A Score that Really Matters: The Credit Score

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Before lenders make the decision to lend you money, they must know if you're willing and able to repay that mortgage loan. To figure out your ability to pay back the loan, lenders look at your debt-to-income ratio. To assess your willingness to repay the loan, they look at your credit score.

The most commonly used credit scores are called FICO scores, which were developed by Fair Isaac & Company, Inc. Your FICO score ranges from 350 (very high risk) to 850 (low risk). We've written a lot more on FICO here.

Credit scores only consider the info in your credit profile. They don't consider income or personal characteristics. Fair Isaac invented FICO specifically to exclude demographic factors. Credit scoring was envisioned as a way to assess a borrower's willingness to pay without considering any other demographic factors.

Your current debt load, past late payments, length of your credit history, and a few other factors are considered. Your score is calculated from both the good and the bad of your credit report. Late payments lower your score, but establishing or reestablishing a good track record of making payments on time will raise your score.

To get a credit score, borrowers must have an active credit account with at least six months of payment history. This history ensures that there is sufficient information in your credit to generate an accurate score. If you don't meet the minimum criteria for getting a credit score, you may need to establish your credit history prior to applying for a mortgage.

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