Meghan McCormick's Blog
If you’re hoping to buy a home in the near future, there are a number of financial factors you’ll need to consider.
One of the factors that all lenders will consider when determining whether or not to approve you for a mortgage is credit score.
In this article, we’ll lay out the minimum and ideal credit scores that are needed for getting approved for a home loan.
Determining Your Score
As you may guess, credit reporting is a complicated business. There are three main reporting companies that lenders use to determine your credit: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. These companies largely collect the same data about your finances, but can have minor variations. Lenders will take these scores and use the median or middle score to determine your credit rating.
Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Americans have the ability to confirm the accuracy of their reports.
If you want to find your credit score, there are a number of online reporting agencies that will show you your report for free on an annual or monthly basis.
Minimum credit scores
Depending on the type of loan you’re applying for and which lender you are pursuing, minimum credit scores vary.
For those seeking first-time homeowner (FHA) loans, you’ll need a credit score of at least 580 to qualify for a 3.5% down payment. A score lower than this amount and you will need to put at least 10% down.
Since FHA loans are insured by the government, you are more likely to be approved if you have a low or “poor” or “bad” credit score (usually anywhere from 300 to 650).
Another type of loan that could help people with low credit is offered by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. These loans, known as VA loans, are guaranteed, in part, by the government. However, the loans are still approved and distributed by lenders who all have varying minimum credit requirements. A good benchmark is that you’ll need a score of at least 620 to be approved.
Minimum isn’t ideal
While you may get approved for a loan with a low credit, this isn’t always a reason to celebrate.
Lenders use your credit score, among other things, to help determine the interest rate of your loan. A lower score often means a higher interest rate.
While 1 or 2 percent can seem like a small number, it can mean paying tens of thousands of dollars more in interest over the span of a thirty-year loan.
To illustrate the importance of one percent, consider the following. If you owe $200,000 on a home and intend to pay it over 30 years, you will pay $103,000 in interest at 3% and $143,000 at 4% - that’s a difference of $40,000.
Rather than shooting for the minimum credit score, a better approach would be to build credit while saving for a down payment. Someone with a credit score of 740 or higher will be seen by most mortgage lenders as an ideal person to lend to.
Of course, life doesn’t always allow for the ideal situation. So, do your best to save and build credit, and be sure to shop around for the best rates when you’re ready.
The more you know about the process of buying a house, the better prepared you'll be for doing it successfully.
How might you define "success" when it comes to purchasing a home?
There are a lot of standards that could be applied to successfully navigating the home buying process, but here are a few that immediately come to mind:
- Finding the house of your dreams: While very few people find a home that is absolutely perfect in every way, it is possible to come close to achieving that ideal. Although a certain amount of flexibility goes a long way, knowing what you want and prioritizing important features are among the main prerequisites to getting what you want. As baseball legend Yogi Berra once said, "If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else." Thanks to the variety of websites devoted to home ownership, home decorating, remodeling, and landscaping, it's easy to find pictures online that can help inspire your imagination and clarify exactly what the house of your dreams might look like.
- Minimizing setbacks and frustrations: The process of house hunting is a journey that often involves bumpy roads, detours, and dead ends. One secret to getting through it successfully is to work with an experienced real estate agent who knows the ropes and can keep you on track. It also helps to approach house hunting with a sense of optimism, resourcefulness, and commitment. Although you probably have a lot of competing priorities in your life, finding a house that you and your family will be happy in for the next few years deserves a top spot on your list!
- Avoiding unpleasant surprises: Knowing your credit score and understanding the impact it will have on getting loan approval and a favorable interest rate will help prepare you for the financial side of buying a house. The ability to get prequalified for a mortgage and come up with sufficient down payment will also set the stage for a successful home buying experience. On the plus side, a higher down payment can potentially result in a lower interest rate and not having to pay private mortgage insurance (A 20% down payment is necessary to avoid PMI.) Since many loan programs and lenders require at least a 3-5% down payment, that can be a stumbling block for first-time home buyers. To purchase a $200,000 home, for example, you'd need to come up with a cash outlay of between $6,000 to $10,000 -- not an easy feat for everyone!
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Establishing a homebuying budget can be tough. But for those who want to secure a terrific home at an affordable price, entering the housing market with a budget in hand can make it easy to accelerate the homebuying cycle.
Now, let's take a look at three questions to consider about a homebuying budget.
1. How much money have I saved for a home?
Examine your finances and see how much money is readily available for a home purchase.
Remember, the more money that is at your disposal, the more likely it becomes that you'll be able to secure your dream residence in no time at all.
Although savings are important, it is essential to note that those who have little to no money saved still have plenty of time to get ready for the homebuying journey. And if you start saving a little bit each day, you can move closer to accomplishing your homeownership dreams.
2. Do I need to get a home loan?
In most instances, a homebuyer will need to obtain a home loan so he or she can purchase a residence. Luckily, many lenders are available to help you discover a home loan that matches or surpasses your expectations.
Meet with a variety of lenders in your area – you'll be glad you did. Each lender can provide insights into assorted home loan options, explain how each home loan works and respond to your home loan concerns and questions.
Also, it often helps to get pre-approved for a mortgage. If you have a mortgage available when you enter the real estate market, you'll know exactly how much you can spend on a residence, thereby reducing or eliminating the temptation to overspend on a house.
3. How will my monthly expenses change after I buy a house?
Owning a home is different from renting an apartment. As such, you'll want to account for all potential expenses as you create a homebuying budget.
For example, a homeowner will be responsible for any home cable, internet and phone bills. This property owner also will need to consider any home maintenance costs like those associated with mowing the lawn in summer or removing snow from the driveway in winter.
Crafting a homebuying budget that accounts for your personal finances can be tricky. If you need additional support along the way, lenders may be able to provide expert tips to ensure you can acquire a wonderful house without exceeding your financial limitations.
Lastly, don't forget to reach out to a real estate agent for help along the homebuying journey. A real estate agent is a housing market professional who will go above and beyond the call of duty to assist you in any way possible. From setting up home showings to negotiating with home sellers on your behalf, a real estate agent will make it easy for you to secure a superior home at a budget-friendly price.
Consider the aforementioned homebuying budget questions, and you can speed up the homebuying process.