Minimum Credit Scores for Mortgages Spring 2013 Update

First Time Homebuyer Minimum Credit ScoresFor the past couple of years, when we talk to a borrower with a credit score of 580 to 600 – we told them they had a 3 to 4 month waiting period before they could buy a house.  In MOST cases, that was all the time we need to help someone who is motivated, and who can really afford a home, to get their credit scores in order.

We are one of the few Banks that offers the FHA Home Loan NC Program to those who have minimum credit scores under 600.  It has an additional set of added Bank restrictions, however, we can do mortgage loans for folks who have credit scores between 580 and 619.

If you have credit scores that are between 619 and 639, we have MORE options, including USDA Home Loans NC and VA Home Loans, with fewer restrictions for qualifying for a FHA Mortgage Program too!  This is why we generally try to get folks up to the 620 minimum credit score benchmark.

On May 1, 2013 the First Time Home Buyer Program in NC changed it’s minimum credit score requirements.  Not only did the NCHFA First Time Home Buyer Program change it”s minimum credit score – the other changes include more flexibility for home ownership status, Mortgage Tax Credits, and a better down payment grant for first time home buyers, which includes a closing cost assistance program.

Additionally, changes were made in April to the Automated Underwriting Systems for Fannie and Freddie – with those updates, Credit Score requirements for Government insured loans through the Fannie and Freddie system went up to 640.

Can Underwriters override the “Automated” Approval systems?  Yes.  There are situations where the Underwriter is being TOLD to overwrite the Automated Systems.  In fact, FHA Home Loans NC just came out with a program designed to HELP folks who had a credit problem due to a job loss, reducing the time you must wait to buy a house to only 12 months.

Minimum Credit Scores for Mortgages

The USDA Home Loan Automated Underwriting System now looks for a 640 credit score. Most FHA Mortgage Loan Underwriters and VA Loan Underwriters want A 640 Credit Score Too.

Are there situations where someone with a score under 640 can get a mortgage? Sure – but for 75% of the folks we talk to, we just have to work to get those scores up to the 640 mark.  We do offer the USDA Home Loan Program for folks with a 620 credit score.  With that approval, we’ve found that you need to be well within the Debt to Income Ratios for a USDA Home Loan NC Underwriter to approve it.

We can also do FHA Home Loans and Veteran Home Loans down to the 620 minimum credit score mark too.  VA Loans don’t really have a set minimum credit score requirement, but most VA Loan underwriters want to see 3 credit scores, with some “open” trade lines, and clean credit (no late payments) for at least the last 12 months.

If you need to just get your scores up, it’s work… I’m not going to sugar coat it.  It’s like being on a Diet to lose 40 pounds.  It takes commitment and determination. BUT, just like losing that 40 pounds – we all know it CAN be done!

With the USDA Maps changing in October, many people are interested in getting into a home that is closer to their job NOW.   Remember that your Credit Score is simply a reflection of what you’ve RECENTLY done with your credit… so the OLD STUFF is not what is likely to be pulling your score down as much as the fact that you don’t have MUCH being reported that is CURRENTLY good.

If you have a score of 600, or higher here are the steps we suggest you take NOW:

  • Look at your credit report, if you don’t have on you can get it through Credit Karma
  • If you have deferred Student Loans, see what kind of arrangements you can make to actually get a set payment amount.
  • If you have revolving credit, start paying the balance on those credit cards down to $10. Yes, I mean $10. Not OFF – just down to $10. 
  • Charge something, a tank of Gas, lunch, whatever, charge something on the credit card each month - then pay it down to $10. YES that means you will have some interest that you are paying on a monthly basis, but that interest (small amount) will help you get a higher score.
  • If you don’t have a credit card – get 2 or 3 secured credit cards TODAY.  Go to the Bank at Walmart, look on Credit Karma – you need 2 or 3 revolving accounts.
  • If you have a family member with GOOD credit, and they will add you to a credit card that was opened AFTER you turned 18, ask them to add you as an authorized user. That GOOD credit History will help raise your score.  Make sure that the balance on the credit card they add you to is no more than 30% of the credit line.  If they add you to a card that is maxed out – you will see ZERO benefit.

