What Credit Score Should I Have to Buy a House?

Written by Chloe GoodshoreSeptember 19th, 20225 minute read

What is the minimum credit score to get a mortgage? | What is a good credit score? | Why do lenders care about my credit score? | How can I check my credit score? | FAQs

When you want to buy a house, a higher credit score is always better. But you only need a 620 FICO score to get a conventional mortgage from many lenders.

If you have a lower credit score, you still have home loan options. You can get FHA loans, for instance, with a credit score as low as 500 — assuming you can make a strong down payment. On the other hand, some lenders and loan types require a credit score well above 620.

So to figure out how your credit score will affect your home buying — and how you can improve your credit score before buying. Keep reading this guide to credit scores and home purchases.

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What is the minimum credit score to get a mortgage?

A 620 credit score will help you qualify for most mortgages. But the minimum credit score to get a mortgage depends on the type of home loan you want.

Loan type
Minimum credit score

Conventional home loan

On average, you need a 620 credit score to get a conventional fixed-rate mortgage. For an adjustable-rate mortgage, you’ll need 640.

That said, some lenders prefer a higher credit score. A 660 credit score will get you access to more lender options. Buyers with a 740 credit score often get lower interest rates, have lower down payment requirements, and can enjoy faster loan approval.

Jumbo home loan

Jumbo home loans require higher credit scores than conventional homes loans do — up to 720.

FHA loan

You can get an FHA loan with a credit score as low as 500. Because FHA loans come backed by the Federal Housing Administration, they have lower credit requirements than other types of home loans.

Credit score
Down payment

USDA loan

In most cases, you need a 640 credit score to get a USDA loan. But USDA lenders can set their own requirements, so you may find one that will accept a lower credit score — especially if your application looks great otherwise.

VA loan

A 620 credit score is the standard for meeting VA loan qualifications. Different VA lenders have different credit requirements, though, so you can find VA lenders that accept credit scores down to 580 for smaller home loans.

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What is a good credit score?

A good FICO credit score is anything above 670. You can see the full range of FICO ratings in the table below.

Very good

But remember, you can get a traditional mortgage with just a 620 credit score — a fair rating. So you don’t have to have perfect (or even good) credit to meet conventional loan requirements.

What factors determine my credit score?

A few different factors go into your FICO score calculation:

Amounts owed
Credit mix
Length of credit history
New credit
Payment history

If you have a history of making on-time payments and you aren’t maxing out your credit scores, you’re already well on your way to having a good FICO score.

What credit score do lenders look at?

mortgageLenders most commonly use your FICO score when evaluating your credit profile. However, you’ll still see other credit scoring systems out there, such as VantageScore.

Do I have more than one credit score?

Three big credit bureaus track your FICO score: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Not every creditor reports to each bureau, so you probably have a different credit score with each bureau — typically, you won’t see a dramatic difference.

Before you buy a house, you may want to check your credit score with the three major bureaus. Then, you can ask potential lenders which credit score they’ll check.

Why do lenders care about my credit score?

Lenders use your credit score to determine your creditworthiness: how likely you are to repay the money you borrow.

When you have a higher credit score, lenders feel more confident that you’ll repay your home loan. It also means you’re likely to qualify for lower interest rates and larger loan sizes.

» LEARN: What Do Mortgage Lenders Look for on Credit Reports?

Will my credit score affect my interest rate?

A higher credit score can mean a lower interest rate, while a lower credit score usually means a higher interest rate.

Just know that your lender will look at other factors as well, like your home’s location, your debt-to-income ratio, and your loan type.

How can I check my credit score?

You can request a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months directly from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can also use online credit monitoring services or your credit card provider.

Make sure you know if you're looking at your VantageScore or FICO score, since your lender could be looking at just one.

» MORE: Check Your Credit Score for Free (Without Hurting It)

You won’t improve your credit score overnight

If you plan to buy a house, start working on your credit as soon as you can.

You might see small changes to your credit score in as little as a few weeks. But generally, it will take several months to see a big improvement.

How can I improve my credit score before buying a house?

If you have some time before applying for a mortgage, you can try to improve your credit score:

  • Don’t apply for new credit. Avoid taking out a new credit card or car loan in the months before you buy a house. New credit lines can ding your credit score.
  • Pay down your debt. The amount you owe makes up a big part of your credit score. Pay off credit cards and existing loans, and you may see a score improvement.
  • Check your credit report. Your credit report could have inaccuracies (like fraudulent accounts) that hurt your credit. Get a copy of your report from each bureau, and dispute any information that looks wrong.

» CHECK: Get a free copy of your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Next steps: Gearing up to buy a house?

Checking your credit is just the first of many steps for first-time home buyers.

Next, you’ll want to learn how mortgage loan applications work and start shopping around for lenders. Before you start looking at houses, you should have a mortgage pre-approval letter in hand. That way, you’ll be ready to make an offer when you find the perfect house.

Then you’ll need a great real estate agent. Your agent will guide you along the whole buying process.

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FAQs about credit scores

A 620 is a decent credit score to buy a house, as it can help you qualify for conventional mortgages, VA loans, and other lending options.

You generally need at least a 620 credit score to buy a house with a traditional mortgage loan. You can get some kinds of loans with a score as low as 500, like FHA loans.

A credit score of 700 qualifies for most types of loans.

A 500 is the lowest credit score you can have to buy a house. If you have a 500 score, you can get an FHA loan — as long as you can make a 10% down payment on your home purchase.