Anyone who wants to freeze their credit report needs to contact all three of the major credit reporting bureaus – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax – and specify to each how long the freeze should last.
QUESTION: After the Experian credit breach, I decided to freeze my credit. If I want to start looking for a home, do I need to unfreeze it? How does a credit freeze work during the home buying process?
ANSWER: Your question is timely. On Sept. 21, a new law will go into effect allowing consumers to freeze and un-freeze their credit reports at no charge.
Here’s how the new credit report freeze law is supposed to work. Anyone who wants to freeze their credit report needs to contact all three of the major credit reporting bureaus – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax – and specify to each how long the freeze should last.
If you contact a bureau by telephone or email, the credit bureau will have one business day to place the freeze.
If you contact a bureau by snail mail, it will have up to three business days to put the freeze into effect. Remember, you need to contact all three bureaus and make your freeze request to each. After making your request, you will be assigned a PIN to use whenever you want to unfreeze your files, and later to re-freeze them again. This brings us to your question about what happens during the home buying process.
When you apply for a mortgage or a pre-qualification letter to buy a home, the lender will need you to unfreeze your credit files at all three credit bureaus in order to pull your credit report and credit score. You can either leave your credit unfrozen during the duration of the home buying process or refreeze your files at the three agencies again.
Be aware that if you do freeze your credit again, you will need to unfreeze your files at least once more during the mortgage process. A few days before your scheduled closing, the lender will pull another credit report and credit score to make sure there have been no changes to your credit report.
Bottom line: Freezing your credit will not preclude you from applying for a mortgage or purchasing a home. You will simply need to be prepared to unfreeze your credit at least twice and maybe more at all three credit reporting agencies.
If you are co-borrowing a mortgage with a spouse or other person with their own credit freeze in effect, you may want to leave your credit files unfrozen during the mortgage process since freezing and unfreezing two sets of credit files at three different agencies might get a little complicated.
Linda Goodspeed is a longtime real estate writer and author of “In and out of Darkness.” Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.