What To Do About Collection Accounts

  • DO NOT DISPUTE EVERYTHING YOU SEE ON YOUR ACCOUNT.  The Credit Score models will actually LOWER your Credit scores if you do this.  Just don’t do that.
  • If you have small medical collections, look at the FIRST DATE it was reported. It’s going to be on your report for 7 years.  If it’s been 2 years or more since it was originally placed on the account leave it.  If the underwriters require these accounts to be paid, we can tell you that when you call or apply for a mortgage.
  • If the collection is small – and it’s RECENT, like within in the last 6 months – you might want to set up a $10 or $15 a month payment plan.  Once you’ve made 6 months of payments on time, the underwriter will consider that an installment account just like a car payment. Most people can qualify with a $15 a month payment to the hospital.
  • If the collection is from Verizon, or a previously landlord – pay it.  They may stop reporting if you pay it – I would certainly try and make that part of my deal for paying off a collection.
  • Don’t let ANY NEW collections get added to your credit report!  Send whoever you owe $30, do something – just don’t get NEW collections added to your credit report.  They will KILL all of your efforts to clean everything up!

NCHFA Agency First Time Home Buyer Grant Program Changes 2013

  • The NCHFA First Time Home Buyer Grant program now requires a 640 credit score. 
  • You DO NOT have to be a First Time Home Buyer to Qualify for the Program!
  • The program now grants up to 3% of the Sales Price.
  • Annual Borrower income must be less than $85,000 – they are not looking at the income of folks who live in your home but are not on the mortgage loan.
  • The 3% is Interest Free, and Deferred, meaning you don’t have to make payments on it.
  • The 3% is Forgivable!   The 3% that you have as a second mortgage on the home is reduced by 20% per year after you remain in the home for 10 years with it considered paid off after you live in the home for 15 years.
  • Program still works with USDA, FHA and VA loans

first time home buyer programs NCHigher Credit Score Requirements are Part of a National Trend!

Mortgage Loan Applications for home buyers with credit scores below 620 mostly disappeared in recent years, according to an interview recently with a member of the Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve System.

Before the Mortgage Meltdown, home buyers with lower credit scores made up a big part of the overall first time home buyer market in NC.  

Between 2007 and 2012, a study just released shows that home buyers with credit scores between 620 and 680 went down nearly 90%, compared to a 30% drop for borrowers with a credit score greater than 780.

Meanwhile, the average credit scores for those applying for a mortgage loan went from 730 in 2007 to a whopping 770 in 2013 – as home buyers, especially first time home buyers felt that underwriting guidelines were so tight, that it was impossible to buy a house.

With few options available, most of the home buyers we work with are looking for a mortgage that is guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA Home Loans), the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA Home Loans) and the USDA Home Loan Rural Development Program (USDA Loans).

As a result, the share of purchase mortgages guaranteed or insured by the FHA, the VA, or the USDA Home Loan Program escalated from 5% in 2006 to more than 40% in 2011.  The guidelines for these mortgage loans, again, generally require 2 credit scores over the 620 benchmark – with the BEST add on programs (like Down Payment Assistance Grants and Mortgage Tax Credits) reserved for those with higher scores.  Folks with scores under 619, but higher than 580 CAN qualify for a FHA Home Loan, but those guidelines are fairly restrictive.

Want To Know Where To Start With Buying a Home In North Carolina?

As a First Time Home Buyer, especially, there are so many questions about HOW to buy a home, and the process for getting a mortgage loan approved.  We are really pleased to be able to help people through the process of getting higher credit scores so that they can purchase a home. There are HUNDREDS of families working hard right now to make that happen!  We are so happy when we all meet at the Closing Table and you get the keys to your dream home!  #TotallyWorthIt!

We want to help you get into that NC Dream House!  Remember – just like you can go on a diet – you can go on a plan to raise your scores and buy a home.  The steps are literally right here on this page.  Have specific questions about Minimum Credit Scores?  Leave me a comment, below and I’ll try to answer them all.

If you have questions about pre-qualifying for a mortgage loan in North Carolina, or Minimum Credit Scores – please call us!  Steve and Eleanor Thorne 919 649 5058.  We know how to get borrowers in NC approved, we know what credit scores and reports the Underwriters will take.  We’ll call you back, and if you need to add another credit card, or pay something off – we’ll work with you.  Here’s some GOOD CREDIT Advice (and it’s FREE!)!


  1. says

    Hi Eleanor, I was laid off in 2008 which caused me to claim chapter 13 bankruptcy and also let my house go. I simply had no money. My chapter 13 bankruptcy just discharged in Dec 2013. However, I have done everything I can to get my credit scores up but when I ran FICO they are only 646 experian, 601 equifax,
    569 transunion. I make over 150k a year but due to my credit score I feel stuck. We are moving into a rent to own situation below our means 143k house until we can qualify for a loan. Not sure I could qualify now. Any advice?


I try and answer all questions :)