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Updated on Wednesday, May 6, 2020
If you’re hoping to become a homeowner, your credit score may hold the keys to realizing that dream. Knowing the minimum credit score needed for a home loan gives you a baseline to help decide if it’s time to apply for a mortgage, or take some steps to boost your credit first.
It’s possible to get a mortgage with a score as low as 500 if you can come up with a 10% down payment. Keep reading to learn the minimum credit score requirements for the most common loan programs.
- What are the minimum credit scores for home loans?
- What is a good credit score to buy a house?
- Annual percentage rates by credit score
- Steps for improving your credit score
What are the minimum credit scores for home loans?
Your credit score plays a big role in determining whether you qualify for a mortgage and what your interest rate offers will be. A higher credit score means you’ll likely get a lower rate and a lower monthly mortgage payment.
There are four main types of mortgages: conventional loans, and government-backed loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Conventional loans, which are the most common loan type with guidelines set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have a credit score minimum of 620. Although some loan programs don’t specify a minimum credit score needed to qualify, the approved lenders who offer them may set their own minimum requirements.
The table below features the minimum credit scores for these home loans, along with minimum down payment amounts and for whom each of the loans is best.
Minimum credit score
Minimum down payment
Who it’s best for
|Conventional||620||3%||Borrowers with good credit|
|FHA||500-579 with 10% down payment|
580 with 3.5% down payment
|10% with a score of 500-579|
3.5% with a minimum score of 580
|Borrowers who have bad credit and are purchasing a home at or below their area FHA loan limits|
|VA||No credit minimum, but 620 recommended||No down payment required||Active-duty service members, veterans and eligible spouses with VA entitlement|
|USDA||640||No down payment required||Borrowers in USDA-eligible rural areas with low- to moderate-incomes|
What is a good credit score to buy a house?
Meeting the minimum score requirement for a home loan will limit your mortgage options, while higher credit scores will open the doors to more attractive rates and loan terms. A good credit score can also provide you with more choices for home loan financing.
- 740 credit score. You’ll typically get your best interest rates for a conventional mortgage with a 740 (or higher) credit score. If you make less than a 20% down payment, you’ll pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI protects the lender in case you default on your home loan.
- 640 credit score. Rural homebuyers need to pay attention to this benchmark for USDA financing. Exceptions may be possible with proof that the new payment is lower than what you’re paying for rent now.
- 620 credit score. The bare minimum credit score for conventional financing comes with the largest mark-ups for interest rates and PMI.
- 580 credit score. This is the bottom line to be considered for an FHA loan with a 3.5% down payment.
- 500 credit score. This is the lowest credit score you can have to qualify for an FHA loan, but you must put 10% down to qualify.
Annual percentage rates by credit score
Your mortgage rate is a reflection of the risk lenders take when they offer you a loan. Lenders provide lower rates to borrowers who are the most likely to repay a mortgage.
Here’s a glimpse of the annual percentage rates (APRs) and monthly payments lenders may offer to borrowers at different credit score tiers on a $300,000, 30-year fixed loan. APR measures the total cost of borrowing, including the loan’s interest rate and fees.
As the credit score ranges fall, the interest rates are higher. Borrowers with a score of 760 to 850, the highest range, saw an average monthly payment of $1,267. Borrowers in the lowest credit score tier of 620 to 639 saw their monthly payment jump to $1,538. The extra $271 in monthly payments adds up to an additional $97,560 in interest charges over the life of the loan.
Steps for improving your credit score
Now that you have an idea of the extra cost of getting a minimum credit score mortgage, follow some of these tips that may help boost your score.
- Make payments on time. It may seem obvious, but recent late payments on credit accounts hit your scores the hardest. Set your bills on autopay if possible to avoid forgetting to pay one.
- Pay off balances monthly. Try to pay your entire balance off each month to show you can manage debt responsibly.
- Keep your credit card balances low. If you do carry a credit card balance, charge 30% or less of the available credit limit on each account.
- Have a mix of different credit types. Mortgage lenders want to see you can handle longer-term debt as well as credit cards. A car loan or personal loan will help demonstrate your ability to budget for installment debt payments over time.
- Avoid applying for new accounts. A credit inquiry tells your lender you applied for credit. Even if you were applying to get your best deal on a credit card or car loan, multiple inquiries could drop your scores, and give a lender the impression you’re racking up debt.