How to Increase Your Credit Score Quickly, Before Buying a House
When you consider buying a home and go to secure a mortgage, the interest rate you’re given will determine how much you pay in interest per month and over the life of your loan. Unfortunately, bad credit can make it difficult to get a decent rate, which results in higher costs. If you’re wondering how to increase your credit score to buy a house, have no fear. There are ways to build credit before you apply for a mortgage. And the good news is, even improving your credit score by 50 or 60 points can lead to significant savings.
Here’s all you need to know about how to increase your credit score to buy a house.
First things first, here’s why your credit score is important:
If your credit score is too low, you may not be able to qualify for a mortgage in the first place. Most mortgage lenders won’t work with borrowers who have credit scores under 620. So if yours is below that threshold, it’s a good idea to figure out how to increase your credit score to buy a house before you apply. You should also note that some FHA lenders will lend to those with scores as low as 500.
Your credit score is one of the main factors that determine your mortgage rate. The better it is, the lower your interest rate and monthly mortgage payments will be. Borrowers with below-average credit stand to gain the most by improving their scores. But even if you already have a score in the good range, increasing it could still save you thousands of dollars in interest.
For example, if you’re buying a $350,000 house with a 30-year fixed mortgage, you could save as much as $29,000 over the life of the loan by increasing your credit score from 699 to 760.
So, what do mortgage lenders consider a “good” credit score?
Although you may be able to qualify for a mortgage with a credit score as low as 620, lenders don’t consider it “good,” so you’ll likely be charged a higher interest rate. According to credit bureau Experian, good credit starts at 670, very good starts credit starts at 740, and exceptional credit starts at 800. Having exceptional credit will qualify you for the best rates, but each step up will help to lower your costs.
How to check your current credit score:
To find out where you land on the credit spectrum, you’ll need to check your current score. Most credit card issuers give you free access to your credit score on your monthly statements or within your online account. If yours doesn’t, you can still access your score by using a free credit score service, like this one from Experian.
In addition to checking your credit score, it’s vital that you look over your credit report, which is a record of your financial history that’s used to calculate your score. You’re entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit bureaus, which you can get by going to AnnualCreditReport.com.
So you’re planning to buy a home. Here’s how to increase your credit score quickly:
Step 1: Dispute any errors you see on your credit report.
Mistakes on your credit report can bring your score down, so get a copy of your report and scan it for errors. Common mistakes include duplicate credit accounts, which makes it look like you have more debt than you really do, and identity errors like a misspelling of your name. If you find inaccurate information, dispute it by contacting the credit bureau in writing and letting them know what’s wrong with your report.
Step 2: Add your phone and utility bills to your credit report.
Experian has a free program called Experian Boost that allows you to add payment history from your phone and utility bills to your credit report. If you don’t have much credit history and are wondering how to build credit fast, utilizing this program is a great way to raise your score.
Step 3: Avoid late payments.
Your payment history is one of the main factors that affect your credit score, so paying your bills on time is an important factor in how to increase your credit score to buy a house. If you often forget to make payments, consider setting up autopay.
Step 4: Keep your credit utilization ratio low.
Another important factor is the percentage of your total available credit that you use. It’s best to keep the amount you have used at 30% of your total credit line. For example, if your credit line is $1,000, keep your credit utilization at $300 or less.
The bottom line
Your credit score is one of the main factors that lenders consider when deciding what interest rate you qualify for on a mortgage. If you have below-average credit, you could end up spending thousands more on interest over the life of your loan than someone with a good credit score.
If you’re wondering how to increase credit score quickly, so you don’t have to delay your home purchase, focus on reducing your debt, limiting your spending, and paying your bills on time. You may also want to check your credit report for errors that could be bringing down your score, like duplicate or missing credit accounts.
Frequently asked questions
How is a credit score calculated?
Your credit score is calculated based on the financial information contained in your credit report. Factors like your payment history and your total amount of debt will affect your score.
How long does it take to improve credit scores?
It depends on what brought your score down in the first place. Some credit events like bankruptcy can take years to recover from, while others like applying for a new credit card may only take a few months.
Can I buy a house if I have a bad credit score?
Most mortgage lenders require you to have a credit score of 620 or higher to qualify for a loan. However, you may still be able to get a government-backed FHA loan from select lenders with a score as low as 500.