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How to Improve Your Credit Score Before Buying a Home


Improving Your Credit Score: A Guide for Mortgage Applicants

Your credit score plays a crucial role in your financial life, especially when you’re looking to secure a mortgage. A good credit score can open the door to more favorable interest rates and increase your loan approval chances.

Let’s explore key factors that influence credit scores, practical steps to improve your score, and how a better credit score can positively impact your ability to secure a mortgage loan.

Understanding the Key Factors Influencing Your Credit Score

Rich Lowry Headshot
Rich Lowry, Senior Mortgage Partner, NMLS#: 414901

The primary factors that impact your credit score include:

  • Payment history – the timeliness of payments
  • Credit age – the age of individual credit accounts
  • Utilization rate – the percentage of available credit you have based on all open accounts

Other considerations include a diverse credit mix, how often you open new accounts, the types of credit you have, and the impact of unsecured and high-rate debts.

Diversifying Credit Accounts

Maintaining a diverse credit mix is crucial for a healthy credit score. Lenders look for a variety of credit types in your history, including secured loans. Secured loans, carried for an extended period, demonstrate your ability to manage credit responsibly and positively influence your credit score. A secured loan is backed by collateral – something you own that will be turned over to the lender if the loan is not paid. Secured loans typically include mortgages, HELOCs, and auto loans. However, paying attention to your overall credit utilization rate is important, as excessive debt can still impact your score negatively.

Practical Steps to Improve Your Credit Score

There are several steps you can take to improve your credit score. Start by reducing your balances and keeping a significant amount of available credit open to improve your utilization rate. You might also consider closing or limiting unsecured accounts. Student loans and personal loans are typically unsecured accounts. Depending on your situation, you may be able to become an authorized user on a relative’s good credit account.

It’s also a good idea to consider making multiple monthly payments to accelerate score improvement. If you don’t have many accounts, you can choose to self-report bills like your utility payments to credit bureaus.

Credit Scores & Mortgages

Improving your credit score can positively impact your ability to successfully obtain a mortgage loan. Lenders consider credit scores when determining interest rates, and a higher score can result in more favorable terms. A better credit score can increase your borrowing power and improve housing affordability, making it easier to achieve your homeownership goals.

While specific thresholds may vary among lenders, a credit score of 620 is often considered the minimum requirement for mortgage loan approval. Below this threshold, additional compensating factors may be required to strengthen your application. Certain homebuyer assistance programs typically become available at a credit score of 660 or higher.

Optimizing your credit score before applying for a mortgage is essential. Start by checking your credit score using reputable resources such as to identify any errors or discrepancies. Correcting mistakes and paying attention to your credit utilization rate are crucial steps in improving your score. Additionally, maintaining a consistent payment history, avoiding new credit inquiries, and responsibly managing your existing credit accounts will contribute positively to your creditworthiness.

It is important to recognize the difference between soft credit inquiries and hard credit inquiries and their impact on your credit score. A soft inquiry occurs when you check your own credit report or a business checks your credit without you requesting credit. These inquiries are not a determining factor in whether a creditor lends you money, therefore a soft inquiry doesn’t have an impact on your credit score. A hard inquiry occurs when you apply for credit, like a new credit card, auto loan, or mortgage, and you give the creditor permission to contact at least one of the three national consumer credit bureaus. Hard inquiries typically reduce your credit score for a short period of time, until you prove you are able to handle making timely payments. Depending on the number of credit accounts you have, a hard inquiry could have a greater negative effect on your credit score.

Taking proactive steps to improve your credit score benefits your mortgage application and sets a solid foundation for your overall financial well-being. Questions or concerns about your credit score or the mortgage application process? We’re here to help. Contact us today to learn more.

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