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FICO® Scores and Your Mortgage

Years ago, credit scoring had little to do with mortgage lending. When reviewing the credit worthiness of a borrower, an underwriter would make a subjective decision based on past payment history.

Then things changed.

Lenders studied the relationship between credit scores and mortgage delinquencies. There was a definite relationship. Almost half of those borrowers with FICO® scores below 550 became ninety days delinquent at least once during their mortgage. On the other hand, only two out of every 10,000 borrowers with FICO® scores above eight hundred became delinquent.

So lenders began to take a closer look at FICO® scores and this is what they found out. The chart below shows the likelihood of a ninety day delinquency for specific FICO® scores.

FICO® Score Odds of a Delinquent Account
595 2 to 1
600 4 to 1
615 9 to 1
630 18 to 1
645 36 to 1
660 72 to 1
680 144 to 1
780 576 to 1

If you were lending a couple hundred thousand dollars, who would you want to lend it to?

FICO® Scores, What Affects Them, How Lenders Look At Them

Imagine a busy lending office and a loan officer has just ordered a credit report. He hears the whir of the laser printer and he knows the pages of the credit report are going to start spitting out in just a second. There is a moment of tension in the air. He watches the pages stack up in the collection tray, but he waits to pick them up until all of the pages are finished printing. He waits because FICO® scores are located at the end of the report. Previously, he would have probably picked them up as they came off. A FICO® above 700 will evoke a smile, then a grin, perhaps a shout and a “victory” style arm pump in the air. A score below 600 will definitely result in a frown, a furrowed brow, and concern.

FICO® stands for Fair Isaac & Company, and credit scores are reported by each of the three major credit bureaus: TRW (Experian), Equifax, and Trans-Union. The score does not come up exactly the same on each bureau because each bureau places a slightly different emphasis on different items. Scores range from 365 to 840.

Some of the things that affect your FICO® scores:

  • Delinquencies
  • Too many accounts opened within the last twelve months
  • Short credit history
  • Balances on revolving credit are near the maximum limits
  • Public records, such as tax liens, judgments, or bankruptcies
  • No recent credit card balances
  • Too many recent credit inquiries
  • Too few revolving accounts
  • Too many revolving accounts

Sounds confusing, doesn’t it?

The credit score is actually calculated using a scorecard where you receive points for certain things. Creditors and lenders who view your credit report do not get to see the scorecard, so they do not know exactly how your score was calculated. They just see the final scores.

Basic guidelines on how to view the FICO® scores vary a little from lender to lender. Usually, a score above 680 will require a very basic review of the entire loan package. Scores between 640 and 680 require more thorough underwriting. Once a score gets below 640, an underwriter will look at a loan application with a more cautious approach. Many lenders will not even consider a loan with a FICO® score below 600, some as high as 620.

FICO® Scores and Interest Rates

Credit scores can affect more than whether your loan gets approved or not. They can also affect how much you pay for your loan, too. Some lenders establish a base price and will reduce the points on a loan if the credit score is above a certain level. For example, one major national lender reduces the cost of a loan by a quarter point if the FICO® score is greater than 725. If it is between 700 and 724, they will reduce the cost by one-eighth of a point. A point is equal to one percent of the loan amount.

There are other lenders who do it in reverse. They establish their base price, but instead of reducing the cost for good FICO® scores, they add on costs for lower FICO® scores. The results from either method would work out to be approximately the same interest rate. It is just that the second way looks better when you are quoting interest rates on a rate sheet or in an advertisement.

FICO® Scores and Mortgage Underwriting Decisions

FICO® Scores as Guidelines

FICO® scores are only guidelines and factors other than FICO® scores also affect underwriting decisions. Some examples of compensating factors that will make an underwriter more lenient toward lower FICO® scores can be a larger down payment, low debt-to-income ratios, an excellent history of saving money, and others. There also may be a reasonable explanation for items on the credit history report that negatively impact your credit score.

They Don’t Always Make Sense

Even so, sometimes credit scores do not seem to make any sense at all. One borrower with a completely flawless credit history can have a FICO® score below 600. One borrower with a foreclosure on her credit report can have a FICO® above 780.

Portfolio & Sub-Prime Lenders

Finally, there are a few portfolio lenders who do not even look at credit scoring, at least on their portfolio loans. A portfolio lender is usually a savings & loan institution that originates some adjustable rate mortgages that they intend to keep in their own portfolio rather than selling them in the secondary mortgage market. These lenders may look at home loans differently. Some concentrate on the value of the home. Some may concentrate more on the savings history of the borrower. There are also sub-prime lenders, or “B & C paper” lenders, who will provide a home loan, but at a higher interest rate and cost.

