Buying a home takes more than just a big enough down payment or a steady income to get approved for a loan; you’ll also need a solid credit score. As someone who recently went through the home-buying process, I’ve been schooled firsthand on how credit scores affect your odds of being approved. Before you approach the bank for a mortgage, read this to learn what kind of scores lenders are looking for.
A conventional loan is what most people think of when they think of a mortgage. This is a loan that’s backed by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. The minimum credit score you’ll need to qualify for a conventional loan ultimately depends on how large your down payment is and your debt-to-income ratio.
At the low end, a borrower with a 620 FICO score could qualify for a Fannie Mae loan as long as the loan-to-value ratio is less than or equal to 75%. That means you’d need to pony up at least 25% of the purchase price for the down payment, assuming your total debt-to-income ratio is 36% or less. On the high side, you’d need a FICO score of 700 or better if you’re financing more than 75% of the purchase price and your debt-to-income ratio is closer to 45%.
One thing to keep in mind with conventional loans is that Fannie Mae is now using trended data to make lending decisions. Someone who’s paying their credit card bill in full each month is going to be viewed more favorably than someone who carries a balance but always pays on time. If you’ve got balances on your cards, you could help your chances of getting a loan by paying those debts down before applying for a mortgage.