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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.
2022 mortgage and credit score statistics
- 768 is the median credit score in the U.S. for those taking out a mortgage, according to Q3 2022 Federal Reserve Bank of New York data.
- The average credit score for first-time homebuyers is 746, according to a recent report from FannieMae.
- Minnesota is the state with the highest average credit score in the country, at 742, according to a 2022 Experian report.
- Residents of Mississippi have the lowest average credit scores nationwide at 681.
- The average mortgage debt is $229,242, per Experian’s most recent State of Credit data.
- Generation X borrowers have the highest average mortgage debt, at $259,100.
Credit score to buy a house
|Type of loan||Minimum credit score|
|VA||No requirement, but generally low- to mid-600s|
|USDA||No requirement, but generally 640|
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 is accessible with a credit score as low as 580 or 500, depending on the 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.
Credit scores and mortgage rates
Generally, the higher your credit score, the lower your mortgage rate and the 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:
|Credit score||APR||Monthly mortgage payment||Interest total|
|APRs as of Dec. 2022 Source: myFICO|
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.
|Generation||Average credit score||Average mortgage debt|
|Source: Experian State of Credit Report, 2021|
Average credit score by state
The credit health of Americans varies across states. Minnesota has the highest average credit score, 742, followed by Vermont (736) and Wisconsin (735), according to Experian data. Mississippi (681) and Louisiana (689) have the lowest average scores.
Other factors in mortgage preapproval
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 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.
Improving your credit score can help you qualify for better mortgage rates. Start by getting current on any past due accounts, if applicable, and be sure to make timely payments moving forward. Pay down any credit card debt as much as you can, and if you owe in many different places, consider a debt-consolidation loan that rolls all your debts into one single monthly payment. Other ways to increase your credit score include avoiding applications for new credit and leaving old accounts in good standing open.
What credit score do you need to buy a house? Generally speaking, the higher the better. At the low end of the range, buyers with a credit score as low as 500 could be eligible for an FHA loan with a down payment of 10 percent; a score of 580 would require just 3.5 percent down. But you’d have to pay for private mortgage insurance as well. If you can get your score up to 620, you might qualify for a conventional loan or VA loan.
FICO scores range from 300 to 850, the higher the better. Any score above 670 is considered “good” — but scores of 740 to 799 are very good, and above 800 is exceptional.
It depends on the lender and loan program. USDA and VA loans are government-backed options without credit score minimums, but most lenders prefer a credit score of at least 640 and 620, respectively. To qualify for a no-down-payment mortgage through a commercial or private lender, you’ll likely need excellent credit.