Running Credit Reports

One thing to remember when you are shopping for a home loan is that you should not let numerous mortgage lenders run credit reports on you. Wait until you have a reasonable expectation that they are the lender you are going to use to obtain your home loan. Not only will you have to explain any credit inquiries in the last ninety days, but also numerous inquiries will lower your FICO® score by a small amount. This may not matter if your FICO® is 780, but it would matter if it is 642.

Don’t Buy A Car Just Before Looking for a Home!

A word of advice not directly related to FICO® scores. When people begin to think about the possibility of buying a home, they often think about buying other big-ticket items, such as cars. Quite often when someone asks a lender to pre-qualify them for a home loan there is a brand new car payment on the credit report. Often, they would have qualified in their anticipated price range except that the new car payment has raised their debt-to-income ratio, lowering their maximum purchase price. Sometimes they have bought the car so recently that the new loan doesn’t even show up on the credit report yet, but with six to eight credit inquiries from car dealers and automobile finance companies it is kind of obvious. Almost every time you sit down in a car dealership, it generates two inquiries into your credit.

Credit History is Important

Nowadays, credit scores are important if you want to get the best interest rate available. Protect your FICO® score. Do not open new revolving accounts needlessly. Do not fill out credit applications needlessly. Do not keep your credit cards nearly maxed out. Make sure you do use your credit occasionally. Always make sure every creditor has their payment in their office no later than 29 days past due.

And never ever be more than thirty days late on your mortgage. Ever.

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Testimonials

5/18/2016 Aloha Lance! Thank you all for your “local kine” support of the Big Island Chocolate Festival this year. It was really very successful and your support helped us keep the ball rolling as we brought tickets in. I will let you know how much was raised for the schools, but wanted you to see this online news story that mentions your sponsorship. Hawaii 24/7 has quite a large readership. Thanks again! http://www.hawaii247.com/2016/05/15/big-island-chocolate-festival-names-top-confections/ Julie Ziemelis-Owner Ziemelis Communications Integrated Communications Expert-PR
2/29/2016 In 15+ years of Hawaii Mortgage Company dealing with thousands of realtors, it is very rare when you come upon agents who really care and love what they do and want to make the transaction as wonderful as possible for all parties involved. Lance and Kimi go above and beyond for their clients and the mortgage professionals (like us!) who they are working with. In a world full of mortgage regulations, Lance and Kimi make sure to keep everyone on track of the timelines to ensure closing on time, which benefits both the sellers and buyers. We are lucky to work with them and look forward to many more transactions together in the future! Maura K. Shannon Manager / Mortgage Loan Originator NMLS #339190 Hawaii Mortgage Company NMLS #232582 443 Portlock Road Honolulu, Hawaii 96825 Tel: 808-988-6622 Fax: 808-988-7722 Maura K. Shannon
1/18/2016 I recently referred a client to Lance and he was spectacular. I refer a lot of agents outside of my market and Lance has by far been the most impressive I've ever had the pleasure to recommend. He has his thumb on the market and he is a master communicator. He is extremely good with follow up and he is one step ahead; just as you are thinking you want to reach out to check in with him, you'll find an email with an update answering the questions you hadn't even asked yet. He is everything you'd expect in a high performing professional and more. Plus his great personality makes him fun to work with. I'm truly impressed beyond all expectations. Jana S. Realtor Seattle WA.
10/14/2015 Lance Owens is the one of the best realtors in Kona. He has done a couple of my real estate purchases and is always above board on expectations and knows the Kona market as well as anyone. He has helped tremendously in getting the right deal at the right price. He is always available and very generous with his time, a gift when you are as busy as he is. Lance is trustworthy to handle your biggest investment. Bop P. Tampa, Florida
10/7/2015 I have personally known Lance for over 20 years... Even before he became a realtor! Lance is not your typical realtor. His ethics, integrity and work ethic are second to none. He and his partner Kimi are dedicated to work hard on your behalf... Not just out to get a commission! I would recommend Lance if you really want to get the best offer on your property and I would definitely use him again as my real estate agent!!! You will not be disappointed! I give Lance & Kimi 10 stars! Vicki Y. Honolulu, HI
Lance gives 100% always...we were lucky and grateful to be able to work with him several times! We liked the fact that he is honest, trustworthy, & always looking out for the best interests of his clients. At times the buying or selling process of a home can be a headache. Lance always has a demeanor that seems to make any situation positive. He exceeded our expectations and along the way gained our friendship. We would recommend Lance to our family and friends any day!!! Thanks ---Lance!!! :) C&D L H.O.V.E. HI
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