Your credit score can have an impact not only on your ability to get a mortgage, but also on the loan’s rate and terms. Mortgage lenders consider your score, alongside other factors like employment, income and debt, to determine whether you can realistically afford the home you want. While some mortgage programs open the door for those with lower credit scores, a higher score means you won’t be burdened with higher costs, so the better your score, the cheaper your mortgage overall.
Mortgage and credit score statistics
- 786 is the median credit score in the U.S. for those taking out a mortgage, according to Q2 2021 Federal Reserve Bank of New York data.
- Minnesota, New Hampshire and Vermont are home to those with the highest average credit scores in the country, while Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama are home to those with the lowest, VantageScore reports.
- The average mortgage debt is $229,242, according to 2021 data from Experian. Generation X borrowers have the highest average mortgage debt, at $259,100.
Credit score to buy a house
Some types of mortgages have specific minimum credit score requirements.
A conventional loan requires a credit score of at least 620, but it’s ideal to have a score of 740 or above, which could allow you to make a lower down payment, get a more attractive interest rate and save on private mortgage insurance.
An FHA loan can be had with a credit score as low as 580 or 500, depending on down payment amount. That said, taking out an FHA loan with a very low credit score can still be a challenge, since lenders can impose their own higher credit minimums.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doesn’t set credit minimums for VA loans, but many VA lenders have their own credit requirements, typically in the low- to mid-600s. Similarly, USDA loans don’t have a credit score requirement by U.S. Department of Agriculture standards, but you should still be prepared to meet the minimum set by lenders, usually 640.
|Type of loan||Minimum credit score|
|VA||No requirement, but generally low- to mid-600s|
|USDA||No requirement, but generally 640|
Average credit score by state
The credit health of Americans varies across states. Minnesota has the highest average credit score, 724, followed by New Hampshire (720) and Vermont (719), according to VantageScore data from December 2021. Mississippi (660), Louisiana (668) and Alabama (670) have the lowest average scores.
The Northeast and Pacific Northwest tend to have higher credit scores overall, while the Deep South has some of the lowest scores.
Average mortgage debt by age group
Americans typically begin borrowing in young adulthood as they face major expenses like housing and education at a lower income level. They tend to borrow at a slower pace in middle age as incomes rise. As they age, Americans start deleveraging as they pay off their loans.
|Source: Experian State of Credit Report, 2021|
|Generation||Average credit score||Average mortgage debt|
Credit scores and mortgage rates
Generally, the higher your credit score, the lower your mortgage rate and less you’ll pay on a monthly basis and in interest overall. Depending on your credit, a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for $286,400 could cost you:
|APRs as of Feb. 2021
|Credit score||APR||Monthly mortgage payment||Interest total|
What else do mortgage lenders consider?
Along with credit history and score, mortgage lenders take into account your:
- Employment history and income – Lenders want to see that you have a reliable source of income and a paper trail to prove it. Two or more years at the same company is a plus, and be prepared to provide tax returns from the last two years, as well.
- Down payment – A larger down payment can help you get approved and obtain a more favorable interest rate, but be careful not to eat into your emergency savings.
- Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio – Lenders use your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio as a critical measure of an affordable monthly mortgage payment. A DTI ratio that’s too high could limit your options, even if you have good credit and stable income.
- Assets – You could be a more attractive borrower overall if you have substantial savings and other assets like investment or retirement accounts.
A mortgage is one of the biggest financial commitments you’ll ever make, and will follow you for years to come — even older borrowers still typically shoulder six-figure debt. In preparation for your finances to be scrutinized, it’s crucial to improve or maintain your credit score so you get the best possible mortgage rate and terms.