Go online and start researching the topic of credit scores, and you will quickly be overwhelmed with information and analysis. But in truth, there are only a few important concepts that you, as a first-time home buyer, should know about credit scores.

Here are five of the most important things to keep in mind when you start shopping for a mortgage loan — an even long before that.

1. Mortgage lenders will check your score.
When you apply for a home loan, you can be certain that the mortgage lender will review your credit score — among other financial factors. It’s not the only thing that will determine their decision, but it is one of the top factors of the mortgage-approval process.

If your score is low, you won’t even get your foot in the door. You will be rejected right from the start, or you’ll have a much harder time finding a willing lender. If your score is high, you will have more options and better interest rates available to you.

2. Your score partly determines the interest rate.
The interest rate is one of the components that will make up your monthly mortgage payment. Obviously, the principal amount you borrow is the largest factor that determines your monthly payment. But the interest rate plays a major role as well.

If you have a high credit score, you are more likely to get a low rate on your home loan. This in turn will reduce the amount you have to pay each month toward the mortgage. On the contrary, a bad score generally means a higher interest rate — and therefore a higher monthly payment as well. How much higher, you ask? That’s our next point.

3. A good score can save you thousands of dollars.
The difference between a good and bad credit score can greatly affect the interest rate you receive from the lender. It could be the difference, for example, between a rate of 5.5% and 7.2%. These may seem like small numbers on the surface, but when you apply them to something as large as a mortgage loan, we are talking about thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

4. Your score comes from your own actions.
Credit scores are not arbitrarily assigned to consumers. Your score comes from the information contained within your credit reports. You have three of these reports by the way — one for each of the consumer credit-reporting bureaus.

So where does the information within your credit reports come from? It comes from your own personal actions, your financial history, and your previous use of credit. In other words, it’s a snapshot of how well (or how poorly) you have managed your credit in the past. Good behavior creates a good score, and bad behavior has the reverse effect. It doesn’t come out of thin air — it comes from your own actions.

5. There are no mysteries to improving a credit score.
There are a lot of companies out there who would like you to think that it takes some kind of special knowledge to improve a credit score. These companies make money from people who don’t realize they can handle it for themselves. So let’s set the record straight right here and now. You are the only person who can improve your credit score, and you can do it without paying any other company for assistance.

Pay all of your bills on time, maintain low balances on your credit card accounts, and use credit sparingly. These three things alone can help you earn and sustain a good score for years to come. And there’s no certainly mystery in that!

Citation Note: The original version of this article was written by Brandon Cornett. Brandon is the publisher of the Home Buying Institute, which includes one of the largest libraries of mortgage advice for home buyers.

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  1. Great information Spencer. Don’t forget to advise that when you have a contract pending, the lender will re-check the credit score prior to the closing, so no big purchases until after the closing.

  2. Yeah, I am sure most all agents have experienced a client moving money around and or making a big purchase like a car during an escrow after specific instructions not to do so… Very good comment.

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