Scoring your Credit - How's your FICO?

Since we live in an automated society, it should come as no surprise that your ability to repay your mortgage loan comes down to a single number. The years of paying your various bills: your mortgage, vehicle payments, and credit card bills can be analyzed, diced, spindled and mutilated into a single indicator of whether you're likely to meet your future obligations.

The three credit reporting agencies use slightly different formulas to build a credit score. The original FICO model was developed by Fair Isaac and Company. While Experian still calls its score "FICO", TransUnion calls its score "Beacon" and Equifax uses "Empirica." While the formulas vary from one agency to another, the differences aren't huge; all of the agencies use the following factors in calculating your credit score:

  • Your Credit History - How many years have you had credit?
  • Payment History - Do you have a history of late payments?
  • Balances on your Credit Cards - How many accounts? How much do you owe?
  • Inquiries on Your Credit - How many times have lenders pulled your credit report for the purpose of giving you a loan?

These factors are assigned weights based on the formula being used. Each formula produces a single number which may vary slightly from one agency to another. FICO scores can be as low as 300 and as high as 800. Higher scores are better. Most home buyers in the current environment have a score above 620.

Not just for qualifying

FICO scores affect more than your ability to get a loan. They also affect your interest rate. Lenders give lower interest rates to individuals with higher scores.

Improving your score

What can you do to raise your FICO score? Unfortunately, not much. So called "credit repair" companies advertise quick fixes, but the score is built on your lifetime credit history, so it's not possible to raise it significantly in the short term. (Of course you can and should have incorrect items removed from your credit report.)

Getting your credit score

Before you can improve your FICO score, you must obtain your score and ensure that the credit reports from each reporting agency are correct. Fair Isaac, the company that invented the first FICO credit score, sells credit scores on myFICO.com. It's inexpensive, fast, and easy to get your credit score along with reports from all three agencies. They also provide information and online tools that help you analyze what actions might have the greatest impact on your FICO score.

You can get a federally-mandated free credit report once a year from all three agencies by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. You won't get a free credit score from AnnualCreditReport.com, but getting one is fast and inexpensive.

Armed with this info, you'll be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to get the most favorable mortgage.

Curious about credit scores? Call us: 630-717-3600.


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