Many factors contribute to an individual’s credit score. Lenders look at your credit history, which refers to how long you have used credit. They also consider your payment history, balances, and any public records. Bankruptcies, liens, and court judgments will cause your score to plummet. Likewise, a history of missed payments results in a lower score.
Lenders decide whether to extend credit based on a borrower’s personal finances, which is primarily determined by credit score. To qualify for a loan subsidized by the Federal Housing Administration, borrowers must maintain a credit score of at least 580. For conventional home loans, a minimum score of 620 is required. Although regulations change from year to year, these numbers tend to stay fairly steady.
Credit Scores and Interest Rates
Aside from qualifying for home financing, your credit score also determines how much you will pay in interest. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest rate. Over the life of your loan, a lower interest rate can save you thousands of dollars, resulting in more cash in your pocket.
How to Improve Your Credit Score
Because your credit score is the single most important factor in determining whether you qualify for a mortgage and the type of terms you will receive, it is important to improve your score in any way you can. Although building good credit takes time, there are a number of relatively easy ways to boost your score.
Tip 1: Check your credit report for accuracy. Surprisingly, many people have never bothered to look at their credit report. Examine your report for errors, such as duplicate accounts, inaccurate payment information, and incorrect items. If you find mistakes, dispute them with the credit bureau. Lenders have just 30 days to provide confirmation that a report is accurate. If they fail to do so, the credit bureau must delete the item.
Tip 2: Pay your bills on time. A positive payment history lets lenders know that you are responsible enough to take care of your obligations in a timely manner. If you aren’t late paying your electric bill, your car payment, or your student loans, you probably aren’t going to fall behind on your house payment. Start paying everything on time and keep at it for several months in a row. In many cases, it is a good idea to enroll in automatic bill pay so you don’t accidentally miss a due date.
Tip 3: Settle outstanding debts. If you do have a delinquent account on your credit report, try to work it out directly with the lender. Many lenders will agree to apply a one-time “good faith adjustment” to your account, which eliminates a negative mark in exchange for paying the debt in full. Make sure you have the funds to pay your entire balance before you call.