When you apply for a mortgage, lenders typically pull your credit report from the three main credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Each credit bureau uses a different FICO model to determine your credit score. We outline the models used by the credit bureaus below:
Experian: FICO Score 2 (also known as Experian / Fair Isaac Risk Model v2)
Equifax: FICO Score 5 (also known as Equifax Beacon 5.0)
TransUnion: FICO Score 4 (also known as TransUnion FICO Risk Score 04)
The credit score models take into account multiple factors including your current and past credit accounts, payment history, credit capacity (e.g., how much you can borrow across all of your accounts) and credit events such as a collection, charge off, bankruptcy, short sale, default or foreclosure.
There are variations between the different FICO models but the underlying inputs and scoring factors are relatively similar. Making your loan payments on time, maintaining low credit utilization and limiting the number of credit accounts you have open leads to higher credit scores for all FICO scoring models.
Although the FICO models utilize a consistent methodology, there may be differences in your credit scores across the three main credit bureaus. Score differences may be attributable to inconsistent account information or subtle differences in how accounts or credit events are weighted by the models.
For example, it is not uncommon for an account to appear on your credit report provided by one of the bureaus but not the other two. The presence or absence of certain account information can impact your credit score for that bureau and create differences in your scores.
Review What Credit Score is Required for a Mortgage?
Given the possibility that you could have a different credit score for each credit bureau you may be wondering what score lenders use when you apply for a mortgage? If you have three different credit scores, the lender uses your middle score to determine you mortgage pricing and ability to qualify for the loan. If two of your credit scores are the same, the lender uses that score, regardless of how that score compares to the third score.
The example below demonstrates the credit score that mortgage lenders use when you have different score across the three credit bureaus. In this scenario, the lender uses the middle of the three scores -- 660 -- for the mortgage application.
Example 1: Credit Score Used When You Have Three Different Scores
The second example below shows the credit score mortgage lenders use when two of the scores are the same.
Example 2: Credit Score Used When Two Scores Are the Same
In this case, the lender uses the credit score that is repeated -- 680 -- even though the third score is lower.
When two people apply for a mortgage, the lender determines the credit score for each individual applicant and then uses the lower score between the two for the mortgage application. For example, if your middle credit score is 640 and your spouse’s middle score is 680, the lender uses 640 to determine your mortgage rate and to assess the loan programs you are eligible for as co-applicants.
The higher the credit score used by the lender, the lower your mortgage rate and monthly payment. Additionally, you are typically required to meet a minimum credit score to qualify for certain mortgage programs.
This is why it is important to review your credit report and monitor your credit score before you apply for a mortgage. You can use credit monitoring services such as CreditKarma, AnnualCreditReport or Credit.com to check your credit score for free, without impact your score.
You can also use these services to identify and proactively correct errors on your credit report. This process can be complicated and time-consuming so we recommend that you check your credit report and score three-to-six months before you plan to apply for a mortgage.
It is important to highlight that the credit scores provided by these free monitoring services and apps are based on the VantageScore model, which is different than the FICO models used by the credit bureaus when a mortgage lender orders your credit report. The VantageScore model tends to be less precise so there may be differences between your credit score according to the free apps and your credit score when you apply for a mortgage.
Despite these potential discrepancies, your score on the credit monitoring apps should be similar to your FICO score. You can also use the apps to monitor changes in your score before you select a lender and start the mortgage process.
In conclusion, although the model used to determine your credit score is complicated and involves multiple inputs, managing your credit before you apply for a home loan is relatively straightforward. Paying your bills on time, avoiding significant increases in credit account balances and limiting your borrowing capacity should help your credit score and best position you to get approved for your mortgage.
"B3-5.1-01, Credit Score Versions." Selling Guide: Fannie Mae Single Family. Fannie Mae, August 7 2019. Web.