Why is your credit score an important indicator in the decision of a mortgage lender when asking for a loan? Not only is it important to lenders, but also for your overall financial health. Your credit score represents your trustworthiness as a borrower and is a key factor in determining whether you will be approved for a mortgage loan.
So, what number is good enough to qualify for a mortgage and buy a house? Read on to find out.
Why Your Credit Score Is Important to Mortgage Lenders When Applying for a Mortgage Loan
Before you start house hunting, it’s a good idea to pull your credit reports from the three major credit agencies—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Knowing where you stand can help you raise your score or address any credit issues before applying for a mortgage.
Your credit score isn’t a fixed number. It is re-evaluated frequently and changes periodically in response to your financial activity (for example, if you buy a car or open a new credit card account). Most lenders use the FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) model when evaluating credit scores. It grades consumers on a 300–850-point range based on:
- Your payment history (35% of the score)
- Amount of debt you owe (30%)
- Length of your credit history (15%)
- Types of credit accounts you have (10%)
- New credit (10%)
Why does your credit score matter to lenders? You'd probably hesitate to loan money to a friend who takes ages to pay you back or is unlikely to cover the debt in full. Well, lenders feel the same way about mortgages.
Your credit score is a representation of your financial and debt repayment history. A higher score indicates that you’re likely to meet your payment obligations. Plus, a high credit score ensures you qualify for the best mortgage rates available. While the variance between a 3% and 3.25% interest rate may not seem like much, it’s quite significant over the term of a 15- or 30-year fixed-term mortgage.
Do All Mortgage Lenders Have the Same Credit Score Requirements?
Different lenders have different standards. Since lenders use your credit score to gauge the financial risk you pose as a borrower, few lenders are likely to consider your mortgage application if your score is on the lower end of the credit score spectrum. You may have to add a co-signer or settle for a lower loan amount or higher interest rate to qualify in such a case.
A difference of just 100 points could determine your loan amount and if you can get a buy-with-cash offer. It can also cost or save you thousands, depending on the interest rate. It’s recommended to have a credit score of 620 or higher when applying for a mortgage; otherwise, you might be offered a higher interest rate. Still, you might need a score of 700 and above to get the lowest mortgage rates in the market.
Along with your income and debt, your credit score plays a critical role in determining whether you’ll be approved for a loan and your mortgage terms.
With that said, it’s still possible to get a loan with a lower credit score, including one in the 500s.
Do All Loans Have the Same Credit Score Requirements for First-Time Buyers?
The minimum credit score you need to qualify for a mortgage also depends on the type of loan you’re trying to obtain. Conventional and government-backed loans have different credit score requirements in the same way different lenders have different requirements. Let’s have a look.
Conventional loans are typically best for those with good or excellent credit. FHA loans are backed by the Federal Housing Administration, making them less risky for lenders. As a result, you can qualify with a lower credit score. It's important to note that some lenders still require a credit score of 580 and above, even with a 10% down payment for FHA loans.
VA loans, insured by the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, don't have a minimum credit score. However, VA loans are provided by private lenders/banks, and most will want a credit score above 580 to consider a loan.
As you can see, it's possible to qualify for a mortgage, even with a low credit score. It's more complicated, though. To offset the risk, lenders might charge you higher interest rates or require larger down payments.
Does Having a Higher Credit Score Mean a Lender Will Approve a Higher Loan Amount?
Yes, a higher credit score may help you qualify for a large loan and better interest rates.
At this point, it’s also worth mentioning that your credit score isn’t the only determining factor in if you get approved for a mortgage. Your application can be denied even if you have a good credit score. Some lenders may be more stringent about other aspects of your finances. For instance, your debt-to-income ratio is another crucial scoring point.
To determine your viability as a borrower, lenders may require various financial records like your pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements, and investment account statements. Other factors that can impact a lender's decision include the loan amount, your down payment, loan type, and your history of bankruptcy or foreclosure.
How to Increase Your Chances of Getting a Mortgage
Your credit score helps lenders evaluate your ability to pay back your loans. Don’t wait to get a rejection letter to learn there’s a problem with your credit. Take steps to increase your score by paying down debt and demonstrating good credit habits. And if there are any mistakes on your credit report, have these issues corrected as soon as possible.
The higher your credit score, the better the rates you’ll get. Also, credit requirements vary from lender to lender. That’s why it’s important to shop around with multiple lenders to find one with terms that will work best for you.
Other factors that impact mortgage terms include your income, borrowing history, savings, and investments.
Frequently Asked Questions on Credit Score Requirements For Mortgage Loan
If you have a high credit score, does it guarantee you will get approved?
A good credit score doesn't automatically guarantee you a loan. A mortgage application can be denied for several reasons, including having too much debt, too many credit applications, recent bankruptcy or foreclosure, a small down payment, or a recent job change.
Mortgage lenders want to see financial stability. Anything that casts doubt on this could impact your ability to get a loan—no matter how high your credit score.
Can first-time buyers with no credit score or history apply for a mortgage loan?
Yes, it's possible to qualify for a mortgage with no credit score or history. FHA mortgages are available to first-time buyers, and they don't require a minimum credit score to qualify. The same case is true with VA loans. The rules are a little stricter for borrowers with a thin or non-existent credit history, but it’s possible to get approved—if you find a willing lender in this case.
Do mortgage lenders prefer borrowers with higher credit scores?
Yes, they do—almost across the board. Borrowers with high credit scores are more likely to be approved for mortgage loans because they’re viewed as more likely to repay based on their credit history. For this reason, they get more favorable interest rates because the risk of lending them money is lower.
While you don't need a perfect score of 850, a credit score above 700 increases your likelihood of getting better mortgage terms and borrowing more money.