years, Fair Isaac has updated their credit scoring model software (best estimate, about 85 times), but the credit bureaus who buy the software from Fair Isaac do not always update their own software.  One lender could be using the latest version while another lender’s model is several years old.

However, not everyone uses FICO scores as a guide.  Here are some other credit scoring models that are used:

Auto Loans – If you apply for an auto loan through a dealer, they have developed their own credit scoring models, which are completely different from those used by lenders.

Insurance Companies – Your insurance premium you pay for homeowners or car insurance also depends upon the credit scoring model that insurance companies use.  Oh, and it will vary with different insurance companies.

Vantage Scores – If your occupation/employment requires you to be “licensed” (especially in the financial services industry) and to obtain (or maintain) your professional license, Vantage Scoring model software is used.

Free Credit Reports – According to law, you are entitled to one free credit report (per bureau) every year.  While it won’t be exactly what lenders see when they order a credit report on your behalf, it will be “in the range” and is a good indicator of what to expect.

As I mentioned, you are entitled to one free credit report—PER BUREAU.  Go to and you can request one credit report from EACH of the bureaus listed.

A word of caution!  Be careful when signing up for offers to provide you with a FREE credit report.  If you are asked to enter your credit card number, what you are really signing up for is a credit monitoring service—that may cost you over $300 per year.

Please let me know if you’d like me to review your credit report.  I can make suggestions on how to increase your credit score.  Sometimes it just takes a little tweaking to increase it by 25 to 50 points.

The North Coast Building Industry Association is your local not-for-profit trade association representing member companies from accountants to window washers and those involved in all aspects of home building, remodeling, and other aspects of services available to help you in the future as well as more information on the above topic.   So, you can see it is for your protection that you use a NCBIA member. If you are unsure that your contractor is a member of the NCBIA or you are looking for a list of NCBIA members, you can visit our website at or call 440-934-1090.   We also have a job posting board (under the Industry tab).

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Homeownership is truly a cornerstone of the American way of life. The North Coast Building Industry Association is dedicated to the advancement of the building industry, its members, and the communities it serves.  North Coast Building Industry – Come Build with Us!