How's your FICO Score?

Because we live in an automated, it should come as no surprise that your ability to repay your mortgage loan boils down to a single number. All the years you've been paying your various bills: your mortgage, car payments, and credit card bills are analyzed, sliced, spindled and mutilated into a single indicator of whether you're likely to meet your future obligations.

The three reporting agencies use slightly different formulas to build a credit score. The original FICO score was developed by Fair Isaac and Company. 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; each agency uses the following in building your score:

  • Credit History - How long have you had credit?
  • History of Payments - Do you have a history of late payments?
  • Your Credit Card Balances - How many accounts do you have, and how much do you owe?
  • Inquiries on Your Credit - How many times have you had your credit checked for a loan?

These factors are weighted slightly differently depending on which formula the agency uses. The results are added up and distilled into a single number. FICO scores can be as low as 300 and as high as 800. Higher is always better. Typical home buyers will probably find their FICO scores falling above 620.

Your FICO score greatly affects how much you pay in interest every month

Did you know? FICO scores are used for more than just determining whether or not you qualify for a mortgage. Higher scores indicate you are probably a better credit risk, and thus may qualify for a better mortgage rate.

Improving your score

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot you can do to immediately improve your credit score. Since the score is entirely based on a lifetime of credit history, it is difficult to change it quickly. (Of course you must remove incorrect data on your credit report.)

Know your FICO score

Before you can improve your score, you must get your score and make sure that the reports from each agency are correct. Fair Isaac, the company that offered the first FICO credit score, sells FICO scores on myFICO.com. It's inexpensive, fast, and easy to get your credit score as well as credit reports from all three agencies. Also available are helpful information and tools that can help you understand how to improve your FICO score.

You can get a federally-mandated free credit report once per year from all three credit reporting agencies when you visit AnnualCreditReport.com. You won't get a free credit score from AnnualCreditReport.com, but getting one is quick and very inexpensive.

Armed with this info, you will be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to obtain the right mortgage for you.

Curious about your credit score? Give us a call: 610-565-3600.