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Mortgages

What credit score do you need to secure a mortgage?

Have you hit the magic number?

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For more people, their credit score is one of the most important factors in determining whether or not they can buy a home.

Lenders lean heavily on your score — which can range from 300 on the low end all the way up to 850 — to decide whether to approve you and what interest rate to offer.

Below, CNBC Select outlines credit score requirements for mortgages, how to prime your credit and mortgage options if you have bad credit.

What we'll cover

What credit score do you need to get a mortgage?

Mortgage lenders typically want to see a score of 620 or better before approving a conventional mortgage. There are government-insured mortgages if your score is lower, and if your score is 760 or higher you'll qualify for the best interest rates.

Conventional loan

Credit score required: 620

Conventional loans are the most common type of mortgage, accounting for about 70% of the market. They usually require a 620 credit score, though some lenders will consider applicants with scores as low as 580.

Conventional mortgages are divided into conforming or non-conforming loans, depending on whether they adhere to lending rules set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, such as maximum loan amounts.

Chase Bank offers conventional mortgages with 10- to 30-year terms, and both fixed and adjustable-rate options. Applicants can qualify for a 0.50% discount on financing if they have a Chase checking or savings account.

Chase Bank

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

    Apply online for personalized rates; fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages included

  • Types of loans

    Conventional loans, FHA loans, VA loans, DreaMaker℠ loans and Jumbo loans

  • Terms

    10 – 30 years

  • Credit needed

    620

  • Minimum down payment

    3% if moving forward with a DreaMaker℠ loan

  • Terms apply.

  • Offers first-time homebuyer assistance?

    Yes — click here for details

Jumbo loan

Credit score required: 680

A jumbo loan is a type of conventional loan that exceeds the loan limits set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Because it's not possible to sell them to a federally insured mortgage provider, these loans are riskier for the lender. So, borrowers must have at least a 680 credit score.

FHA Loan

Credit score required: 580 (with 3.5% down payment), 500 (with 10% down payment)

Insured by the Federal Housing Administration, FHA loans are aimed at borrowers who are making a smaller down payment or who have bad credit.

In 2024, the maximum loan limit for an FHA loan ranges from $498,257 and $1.1 million, depending on your location.

You'll need to have a debt-to-income ratio of under 50% and, if you make a down payment of under 20%, you'll probably be required to take out primary mortgage insurance (PMI), which can cost anywhere from 0.5% to upwards of 2% of your total loan.

VA loan

Credit score required: None officially, though many lenders prefer 620

Insured by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, VA loans are designed for current and former servicemembers and their spouses. No down payment is required and, while most lenders will want a 620, the VA doesn't set any credit score requirements.

USDA loan

Credit score required: None officially, though most lenders prefer 640

A USDA loan is insured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is meant for low- to moderate-income home buyers. The USDA doesn't require a down payment and doesn't set a minimum credit score requirement, though most lenders will want borrowers to have at least a 640.

Read more: The best VA loan and USDA mortgage lenders

Compare offers to find the best mortgage

How to improve your credit score before applying for a mortgage

Having a higher credit score can save you thousands in interest payments over the life of a mortgage — and help with insurance premiums, too.

Read more: 4 tips to boost your credit score fast

Your credit score reflects your history of paying off debt. Here are some ways to improve it.

  • Make on-time payments on credit cards, loans and other debts.
  • Pay the full balance due on your credit card each month
  • Keep your credit utilization rate under 30%
  • Increase your credit limit on existing cards
  • Don't open new lines of credit

Mortgage options for low credit scores

Some conventional mortgage providers will lend to those with a credit score lower than 620.

Cardinal Financial Mortgage offers conventional loans, as well as FHA, VA, USDA loans, and will approve borrowers with a credit score as low as 550.

Cardinal Financial Mortgage

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

    Apply online for personalized rates; fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages included

  • Types of loans

    Conventional loan, FHA loan, VA loan, USDA loan, jumbo loans and construction loans

  • Terms

    Not disclosed

  • Credit needed

    Minimum of 550 for some loan types

  • Minimum down payment

    Not disclosed

Terms apply.

CitiMortgage only requires a 580 credit score and provides FHA loans, VA loans and jumbo loans, as well as fixed-rate and adjustable-rate financing. It's Lender Paid Assistance program gives borrowers as much as $5,000 for closing costs.

CitiMortgage®

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

    Apply online for personalized rates

  • Types of loans

    Conventional loans, FHA loans, VA loans and Jumbo loans

  • Terms

    15 – 30 years

  • Credit needed

    580

  • Minimum down payment

    3%

Terms apply.

Bottom line

Typically, you'll need a credit score of 620 if you want to take out a mortgage. But, there are alternative options for some lenders. Either way, you'll want to spend some time boosting your credit score before you apply for a mortgage to get the most favorable rate.

Why trust CNBC Select?

At CNBC Select, our mission is to provide our readers with high-quality service journalism and comprehensive consumer advice so they can make informed decisions with their money. Every review is based on rigorous reporting by our team of expert writers and editors with extensive knowledge of products. While CNBC Select earns a commission from affiliate partners on many offers and links, we create all our content without input from our commercial team or any outside third parties, and we pride ourselves on our journalistic standards and ethics.

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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