Applying for a mortgage is an incredibly exciting time, as it means you’re that bit closer to buying your first, or next, house. However, it can also be a huge financial commitment, and not something that should be taken lightly. Find out below why credit scores are important when applying for a mortgage, and how they work.
In this article:
- How can you find your credit score?
- What’s a good credit score when getting a mortgage?
- Top ways to improve your credit score
Why do credit scores matter when getting a mortgage?
Lenders don’t take mortgages lightly as they want to be certain that they’re lending money in a responsible way, to people who are in the right position to pay off their loan. That’s where credit scores come in.
Credit scores are therefore used by lenders to assess your financial position, and are a significant factor in whether they approve your mortgage application, , and what the terms may be if they do.
If you’re planning on applying for a mortgage in the next year or two, it’s certainly a good idea to reflect on how you could improve your credit score. If you’re not sure where to start, read on and we’ll explain all.
Who provides credit reports?
In the UK, the three main credit reference agencies (CRAs) are:
These organisations are sent and then compile information about you such as, your personal details, information about your residence and your finances, particularly in regard to any credit you have. That ‘credit’ could come in many forms – personal loans, mobile phone contracts, overdrafts, utility bills, car finance and more.
How do credit scores work?
A credit score is a three-digit number that ‘rates’ your credit history and borrowing behaviour, using all the data available to CRAs.
They take all of the data they have on you and use it to score you. This is then viewed by lenders to determine how much of a risk you are – everything from credit card companies and landlords to mobile phone providers will factor your credit score into what they’re able to offer you.
Can I find out my credit score?
Yes, you can. In fact, by law, all CRAs have to offer you the opportunity to view your credit score, via a free report at your request. You can access this online in a few minutes, and as they may have different information to hand, it’s a good idea to investigate where you stand with each of the three CRAs.
How fast can you raise your credit score?
Improving your credit score is not an exact science. There are a few things you can do in the short-term that should give it a small, but noticeable boost. however generally, for a marked improvement in your rating, you’ll need to take months and as much as a couple of years working at it. If you have lots of ‘bad’ debts, you may not start to see much improvement until these are paid off, which could take even longer.
What credit score do you need for a mortgage?
It’s difficult to answer what exact credit score you need when applying for a mortgage, as lenders have got choosier about who they lend to in recent years, and if you have a bad credit score, you may struggle to find a ‘standard’ mortgage. That’s not to say it’s impossible, you may just have to shop around a lot. Any mortgage you are offered may not have terms that work for you, and you might find that what you’re offered is more restrictive than you’d like.
It’s important to note that having bad credit history is not the same as having no credit history. Lenders will be very wary about offering a mortgage to someone who there’s little information to go off, so if you think you’ll be in this position, you may want to consider taking a few months or years to work on improving your credit score, before applying for a mortgage. As long as you’re responsible, you should be able to build on your score and get it to a good place fairly soon.
If you are struggling with a low credit score, some lenders offer specialised mortgage packages for your situation. You’re unlikely to get the best rates, however it’s still an option if you don’t feel you can improve your rating anytime soon.
Top ways to improve your credit score
Whether you’ve got bad credit, little history, or want to build on an already-good rating, all of these steps can help increase your credit score.
- Make sure you’re on the open register. The electoral roll is used by agencies as proof of your residence. By appearing on the open register, you make yourself publicly traceable at your address, which lenders will find reassuring.
- Pay your bills on time. Direct debits that constantly bounce will paint a bad picture of your finances, and suggest you’re unpredictable or unreliable. When all your bills get paid on time, you start building a portrait of yourself as a responsible lender.
- Increase your overdraft. An overdraft is counted as credit by the CRAs. Even if you don’t use it, having it available to you helps show you’re sensible with you’re spending and don’t splurge just because you can.
- Consolidate your records and accounts. The clearer a picture the CRAs can get of you, the better your score is likely to be. Having things like your banking, mobile phone contracts and drivers licence registered at different addresses can cause confusion and makes you look suspicious in the eyes of lenders. Even if you move around a lot, it’s important to keep all your records up to date.
- Take out a credit card (and keep up with the repayments). To see that you’re responsible with credit, you need to have the opportunity to use it in the first place. By having a credit card which you use carefully and responsibly, you start building a picture of who you are, and you spend.
- Reduce your debts. While having some credit on record is a good idea and will help build out your history, you should keep any debts under control, and paying these off will help prove you’re responsible when lent to. This is particularly important for any debts you have that are overdue.
Note: The total amount of debt you have may not be factored into your credit score, but it will be looked at by lenders to see whether it’s feasible for you to build their payments into your budget. If you already have too much other debt to be focusing on, they may see you as too much of a risk.
- Check your file is accurate. A lot of the information the CRAs hold on you is compiled automatically. It’s easy for them to confuse details and records, and something as simple as an incorrect house number could be harming your rating. Request a report from all three agencies and if there’s any incorrect details, demand to have them amended.
- Limit the number of credit applications you make. Applying for credit all the time can be seen as something of a red flag, especially if you’re often turned down. By being careful and selective with your applications, you’ll come across as someone who doesn’t ‘rely’ on credit day-to-day, but uses it occasionally for sensible purchases or borrowing.
How can I raise my credit score in 30 days?
If you’re wondering how to improve your credit score fast, there are a few things you can do. While they will make a small difference, you shouldn’t expect to transform your credit score in just a month. In the short term, the best options from the above would be joining the open register, consolidating all your details at one property, and applying for a credit card – but only if it looks highly likely you’ll be eligible for one.
With sensible use of credit and by keeping all your details up to date, there’s no reason why your score won’t improve over time. If you’ve managed to secure your mortgage agreement in principle, you’ll also want to appoint a conveyancer while you continue your property search. They take care of all the legal aspects of your property purchase, and you’ll want them ready to help as soon as you make an offer. For more advice on the process that lies ahead, take a look at our first-time buyers guide. Alternatively, get a quote for your conveyancing today.
Disclaimer: This article is for informal and general advice only. For full and proper financial advice around your circumstances, please see the advice of an independent financial advisor.