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Buying A House With Bad Credit: A Guide To Your Home Loan Options

Andrew Dehan6-minute read

May 10, 2023


The thought of buying a house can be overwhelming. Starting the home buying process with bad credit can make it seem nearly impossible to get a loan, but did you know there’s such a thing as a bad credit home loan? Your credit might not be as much of a roadblock as you think.

In this article, we’ll discuss your options when buying a house with bad credit and how you can qualify for a mortgage.

What Do Mortgage Lenders Consider A Bad Credit Score?

The minimum score required for a mortgage will vary by lender and loan type. Conventional loans have a minimum credit score of 620, while government-backed loans typically have more lenient credit score requirements.

If you have a credit score lower than 500, you might find getting a mortgage a bit hard and will probably need to focus on increasing your score first.

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Can You Buy A House With Bad Credit?

When it comes to the actual number, anything less than a 670 FICO® Score is considered “subprime,” according to Experian™, one of the three main credit bureaus. ExperianTM further divides subprime scores into fair and poor: a fair score is 580 to 669, while a poor score is anything below 579.

Cash is your best friend when you have bad credit, and the more of it you have to use toward a down payment, the better. The reason for this is that your credit score might only qualify you for a certain mortgage loan amount. If you can cover the difference with cash, you can still afford the home you want.

The lender you end up with will also play a factor because all lenders will have different requirements. While you can get a bad credit loan, you must be prepared to pay a higher monthly mortgage payment due to much higher interest rates.

Don’t forget, if you purchase a home with bad credit, you can always repair your credit and refinance your mortgage for much better loan terms later on.

How To Buy A House With Bad Credit

Let’s check out some of the loan options available to people looking to buy a house with bad credit. We’ll also discuss the average credit score requirements for each option.

Conventional Loans

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both require a minimum credit score of at least 620, and some lender may set the minimum even higher.

FHA Loans

An FHA loan is a loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration. If you’re a first-time home buyer, FHA loans can be very attractive because of lower qualifying requirements.

The minimum credit score needed to get an FHA loan through most lenders, including Rocket Mortgage, is 580. A few lenders do offer FHA loans with a minimum score of 500, but these will require a down payment of 10%.

FHA loans also have additional qualification requirements. For instance, you can use an FHA loan only to purchase a primary residence.

VA Loans

If you’re a veteran, surviving spouse of a veteran, or currently serving in the armed forces, you could qualify for a VA loan.

A VA loan is backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and allows for the purchase of a home with $0 down. In most cases you will pay a one-time “funding fee.

As with FHA loans, your home must meet specific standards to qualify. And while the VA has no specific credit score minimum, most lenders do. Rocket Mortgage® for example, has a 580 minimum credit requirement.

USDA Loans

A USDA loan* is another loan backed by a government department, the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A loan from the USDA allows you to buy a home in a qualifying rural area with a $0 down payment.

Most lenders will require a 640 credit score to qualify for the loan, along with other income requirements specific to a USDA loan.

*As of July 6, 2020, Rocket Mortgage is no longer accepting USDA loan applications.

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5 Options For Buyers Who Can’t Get A Bad Credit Mortgage

The best home loan option for you if you have bad credit depends on how low your score is. If your score is below 600, you probably should look into an FHA loan or VA loan.

Of course, the best option is to work on repairing your credit score before you submit a mortgage application. While this is not the answer borrowers want to read or hear, it’s the most practical and can save you thousands in interest payments. Not only will you have more mortgage options, but you might be able to get your loan with a lower income requirement and down payment.

Here are some options if you can’t get a bad credit mortgage:

1. Increase Your Available Credit

Once you get a better handle on things and have started improving your score, increasing your available credit can help raise it a little faster. You can do this by either paying down balances or making a credit limit increase request. This effort helps increase your credit score because you will decrease your credit utilization, which is a huge factor in determining your score. Remember, it’s best to have a higher credit score to buy a house and apply for mortgages.

It’s also important to note that most credit card companies allow you to request as many increases as you like without it causing a hard pull on your credit.

2. Add New Accounts (In Bulk)

Adding new accounts also means you’ll be increasing available credit and increasing your overall credit mix. Doing this in bulk is even better because it puts everything in the same time frame. Your inquiries will all fall off on the same day, any new accounts will age together, and you’ll add more available credit to your report.

This change also allows you to establish an even stronger payment history on your credit report. It usually takes less than 30 – 45 days to see the effects of adding bulk, new accounts to your report.

3. Pay For Deletions

One of the worst items you can have on your credit report is a collection. Collections show lenders that you owe money to someone and have not attempted to pay it back.

Even if you pay the collection off, it can remain on your report as “Paid,” which is better than having an outstanding collection. However, the best result which will help even more is to request the items be deleted from your credit report if you make a late payment.

Before making a payment for deletions, make sure you get the transaction in writing. It will be like you never received that collection, thus increasing your credit score and giving lenders one less reason to decline you.

4. Stay Away From Hard Credit Inquiries

While getting an insurance quote won’t affect your credit score, applying for any type of new credit will. Having too many hard inquiries on your credit is not a good thing.

When applying for any type of financial transaction that requires a credit pull, always check if it’s a hard or soft pull. Avoid doing anything requiring a hard pull close to when you apply for a mortgage.

5. Find A Co-Signer

Depending on your mortgage, you may be able to qualify for a home loan with a co-signer. This addition can help bump you over the credit threshold as the co-signer’s income and assets will be considered along with yours. You may also qualify for a larger loan amount with a co-signer, even with bad credit, which can give you a bigger budget when shopping for a home.

In most cases, a co-signer will only help lower your debt-to-income ratio, which by itself helps with qualification. Another person's income and assets will make it easier for you to afford a higher monthly mortgage payment. Most of the time, the lowest median credit score of all borrowers on the loan is the one that counts. However, if multiple borrowers are getting a loan backed by Fannie Mae, the guidelines allow for lenders to average median scores of the borrowers. This can mean the difference between qualifying or not getting the loan.

For example, if you have a median credit score of 580 and your co-signer has a score of 720, you couldn't qualify with both incomes until recently. Now Fannie Mae policy, in many instances, is to average the two credit scores, coming out to 650.

It's important to note that for the purposes of determining your interest rate and mortgage insurance cost, the lowest median score is still used, so your rate may be slightly higher. Additionally, the averaging of credit scores doesn't apply to every loan option.

The Bottom Line: Getting A Home Loan With Bad Credit Is Possible

Having bad credit doesn’t always mean you can’t enjoy the benefits of homeownership. Instead, it might just require additional research when looking for financing.

With a loan backed by the government like an FHA loan, you can qualify for a mortgage even with a credit score of 500. It might be tempting to buy a home as soon as possible, but it’s better to take the time to assess available options and interest rates.

If you’re ready to take the first step toward homeownership, apply for a mortgage today.

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Andrew Dehan

Andrew Dehan is a professional writer who writes about real estate and homeownership. He is also a published poet, musician and nature-lover. He lives in metro Detroit with his wife, daughter and dogs.