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What Credit Score Do Mortgage Lenders Use? Your Quick Guide

February 22, 2024 4-minute read

Author: Patrick Russo

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If you’re looking to buy a house, you’re probably aware that having a good credit score is important for qualifying for a mortgage. But did you know that you have more than one credit score? To make it even more complicated, these separate scores can all be different! So what credit score do mortgage lenders use when you apply for a mortgage?

Which Credit Score Do Mortgage Lenders Use When Reviewing Mortgage Applications?

Mortgage lenders primarily look at FICO® Scores 2, 4 and 5 when determining a borrower’s creditworthiness as they apply for a home loan. While there are 16 different versions of FICO® Scores, known as scoring models, these three scores are the ones used by the three major credit bureaus, Experian™, Equifax® and TransUnion®.

FICO® Scores are financial measurements created by the Fair Isaac Corporation to monitor borrowers’ ability to repay their loans. Represented by three-digit numbers typically ranging from 300-850, the higher your score, the more likely you are to repay your loan.

FICO® Scores have been used since 1989 to simplify the mortgage application process by giving lenders an easy way to judge borrowers’ creditworthiness. According to the Fair Isaac Corporation, over 90% of lenders use FICO® Scores to make lending decisions.

FICO® Scoring Models

The three credit bureaus use the following FICO® scoring models for mortgage loan applications:

  • Experian™: FICO® Score 2
  • TransUnion®: FICO® Score 4
  • Equifax®: FICO® Score 5

 

Each of these scores weighs several variables of your creditworthiness differently, but the specifics of the differences between each score are not known. However, we do know the most important variables that affect your FICO® Score and the general weighting that each score holds:

  • Payment history (~35%): This is the most important factor affecting your FICO® Score because it gives a direct view of whether you have made past payments on time.
  • Amounts owed (~30%): Owing a large amount of money may cause lenders to worry whether you’re able to handle new payments, negatively affecting your credit score.
  • Length of credit history (~15%): In general, the longer your credit history, the better your credit score. Having an established credit history makes it much easier to prove to lenders that you can pay back a loan.
  • Credit mix (~10%): While it is not required to have multiple different types of credit accounts, FICO® scores do consider a wide array of accounts from credit card, and retail accounts to mortgage loan accounts.
  • New credit (~10): Opening several credit accounts in a short time is riskier for lenders, so they will always consider the most recent accounts you open.

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How Do Lenders Choose What Credit Score To Use?

Mortgage lenders do as much research as possible before making the decision to loan hundreds of thousands of dollars. Often, that means pulling your FICO® Score from all three major credit bureaus. However, since these scores are often different, thanks to the different scoring models used by each bureau, many borrowers wonder which credit score will actually be considered in their application.

Typically, when mortgage lenders pull all three FICO® scores, they will use the median score for your application. Let’s say you have the following FICO® scores:

  • Experian™ FICO® Score 2: 765
  • TransUnion® FICO® Score 4: 789
  • Equifax® FICO® Score 5: 775

 

In this scenario, your mortgage lender will use 775 as your credit score. If two of your scores were identical, your lender would use that score no matter if it is the higher or lower number. If you’re applying with a co-borrower, the lender will pull both of your credit scores and use the lower median score as your FICO® Score.

Lenders will obtain a tri-merge credit report to obtain the three FICO® Scores. Tri-merge reports combine information from each major credit bureau into one report. Since different creditors may not report to all credit bureaus, merging all of the reports together creates the most comprehensive view of your credit history. Your tri-merge report will contain detailed information about your credit and loan accounts, how much you owe, any late payments you’ve made in the past 7 years, and any other information that may have been reported to any one of the major credit bureaus.

The Importance Of Credit Scores During The Application Process

Which credit scores lenders use during the application process is extremely important because it could affect your loan terms, mortgage rate, or whether you qualify for a mortgage at all. If you have a higher credit score, generally above 740, lenders are more likely to give you a better deal on your loan. However, clients may still qualify for certain loans with a minimum credit score of 580. And scores are not the only thing lenders consider. Other critical information they will analyze is your employment history, income, debt-to-income ratio and savings.

FAQs On What Credit Scores Lenders Use

These are some of the most common questions about which credit scores mortgage lenders use.

Do all mortgage lenders use the same credit score?

Mortgage lenders are not required to use the same credit scores.

What do lenders consider a “good” credit score?

Most lenders consider a score of 740 or higher to be excellent. However, the credit score needed to buy a house using a conventional loan can be as low as 620. For a government loan, like an FHA or VA loan, a minimum credit score of 580 is required by most lenders.

If my credit score is different with all three credit bureaus, which score do lenders use?

Lenders typically pull scores from all three major credit bureaus and use the median score.

What FICO® Score do mortgage lenders use?

Mortgage lenders typically consider the 3 FICO® Scores used by the major credit bureaus, FICO® Scores 2, 4 and 5.

The Bottom Line: FICO® Scores Help Lenders Determine Your Creditworthiness

It is vital not to be overwhelmed by the differences in your multiple FICO® Scores. Since each credit bureau uses slightly different formulas to measure your credit, it’s natural for the numbers to differ. Lenders will use your median score if you’re applying by yourself and the lowest median score between partners if you apply with a co-borrower. If you’re confident in your credit score and are ready to buy a house, start a mortgage application today!

Already have a good score?

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Patrick Russo

Patrick is a writer and researcher with expertise in real estate and insurance. When he is not writing, you can find him hanging out with his family and friends or walking around Washington, DC, listening to an audiobook.