The credit search – the difference between a hard and soft search
It’s important to first understand that there are two types of credit check – the hard search, and the soft search.
A soft search doesn’t impact on your credit score one bit and you can do as many as you like without worrying at all about the consequences. In fact, you will realise that a large number of soft searches are probably done without you realising – unlike a hard check (which we’ll come to in a moment), a soft search doesn’t need your permission to undertake, so you might find yourself initiating them multiple terms as you look for mortgage deals and other financial products.
And why is that? Because every comparison site you look at, from car insurance to credit cards, does a soft search to show you the applicable offers.
A soft search is completely harmless. A company wanting to make one still must be properly registered with the CRA (credit reference agency) so you don’t have to worry that your mother-in-law is checking you out during a bored lunch break, but they don’t need to ask you if it’s OK to make one so they are performed with some regularity by companies you are involved with to present you with their relevant latest offers.
On the other side of the coin is the hard search.
A hard credit search can only be done with your express permission. It involves the credit reference agency revealing several personal details with the requesting agent, from confirming your address all the way through to telling them if you’ve ever missed a payment on a loan, or had a direct debit bounce.
Of course, it also tells them if you have had a CCJ or any sort of insolvency – factors that will make a major impact to your mortgage application.
The desperation factor – why a hard search impacts your credit score
Making a single hard search on your credit report does nothing bad. It’s understood that this happens as part of a credit application and no one is going to look askance at it.
A second one in the same day – well, chances are you are looking at options, so still not too bad.
A third the next day? Three more that week? Another few a week later? Add up all these hard searches, each of which is likely to represent an application for credit, and it builds up a picture of a very desperate person, trying their hardest to get money loaned to them.
That picture is not one a lender wants to see. Desperation isn’t attractive to a business keen to see you as a responsible borrower able to make repayments without a problem.
The reality is that a single mortgage application has no affect on your credit report whatsoever, but multiple applications in a short space of time are a death knell on your ability to get a mortgage and should be strongly avoided.
The same is true with other forms of credit. If you plan to get a new credit card or a loan as well as your mortgage, then you are best doing it months before so that it doesn’t affect your mortgage application (or hold off until your mortgage is all settled and done).
Pre-approval – soft search instead of hard
Some pre-approvals represent soft credit checks rather than the impactful hard searches, although different lenders have slightly different rules so it’s worth checking first. Getting pre-approved for your mortgage can move you significantly along the path to a new home so are worthwhile before you lock a hard application into place.
How to avoid the impact of a hard credit search
The only way to protect yourself from the affect multiple hard searches will do to your credit status is not to do them! Remember, you will always be asked before a hard search is done on your credit report, so simply say ‘no’ to any you are not sure of. It’s far better to back out from a mediocre offer than ruin your chances of a better one.
Time is a huge factors, as the weeks and months will turn any previous applications into an irrelevancy. Have patience and if you’d applied and been turned down a couple of times, give it a few months before trying again – it’ll also give you the opportunity to save a little more for that deposit.
Mortgage advice from The Mortgage Hut
Here at the hut, we have all the experience you will ever need regarding mortgages. If you need help getting a mortgage with poor credit or want advice on any aspect of your application, let us know. You can use our simple contact form or just pick up the phone and call today!