Will Applying for a Mortgage Hurt My Credit Score?

Preparing to buy a home is a long and stressful process for many. You’ve spent months, or even years, saving for a down payment, planning your future, and building your credit to ensure you get the best possible interest rate on your loan.

Then you find out, when getting preapproved for a mortgage, that your credit score dropped by a few points. So, what gives?

There’s a lot to understand about how credit scores affect mortgages and vice versa. In today’s post, I’m going to attempt to cover everything you need to know about how applying for a mortgage can affect your credit score so you’ll be prepared when it comes time to buy a home.

Prequalification, preapproval, and credit checks

There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be preapproved or prequalified for a loan. Some of it is due to the jargon that is used in real estate transactions, and some of it is just a marketing technique on the part of lenders.

So, what does it mean to be prequalified and preapproved?

The short version is that getting prequalified is a quick and easy process to determine whether you’re eligible to lend to and how much you’re likely to receive. It involves a quick review of your finances, and often includes either a self-reported or soft credit inquiry.

A “soft inquiry” is the type of credit check that employers typically use for a background check. It doesn’t affect your credit score, as you are not applying to open a new line of credit. In fact, many lenders’ process for prequalification is a simple online form that doesn’t even require a credit check. We’ll talk more about the difference between soft inquiries and hard inquiries later.

The simplicity of prequalification makes it a simple and easy way to get started. But, it isn’t always accurate in how well it predicts the type of mortgage and loan amount you can receive. That’s where preapproval comes in.

When you get preapproved for a loan you fill out an official application (you often have to pay for these). This will request documentation for your finances and assets, and will ask your approval to run a detailed credit report.

These credit reports are considered “hard inquiries” and are a vital step in getting approved or preapproved for a mortgage. However, they also, at least temporarily, lower your credit score.

Why hard inquiries lower your credit score

When any creditor, be it a bank or credit card company, is determining whether to lend to you, they want to know that you are a safe investment. To determine this, they want to know how frequently you pay your bills on time, how much you owe to other creditors, and how financially stable you are right now.

When you make multiple inquiries in a short period of time, it’s a red flag to lenders that you might be in trouble financially. Thus, hard inquiries will lower your credit score for 1 to 2 months.

Applying to multiple lenders: the silver lining

When borrowers apply for a mortgage, they often shop around and apply to multiple lenders. While it may seem that all of these hard inquiries will add up and drastically lower their credit score, this isn’t the case.

Credit bureaus take into account the source of the inquiries. If they realize that you are applying for mortgages, they will typically recognize this as rate shopping and group these applications together on your credit report, counting them only as a single inquiry. This means your score shouldn’t drop multiple times for multiple mortgage preapprovals that were made within a small time frame.

Now that you know more about how mortgage applications affect your credit score, you can confidently shop around for the best mortgage for you and your family.

Increase Your Credit Score

If your credit score could use a boost it isn’t as simple as just changing bad financial behaviors. Increasing your credit score is a process that takes time. The time it takes to improve your credit history can vary.

Late payments can remain on your credit report for seven years, but typically if you clear all past-due debts and pay on time from then on, your score can begin to recover quickly.

One late payment doesn’t hurt you that much but a pattern of bad payments will really hurt you.  If you have a few late payments continue to use credit and pay on time every time. Demonstrate that you are managing your fiances well and your scores will begin to climb.

If you have suffered a bankruptcy the effects can be long-lasting. According to myFico.com, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can linger for seven to more than 10 years on your report. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy, or total liquidation, can affect your record for 10 years.

It is vital to constantly monitor your credit report and review it for accuracy. You can obtain your report for free once every twelve months from annualcreditreport.com.

5 Surprising Ways to Save Your Credit Score

When you are looking to buy a home or refinance it is important that your credit is in tip-top shape. It is often a credit score that gets in the way of a home buyer and their dream home. Credit today means everything as far as your purchasing power. So if you want to be ready when opportunity knocks read on for some for smart ideas on how to keep your credit score going up.

1. Use your credit cards.

This may sound funny but it is important to have credit over having no credit. Paying in cash and over using credit cards isn’t always a good move for your credit score. Cards that are seldom used are often shut down or closed by the credit card companies. Because 30 percent of your credit score is based on your debt-to-credit-limit ratio you will want to have a high your total available credit. Having one account closed increases that ratio of available credit to debt and thus lowers your credit score.

2. Pay off your credit cards.

It may seem to make sense to pay off the highest-interest card first and save the most money in the end. But your credit score will get a bigger boost from knocking off the lowest-balance card. Instead of spreading your monthly payments equally among credit cards, pay down the lowest-balance card first and pay minimum balances on the rest. As you pay off each card, apply the money you would have paid on it to the next-lowest-balance card.

3. Don’t close cards once they are paid off.

The length of time you’ve had credit determines fifteen percent of your score. By closing your oldest account, you can shorten the length of your credit history causing a big hit to your score.

4. Keep the balance low

Much of your credit score is determined by your debt-to-credit-limit ratio on individual accounts. Maxing out one card raises your debt-to-credit-limit ratio and your credit score. So be sure to keep balances as low as possible. Try to target no more than 30 percent of your credit limit.

5. Stay away from retail-card accounts.

These are a big no-no. Retail store cards often have lower limits and higher interest rates. So running up balances on low-limit store cards affects your credit score more negatively than does using one or two bank cards. So in the long run the fifteen percent you were going to save on the one purchase will probably cost you more in the end.
 

Five Ways to Pump Up Your Credit Score

One of the biggest things that can impact your ability to get a loan for a home is your credit score. Credit scores measure the risk a lender may take when deciding on a mortgage. If your credit score is not where you want it to be have no fear it’s never too late to become credit worthy.

Your credit score is also known as your FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) score, it is one of the tools that lenders use to evaluate a borrower’s ability or likelihood to repay a loan. Credit scores range from 300 to 850 points. Credit scores over 720 are often considered excellent.  Scores of 680 – 719 are considered good. Scores that fall between 620-679 are questionable and typically require more review by the lender. A score under 619 usually disqualifies you from getting the best rates or even a loan at all.

Here are five ways to raise your credit score:

1. Obtain your credit score from the three major credit score reporting agencies. They are Equifax, Experian and Transunion.

2. Review your report and look for any discrepancies. Your report will also give you a good idea of why your score may be low. According to myFICO.com, credit score calculation is based on five key components: payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, new credit and types of credit used.

3. Come up with a plan to improve the five key components. Payment history carries the most weight it makes up 35% of your score. So be sure to pay your bills on time. 30% of your score is determined by the use of your available credit. Only use 30% of your maximum credit limit for each credit card and revolving accounts, using anything over that hurts your credit score.

4. If you have any past-due bills, judgments or collection accounts make arrangements to pay them as soon as possible. Some creditors may accept a portion of an amount due as payment in full.

5. Minimize your requests for new credit. Credit inquiries make up 10% of your score and can ultimately bring it down.