Lenders evaluate you and your spouse's credit reports and scores separately. While marriage alone doesn’t affect your credit score, it can influence your ability to get a home loan. One spouse’s low score or previous foreclosure could pull down the other’s creditworthiness.
When you apply for a mortgage, lenders will do a hard inquiry on both your credit history and your spouse’s. If one score is significantly lower than the other, lenders may set higher fees or interest rates.
How marriage affects home loan applications
Let's say you and your spouse are applying for an FHA loan, which requires a credit score of 580. Here’s how a lender might evaluate your credit scores.
Your credit score
Your spouse's credit score
The lowest median score (yours) is the determining number. In this case, you and your spouse will be eligible for an FHA loan, but you may not get the most favorable loan terms — even if your spouse has a higher median score.
Can you apply for a home loan under one name?
Yes, you can leave your or your spouse's name off the mortgage application. Your lender will then look at the history of the person with the strongest credit background. If one of you has a low credit score, this could help you both qualify for a home loan.
Before applying for a loan under one name, you should know that:
- Only the applicant’s income will be considered. This could lead you to qualify for a smaller loan amount, even if you’re in a two-income household.
- Lenders might still look at shared debts. If you live in a community property state, FHA and VA lenders will look at the debts you’ve taken out with your spouse, even if their name isn’t on the mortgage. This could greatly increase your debt-to-income ratio, which could disqualify you altogether.
🤝 Community property states: AZ, CA, ID, LA, NV, NM, TX, WA, WI
In a community property state, all debts taken out during marriage are the responsibility of both partners, regardless of whose name is on the account.
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How married couples can build their credit scores
To help you or spouse build credit, you can become an authorized user on a credit card, build credit slowly with a secured card, or co-sign a personal loan.
Add an authorized user on a credit card with a good credit history. So if the account has a long history of making payments on time, it can give you or your spouse’s credit score a major boost.
An authorized user can use a credit account but isn’t responsible for paying the bill. Authorized users inherit the full history of a credit account.
Build your score with a secured credit card. Secured credit cards are backed by an initial deposit, which makes them available for those with bad credit. As long as you or your spouse make payments on-time, and have a low credit utilization, secured credit cards could help you build back your credit score.
Cosign a small personal loan. Having a personal loan can diversify your credit mix, which makes up 10% of your credit score. As long as you make payments on time, you and your spouse’s credit scores will improve over time.
- Marriage alone doesn’t impact your credit score directly. But it can impact your ability to get a home loan.
- Lenders will look at the credit scores of both spouses and use the lowest median credit score to determine eligibility for a loan.
- If your spouse has a bad credit score, you can leave their name off the mortgage application. Their income won’t be considered, however, and you may have a higher debt-to-income ratio because of it.