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Your Credit Rating

Mortgage lenders closely scrutinize your financial history to determine whether to approve your loan application. The following are what they look at.

  • Your credit report, which details your payment history on all loans, bankruptcy filings, and other financial information.
  • Your credit score, which is a numerical representation of your overall creditworthiness as detailed in your credit report.
  • Credit scores (sometimes called FICO scores, named after Fair Isaac & Co., the firm that created the most commonly used form) range from the 300s to about 900, with most home buyers falling in 600s and 700s.

Factors used to determine your credit score include:

  • Past delinquency: Statistics show that those who have failed to make payments in the past tend to fail again in the future. The more recent a delinquency, the more it counts against you; a 30-day delinquency within the past 12 months hinders your chances of getting favorable mortgage terms.
  • Length of credit: The longer you've had credit, the better.
  • Credit use: If you're "maxed out" or close to your credit limits, you're viewed as risky.
  • Mix of credit: Someone with a combination of revolving and installment debt is considered less risky than one with only a secured credit card.

The higher your credit score, the less risky you appear to a lender. A good credit score will help you qualify for a mortgage loan and obtain better terms.

Cleaning Up Your Credit Report

Why check your credit report before your lender does? Because an estimated four out of five credit reports contain some kind of misinformation. You'll want to clear up any errors in your own report before you approach any lender.

Here are tips for cleaning up your credit report.

  • Look closely for any errors and correct them.
  • Note late payments and credit balances; you may have to explain them to a lender.
  • Compare account numbers to make sure they're yours.
  • Resolve outstanding bills.
  • Pay all bills on time.
  • Learn more about credit scores and how they're calculated.