You Credit Score- How's Your FICO?
Since we live in an automated, you're probably not surprised to hear that your ability to repay your mortgage comes down to a single number. The FICO score is compiled by credit agencies. They use the payment history of all of your loans: mortgages, car loans, credit cards, and others.
The three agencies use slightly different formulas to build a credit score. Fair Isaac and Cooriginally developed this score. . Experian uses this model and calls its score FICO. Equifax's model, based on FICO, is called BEACON, while TransUnion, which also uses a slightly modified FICO, calls its score EMPIRICA. While each of the models considers a range of data available in your credit report, the differences aren't huge; they all use the following to build a credit score:
- Credit History - Have you had credit for many years, or for a short time?
- Payment History - Do you have any payments later than 30 days?
- Balances on your Credit Cards - How many accounts do you hold? How much do you owe?
- Requests for Credit - How many times have you had your credit checked for a loan?
These factors are weighted slightly differently depending on the formula being used. Each formula produces a single number which may vary slightly from one agency to another. Credit scores range from 300 to 800. Higher is better. Most home buyers these days have a score above 620.
FICO makes a difference in interest rates
Did you know? FICO scores affect more than your ability to get a loan. They also affect your interest rate. Higher scores indicate you are a better credit risk, and thus may qualify for a better mortgage rate.
Raising your credit score
What can you do to raise your FICO score? Very little in the short term. Some companies promise quick fixes, but they can't do anything different than what you can do — for free. (Of course you can and should remove incorrect data on your credit report.)
Getting your FICO score
In order to raise your credit score, you must get the reports that the agencies use to build it. Of course, you need the score as well. Fair Isaac, the company that invented the original FICO credit score, sells FICO scores on myFICO.com. It's inexpensive to get your FICO score from all three reporting agencies, along with your credit report. They also provide helpful information and tools that help you analyze what actions might have the greatest impact on your FICO score.
You can get a federally-mandated free credit report once a year from all three agencies when you visit AnnualCreditReport.com. These reports do not include a free score, but it's very inexpensive to get one at the same time.
Armed with this information, you'll be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to obtain the most favorable mortgage.