While there are many elements that contribute to your ability to obtain a mortgage, one of the most critical is your credit score, or your FICO score. Credit scores are calculated using a "secret mathematical formula" devised by Fair, Isaac & Company, hence the name "FICO". Scores range from the 300's to the 800's, and most banks like to see scores of 650 and above.
It is imperative that you are aware of your credit scores prior to applying for a mortgage, so that you will have the opportunity to correct any errors (or remove deficiencies) prior to having any financial institution examine it. A low score could hurt your opportunity to obtain a mortgage, or result in less desireable mortgage terms (higher rate of interest or more up-front "points").
The three national credit agencies that are responsible for reviewing and evaluating your credit worthiness are Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. It is important to have access to all three of these credit bureau reports (frequently called the "3-in-1" or "tri-merge" credit report). One report alone might distort the true picture of your credit.
There are many online credit companies that allow you to order all three reports, and some even tell you exactly what to do to help you "clean-up" your scores. The cost averages $40, but it is well worth the investment, if you are able to raise your score by following their advice.
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