What Credit Score Do I Need to Qualify for a Mortgage?

Credit-150x150Buying a home through a mortgage loan involves many factors, one of the most important being your Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) credit score. The credit score is a tool used by lenders to help them determine how much money they can lend to you and at what interest rates. Your credit score is included in a credit report, which is a history of all your loans and payments. As you have probably guessed, a good credit history means that your credit score will be high. If you have missed or late payments, that will lower your credit score and make you appear as a risk in the eyes of a lender.

What is a Credit Score?

The Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) credit score is the most popular type of credit scoring system in the United States. Your credit score is a 3 digit number that is determined by using information in your credit report, such as payment history, amounts owed, and length of credit history. This number is used by lenders, such as banks or credit unions, as well as mobile phone companies, landlords, or insurance companies to determine if you qualify for their services.

There are three major credit agencies in the United States: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Each of these agencies use a slightly different algorithm to calculate your credit score, so checking with more than one of them is always a good idea.

You can get one free credit report per year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. Unfortunately, there is an extra fee involved in order to receive your credit score, as well. Credit reports might contain errors which will affect your credit score. You should always check your credit report for any erroneous data, and have it corrected by reporting it to the issuing credit agency.

Credit Score and Qualifying for a Mortgage

FICO credit scores range from 300 to 850. The higher the score, the lesser risk the lender is facing when granting you a loan. The lower the score, the more risk that you won’t receive the loan, or that you will approved with some pretty high rates. Not all lenders will require the same credit score to qualify for a certain loan, but you can use these score ranges to get a general idea:

  • No credit. Having no credit is a bad spot to be in when applying for a mortgage loan. You are seen as a high default risk by lenders, but the good news is that having no credit is actually better than having bad credit, because it allows you to qualify for loans designed for people with no credit.
  • Very bad credit. A credit score below 600 is considered very bad credit and it is, most likely, the worst situation you can find yourself in when deciding to become a home owner. It is very difficult to be approved for a mortgage loan without a co-signer or a very large down payment when having very bad credit.
  • Bad credit. A credit score in the 600 to 650 range is considered bad credit and, like in the case of very bad credit, it would be extremely hard for you to qualify for a mortgage loan.
  • Fair credit. You are seen as a moderate credit risk by your lender when you have a credit score in the 650 to 700 range. A fair credit will qualify you for fairly decent rates, but you won’t have access to any special packages or the best rates.
  • Good credit. A credit score between 700 and 750 is considered good credit and will allow you to qualify for better rates and terms.
  • Very good credit. People with credit scores in the 750 to 800 range are regarded as low risk by lenders, and will qualify for some of the best rates and options available.
  • Excellent credit. Someone with no negative data on their credit report, and a long and spotless credit history will have a credit score of over 800, and will have access to the best mortgage loan deals and rates available from most lenders.

Having a lower score can be frustrating, but credit score is ultimately your responsibility when you consider becoming a home owner. Improving your credit score takes time and patience, so prevention is the key. Making payments on time and not borrowing more than you can repay will ensure that, when the time comes to apply for a mortgage, your credit score will be favorable and you will receive a good deal, saving you lots of money.

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