Most homeowners shopping for a mortgage loan are aware of just how important their credit score is in determining the rate and terms that they will be offered. Practically all lenders use a “tri-merged” credit report, which is one that combines the data and the scores from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The middle score is used to underwrite the mortgage.
Fair Isaac, the company that created the FICO score, announced that it will soon implement changes to the FICO model. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, those changes are expected to boost those with excellent scores and hurt those with lesser scores, thus widening the gap between consumers who are considered good credit risks and those that are not.
Among the changes are harsher treatment of late payments and rising debt levels and penalizing consumers who obtain personal unsecured loans, such as those offered by many credit card issuers. It is believed that millions of consumers could see their scores rise or fall as a result of the changes.
As to what this means for each individual looking for a mortgage, best practices for credit use have not changed much. On-time payments are the single most important factor in your score. However, these changes to the FICO model will increase the importance of other factors such as the amount of credit outstanding compared with your total available credit and, in the case of personal loans, the type and purpose of the credit obtained. Apparently there are good loans and not so good loans.
As always, the simplest advice is the best. Use your credit wisely and your score will help rather than hurt you.
Steven H Hofberg, Operations Manager