If you have accounts in collection, be sure to file a dispute with the collection company. If you can't dispute the charge, ask for a negotiated settlement, and pay the agreed amount. That is better than a charge off and will improve your score.
Try setting your accounts on automatic payment, and be sure the money is there on the payment dates. Even if you are unable to pay the minimum due, you can sometimes get the banks to accept a lower interest rate, and lower payments if you can show good faith in trying to get back on your feet.
Do not go with negotiated settlement companies. Your credit will be ruined for nearly as long as a bankruptcy and the fees are steep.
** I am located in Imperial County, CA **
I just came across your question and perhaps you already have the answer you need and are well on your way, however if you do not, there are several resources I can share with you to help answer your questions and improve your credit, especially since you have given yourself 18-24 months.
Please let me know how I can help you further with these resources.
Well of course what ever you can do credit wise to make sure everything is paid on time. If you have any kind of store cards or credit cards make sure they are always paid on time or early. If you do not have any you could get a savings/credit card one that you pay so much and that is how much credit you have. Then make all the payments on time. Do not have them maxed out either. Your rating is based also on a ratio of how much credit you have versus how much you have used and tied up. In other words if you have for example a credit card with a 100 dollar limit on it and you owe 90 dollars on it. Your ratio is 90%, that is not good. Continue to save for your downpayment. Each year you are also allowed thru the federal government to pull your own personal credit report for free. That way you can evaluate how you are doing. To answer you other question everyone is not desperate to sell. Once you get some more saved up there maybe in your area some lease/option to purchase homes. This is where you will pay some option money to lock in your price. Then within the course of the term of the lease you will at some point get financing and buy the home for the agreed upon price and the option money you paid will be applied to the purchase price. Also if you draw up the lease right a portion of your lease payment will also be applied to the purchase price. It is best to consult an attorney to get everything drawn up correctly in order to protect yourself.
Coldwell Banker Triad