FICO Credit Scores: What Do They Mean?

Since we live in an automated world, it should come as no surprise that your ability to repay your mortgage comes down to just one number. The years of paying your various bills: your mortgage, vehicle payments, and credit card bills are analyzed, spindled and mutilated into a single indicator of whether you're likely to meet your future obligations.

Each of the three credit agencies has its own formula for building your credit score. The original FICO score was developed by Fair Isaac and Company. Experian uses this model and calls its score FICO. Equifax's model, based on FICO, is called BEACON, while TransUnion, which also uses a slightly modified FICO, calls its score EMPIRICA. While each of the models considers a range of data available in your credit report, all of the agencies use the following to calculate a credit score:

  • Credit History - Have you had credit for many years, or for a short time?
  • Late Payments - Do you have a history of late payments?
  • Balances on your Credit Cards - How many accounts do you hold? How much do you owe on your accounts?
  • Requests for Credit - How many times have you had your credit checked for a loan?

These factors are assigned weights based on the formula being used. Each formula produces a single number which may vary a a little by agency. Credit scores range from 300 to 800. Higher is always better. Typical home buyers will likely find their FICO scores falling above 620.

Your credit score affects how much you pay in interest every month

Did you know? FICO scores affect more than your ability to get a loan. They also affect your interest rate. Lenders give lower interest rates to individuals with higher scores.

Improving your score

Is there any way to raise your FICO score? Despite what you hear from "credit repair" companies, the FICO score is based on your lifelong credit history, so it's not possible to raise it significantly in the short term. You must, of course, appeal for the credit agency to remove any incorrect reporting from your credit report; this is really the only way to quickly improve your credit score.

How do I find out my credit score?

Before you can improve your FICO score, you must get your score and ensure that the reports from each agency are correct. Fair Isaac, the corporation that offered the first FICO score, sells scores on its website: myFICO.com. It's inexpensive, fast, and easy to get your credit score as well as reports from all three credit reporting agencies. They also provide helpful information and tools that help you analyze what actions might have the greatest impact on your FICO score.

You can get a federally-mandated free credit report once a year from the three major credit reporting agencies by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. While this report does not include a free credit score, the cost to "upgrade" your report to include a credit score is very reasonable.

Armed with this information, you'll be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to obtain the most favorable mortgage.

Want to know more about your FICO score? Call us: 978-422-2311.

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