How's your FICO Score?
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Since we live in a computer-driven world, it should come as no surprise that your ability to repay your mortgage comes down to one number. All the years you've been paying your various bills: your mortgage, vehicle payments, and credit card bills are analyzed, sliced, spindled and mutilated into a single indicator of whether you're likely to meet your future obligations.
All three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) use a slightly different system to arrive at a credit score. The original FICO model was developed by Fair Isaac and Company. Experian uses this model and calls its score FICO. Equifax's model, based on FICO, is called BEACON, while TransUnion, which also uses a slightly modified FICO, calls its score EMPIRICA. While each of the models considers a range of data available in your credit report, the differences aren't huge; they all use the following factors to build your credit score:
- Credit History - How long have you had credit?
- Late Payments - Do you pay your bills on time?
- Balances on your Credit Cards - How many accounts do you have, and how much do you owe on them?
- Inquiries on Your Credit - How many times have you had your credit checked for a loan?
These factors are assigned weights based on the formula being used. The results are added up and distilled into a single number. Credit scores can be as low as 300 and as high as 800. Higher scores are better. Typical home buyers probably find their FICO scores falling between 620 and 800.
Not just for qualifying
Did you know? FICO scores affect more than your ability to get a loan. They also affect your interest rate. Higher scores indicate you are a better credit risk, and thus may qualify for a better mortgage rate.
Improving your score
How can you raise your credit score? Despite what you hear from "credit repair" companies, the score is calculated from 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.)
Know your FICO score
Before you can improve your credit score, you have to obtain your score and make certain that the reports from each agency are correct. Fair Isaac has created a web site (www.myFICO.com) that lets you do just that. It's inexpensive, fast, and easy to get your credit score as well as credit reports from all three reporting agencies. They also provide information and tools that help you analyze what actions might have the greatest impact on your FICO score.
You can get a free credit report once a year from the three major agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com. While this report does not include a free credit score, the cost to "upgrade" your report to include a credit score is very reasonable.
Armed with this info, you will be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to obtain the right mortgage for you.
Want to know more about your FICO score? Give us a call at (408) 292-5000.