What is a FICO score?

What is a FICO score and how can I improve it?

Patrick Rumore

5/19/20232 min read

a house made out of money on a white background
a house made out of money on a white background

What is a FICO Score and how can I improve it?

The FICO score is a credit scoring system, developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO), used by lenders to assess an individual's creditworthiness. It helps lenders determine the likelihood of a borrower repaying their debts on time. Understanding the FICO score is crucial for potential home buyers because it plays a significant role in their ability to secure favorable mortgage terms, such as interest rates and loan approval.

The importance of the FICO Score for Home Buyers:

When you're looking to purchase a home, your FICO score plays a crucial role in the mortgage loan approval process. Lenders use your FICO score to evaluate your creditworthiness and determine the terms and interest rates you'll be offered. A higher FICO score generally leads to better loan terms, including lower interest rates, which can save you significant money over the life of your mortgage.

Here's a breakdown of the key points about the FICO score and how to improve it:

What is the FICO score?

The FICO score is a three-digit number ranging from 300 to 850 that summarizes an individual's credit history. It is calculated based on various factors, including payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, credit mix, and new credit.

Importance of the FICO score for homebuyers:

a. Loan Approval: Lenders often have minimum FICO score requirements for mortgage approval. Higher scores increase the chances of being approved for a loan.

b. Interest Rates: A higher FICO score usually results in lower interest rates, potentially saving homebuyers thousands of dollars over the life of a mortgage.

c. Mortgage Terms: FICO scores can impact the terms of the mortgage, including down payment requirements and the type of mortgage available.

How to improve the FICO score:

a. Pay bills on time: Payment history is a significant factor. Make sure to pay all bills, including credit cards, loans, and utilities, by their due dates.

b. Reduce debts: Aim to keep credit card balances low and pay down existing debts. This demonstrates responsible credit management and improves credit utilization ratios.

c. Maintain a mix of credit: Having a mix of credit accounts, such as credit cards, auto loans, and student loans, can positively impact the FICO score. However, only take on credit that you can manage responsibly.

d. Lengthen credit history: The longer your credit history, the better. Avoid closing old credit accounts, as they contribute to your credit age.

e. Limit new credit applications: Applying for multiple credit accounts within a short period can negatively impact your FICO score. Be cautious and apply for credit only when necessary.

f. Regularly review credit reports: Obtain free copies of your credit reports from major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and review them for inaccuracies or fraudulent activity. Dispute any errors you find. You can get your credit reports here.

Remember that improving a FICO score takes time and consistent responsible credit behavior. It's essential to be patient and maintain good credit practices over the long term.

It's important to note that while the FICO score is widely used, lenders may also consider other factors when assessing your mortgage application, such as your income, employment history, and overall financial situation.

Note: While this advice generally applies to improving credit scores, it's essential to consult with a financial advisor or credit counselor for personalized guidance based on your specific situation.