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Your credit score and credit history play a big role in your ability to get a mortgage. Mortgage lenders use your credit report to gauge your risk as a borrower — and the lower your score and spottier your history, the riskier you are to most lenders.
To safeguard from this risk, lenders charge a higher interest rate the lower your score, all other things being equal. In fact, with a credit score of 699, you could pay nearly 0.4% more for your mortgage rate and over $15,000 more in interest on a $200,000 mortgage over your loan term than someone with a 760 score, according to one calculator.1
Here’s what you should know about how your credit score impacts your mortgage rate:
- Why your credit score impacts your mortgage rate
- What’s a good credit score to buy a house?
- How to get a mortgage with a low credit score
- How to improve your credit score before buying a house
- Start shopping around
Why your credit score impacts your mortgage rate
Your credit score reflects your past credit usage, which lenders use to measure how responsible you are with credit. It speaks to your past payment and debt management habits, and it gives lenders an idea of what they can expect if they loan you money to buy a home.
As such, credit scores directly influence what mortgage rate a lender offers you. Higher credit scores will usually mean a lower interest rate (and a lower monthly payment), while lower scores will usually receive higher rates.
Learn More: Comparing Credit Score Ranges
What’s a good credit score to buy a house?
It’s not just your interest rate that’s impacted by your credit score, but the long-term costs of your loan, too. Let’s take a look at an example. This is based on a $200,000, 30-year loan and the interest rates as of August 13, 2020.1
|Total interest paid
|Note: All numbers here are for demonstrative purposes only and do not represent an advertisement for available terms. This example is based on a $200,000, 30-year loan and the interest rates as of Jan. 13, 2022. Calculations were made using the MyFico loan savings calculator.
How to get a mortgage with a low credit score
If you have a low credit score and are looking to buy a home, your best bet is to boost your score before applying for a home loan. You can also talk to a housing counselor about your situation. They’ll be able to walk you through your options — as well as any down payment or closing cost assistance programs you might be eligible for.
You might also consider an FHA loan, which offers less stringent credit requirements than other loans. In some cases, borrowers with credit scores as low as 500 might be able to qualify for an FHA loan (as long as you have at least at 10% down payment).
Keep Reading: Can You Buy a House with Bad Credit?
How to improve your credit score before buying a house
Improving your credit score is the best way to increase your chances of qualifying for a mortgage loan, as well as getting a lower interest rate.
To do this, you should:
- Pay your bills on time: Late payments can hurt your score significantly.
- Settle any late bills or accounts in collections: These can hurt your score considerably, too.
- Check your credit report for errors: These should be reported to the credit bureau ASAP, as correcting them can improve your score.
- Pay down your balances: Higher balances equal lower credit scores. Using a high percentage of your available credit lines can also hurt your score, so try to lower your overall credit utilization as well.
- Keep your accounts open: Having a long credit history can actually help improve your score, so even if you pay off a balance in full, keep the account open if you can.
Once you’re getting ready to buy a home, you should also take steps to protect your credit. Avoid any big purchases, don’t apply for any new credit cards or loans, and make sure to shop around for your loan within the same short period. This will keep those credit inquiries from hurting your score — and your chances of getting a loan.
Learn More: How to Build Credit Fast
Start shopping around
No matter what your credit score is, shopping around for your mortgage is critical. Interest rates, loan products, terms, and more all vary by lender, and if you want the best deal on your loan, you’ll need to consider at least a few different lenders in your search.
Credible streamlines this process and makes comparing multiple lenders easy.
Find Out: How Much It Costs to Buy a Home