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Mortgages & Your Credit Score

July 15, 2011

The Wall Street Journal
Mortgage rates are great, if you qualify
Interest rates are near historic lows and home prices are affordable; however, many borrowers are finding they must have nearly pristine credit records and hefty down payments to get the best rates.
Making sense of the story
Since 2009, credit standards have become much tighter. For borrowers, this emphasizes the importance of paying close attention to credit scores.

New rules unveiled last week, the result of last year’s Dodd-Frank financial-services legislation, require banks and other lenders to disclose to consumers the scores used to determine interest rates charged borrowers, or to deny credit, making it easier for borrowers to see how their credit scores affect the interest rates they pay.

The FICO credit scores on loans that banks are giving out and that are backed by government agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac show the new reality. Currently, the two agencies essentially finance 75 percent of all mortgages by purchasing the loans from banks, thus shaping how much it costs to borrow.

FICO scores range from 300 to 850. Prior to the decline in home prices, a score of 700 to 725 was considered solid and, a borrower could expect to be approved for a “conventional” mortgage at the lowest rates.

From 2003 to 2006, 82 percent of Fannie Mae mortgages were for borrowers with a score between 700 and 750, but so far in 2011, only 13 percent of Fannie Mae mortgages carry that score, and just 1.7 percent have a score of 700 to 725. This year, 75 percent of Fannie Mae mortgages are for FICO scores of 750 to 755, up from less than 5 percent before 2005.

These trends demonstrate the importance of understanding credit scores and ensuring credit reports are accurate. Consumers can check their credit report at


From → Buyers

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