Credit Scoring & Grading
For years, creditors have used various scoring systems to help automate & evaluate applicants' credit reports and general ability to repay the requested credit. Just recently, the mortgage industry endorsed and adopted a statistical scoring model developed by California-based, "Fair, Isaac, and Co.", Inc. The "FICO" score, as it is widely known, is now used by most lenders to help gauge the risk of future default by prospective loan applicants.
This statistical model attempts to predict risk by focusing on a borrower’s repayment pattern with existing & previous creditors, the length of a borrower’s credit history, the total amount of credit that borrower has access to and is using, and whether a borrower is actively searching for additional credit ("Inquiries" - notations of companies who access your credit file). The weighting of the various "predictive characteristics" was developed through study of a large sample of mortgagor payment records over a long period of time.
The result? After the program churns though your credit file, your "FICO" score is computed. The number ranges from 400 to 850 (the higher the number, the lower the predicted risk). Because people are accustomed to letter grades, like a report card, FICO score ranges are often referred by their letter "grade" equivalent. For example: 740+ = A+, 720 - 740 = A, 680 - 720 = B+, 660 - 680 = B, 620 - 660 = B-. Some lenders vary their definitions, but generally speaking, a score greater than 620 is good enough to qualify you for any loan. Depending upon the down payment, scores above 740 will qualify for the best rates. Applicants being graded B, C, or D will be offered fewer options, with larger down payment requirements and higher interest rates and/or closing costs.
Having your credit report ordered (with FICO scores) and reviewed by a professional mortgage broker during the prequalification stage is important so that you aren’t surprised later - we highly recommend that you be made aware of your credit score, thus mortgage program options, upfront. See ordering your credit report
For more about credit scoring, See FTC: Credit Scoring Information
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