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Can I buy a house even though I declared bankruptcy?

Believe it or not, there is financial life after bankruptcy. It will take some effort on your part, but you can rebuild your credit with careful budgeting and record keeping.

A bankruptcy is a red flag that makes lenders leery, and it will stay on your credit report for 10 years. If you have a history of bad credit (e.g., a bankruptcy and numerous late payments) and don't take steps to repair it, most lenders won't take on the risk of giving you credit. If you find a lender willing to give you credit, you can expect a high interest rate (e.g., twice the going market rate). However, if you work to improve your credit rating by obtaining a line of credit and making all of your payments on time, for example, you may be able to obtain the financing you need to buy a home.

Remember that lenders want to see good credit histories. Therefore, it's important to begin establishing good credit as soon as possible. Many people believe that the way to fix a bad credit problem is to pay for everything in cash. Although this is a good way to get out of debt and control your spending, it won't help you get a mortgage. When you pay cash, you're not establishing credit. Thus, lenders have no way of gauging whether you're a good or bad credit risk.

Consider beginning your journey back to creditworthiness by obtaining a low-interest credit card. Be sure to make your payments on time, every month. If you can't get a traditional credit card, ask about a secured credit card that operates much like an ATM debit card. Here, your credit limit is based on the amount you deposit in your account. For example, if you deposit $500 in the account, you'll have a credit limit of $500. If high credit limits are what landed you in your current financial troubles, a secured card can help you stay on track by keeping you on a short leash. In a short time, you may be able to prove to lenders that you're creditworthy.

For more information, contact your local consumer credit counselor.