Personal Finance Insider writes about products, strategies, and tips to help you make smart decisions with your money. We may receive a small commission from our partners, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.
- The minimum credit score that you’ll need to buy a house will vary by lender and loan type.
- For conventional loans, you’ll need a credit score of at least 620. But with FHA, VA, or USDA loans, you may be able to qualify with a lower score.
- To qualify for the best interest rates on a mortgage, aim for a credit score of at least 740.
- Get your free credit score with Credit Karma »
The good news is you don’t need a perfect credit score to buy a house. And you may be surprised to learn that minimum credit score requirements will vary by lender and loan type.
What credit score is needed to buy a house?
Ultimately, there is no singular credit score that can guarantee you a mortgage approval. Each lender is free to set their own credit score requirements.
But many loan types are insured by government organizations. And lenders cannot accept borrowers with credit scores below the minimum these organizations set. The four most popular home loan types are:
- Conventional: Not backed by any government agency, but must meet the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac underwriting guidelines
- FHA: Loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration
- VA: Loans backed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (for military members)
- USDA: Loans backed by the US Department of Agriculture (for low- to moderate-income families who buy homes in rural areas)
And here are the minimum credit score requirements for each of these loan types:
- Conventional: 620
- 580 for a 3.5% down payment
- 500 for down payments of at least 10%
- VA: No minimum
- USDA: No minimum, but with a credit score of at least 640 you could qualify for streamlined credit analysis
It’s important to point out that lenders are free to set higher minimum credit score requirements than what the loan-backing organizations require. For example, Quicken Loans says that the lowest score it will consider for a VA Loan is 620, despite the Veterans Administration having no set limit.
What is a good credit score for buying a house?
So far we’ve only discussed the minimum credit score that a mortgage lender will consider. But what type of credit score could qualify you for the best rates? FICO breaks its credit scores into five main ranges:
Aiming to get your credit score in the “Good” range (670 to 739) would be a great start towards qualifying for a mortgage. But if you’re wanting to qualify for the lowest rates, try to get your score within the “Very Good” range (740 to 799).
It’s important to point out that your credit score isn’t the only factor that lenders consider during the underwriting process. Even with a strong score, a lack of income or employment history or a high debt-to-income ratio could cause the loan to fall through.
How credit scores affect mortgage interest rates
Your credit score can have a major impact on the overall cost of your loan. Each day, FICO publishes data that shows how your credit score could affect your interest rate and payment. Below is a snapshot of the cost of a $200,000, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage in February:
That’s an interest variance of over 1.5% and a $180 difference in monthly payment from the 620 to 639 credit score range to the 760+ range.
Those differences can really add up over time. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a $200,000 home with a 5.25% interest rate costs $94,000 more overall over 30 years than a mortgage with a 3% interest rate.
How to improve your credit score before you buy a house
The first step to improving your score is to find out where you stand. You can check your credit report for free once every 12 months with all three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) at AnnualCreditReport.com.
If you find errors on any of your reports, you can dispute them with the credit bureau as well as with the lender or credit card company. When it comes to your credit score, your bank or credit card issuer may provide your score for free. If not, you can also use a free credit score monitoring tool like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.
What can you do if you discover that your score needs some love? One idea would be to pay down your credit card balances to reduce your credit utilization rate. Also, avoid applying for any new forms of credit during the months leading up to a mortgage application.
And, most importantly, pay your bills on time each and every month. Your payment history is the factor that has the biggest influence on your credit score. Building a consistent history of on-time payments will always be a surefire way to improve your score.
- More personal finance coverage
- 4 reasons to open a high-yield savings account while interest rates are down
- It took less than 10 minutes to open a high-yield cash account with Wealthfront and earn more on my savings
- How to buy a house with no money down
- When to save money in high-yield savings
- Best rewards credit cards
- 7 reasons you may need life insurance, even if you think you don’t