Have you ever had that moment when you realize a DIY job wasn’t worth the effort and life would’ve been so much easier if you’d just hired a professional? That was exactly the feeling I had after month two of arguing with our lender over a disputed late payment on my boyfriend’s credit report.
The few hundred dollars I was supposed to be saving didn’t even come close to making up for the infuriation of fighting with customer service reps. And what’s worse, the process didn’t even work. Being reasonably intelligent person who’s even written at length about credit repair before, I thought I knew better. Sadly for my sanity, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Credit repair (aka credit restoration, aka credit correction) is the process of fixing all of the mistakes that can appear in your credit reports. Mistakes drive your credit score down so you face higher interest rates on loans and credit. It’s a good idea to repair your credit before you do something big like buy a home—which is how I ended up in this nightmare. We were a few months out from buying and I wanted to get the best interest rate.
DIY Good in Theory, Problematic in Practice
If you look at how credit repair works, there’s really nothing a credit repair company does that you can’t do on your own. You should be able to correct your own report and save the money you’d spend to hire a specialist. This is money saving advice you see all the time.
The funny thing is I’ve written similar statements myself. I’ve worked on various financial websites over the years — I’ve even written for two different credit repair companies! Given my background, I should be able to repair our credit no problem, right?
The first step went smoothly enough — I reviewed our reports to check for errors. My reports were error-free, so I was done. He had three late payments on our condo mortgage that had really been made on time. A dispute was needed.
Basically our HOA pays our flood insurance, but when they failed to send documentation the lender assessed higher payments for three months. Since payments get deducted automatically we weren’t watching and it was designated that we didn’t pay the full amount. We corrected the issue, but the lender had already reported the late payments to the credit bureaus and didn’t bother going back to correct the information.
Sounds easy enough to fix. After all, the payments were made on time for the correct amount—it was the bill that was wrong.
But even so, no matter what I did I couldn’t get the three late payments removed. I could prove that we made a payment and it was our regular payment amount, but because of the way our dispute was worded we specifically needed the original correction letter from our HOA… and our HOA didn’t hold onto that documentation.
I spent two months fighting, until I finally gave up. During the process, it was mentioned that if we’d worded the dispute differently, we might have been more successful. But since the dispute was already made a certain way, there was no going back. We ended up putting the new mortgage in my name so we could get the best rate possible, because those three mistaken payment notations dropped his score from good to average.
So lesson learned. Do-it-yourself credit repair is a little like do-it-yourself Botox—you may know how it works in general, you may have even seen it done, but that doesn’t make you an expert that can ensure the same results on your own. It might work, but you could also end up with a real mess on your hands.