How to prepare your credit score to get a mortgage

hand holding an orange ceramic houseImage: hand holding an orange ceramic house

What credit score do I need to get a mortgage?

This is one of the first questions people usually ask, but it’s not quite that black-and-white. 

There’s no minimum score level that can unlock the mortgage you need to buy the home you want. Mortgage lenders use credit scores to understand what you’re like as a borrower so they can decide whether to lend you money and on what terms.

As with other credit products, like credit cards and loans, you should aim to get your score in the best place possible before you apply – this will give you a better chance of getting a good mortgage deal.

How do I improve my credit score and how long will it take?

You can improve your credit score by understanding how credit reference agencies work it out. With Credit Karma you can see your TransUnion credit score, and we’ve made it easy to see what needs work.

Just head to your Credit page to see where you’re at with your credit factors and go into each one to see what you can do to improve it.

We recommend giving yourself as much time as possible to work on these fixes for your score, as it can take a while before changes you make will filter through and improve it.

How do I stop my score taking a hit when I’m applying for a mortgage?

Multiple applications for credit can hurt your score – and a mortgage is no exception. So it’s important to give yourself the best chance of success first time.

We think it’s a good idea to try to get a Mortgage in Principle first, because then you’ll know where you stand when it comes to applying for the real deal. 

Applying for a Mortgage in Principle is pretty straightforward, if a bit long-winded. It involves giving a lender lots of information about you and your finances. But you should be aware that sometimes the lender will run what’s called a ‘hard’ search on your credit file to assess you. 

Hard searches can hurt your score, so it’s worth doing some research and looking for a Mortgage in Principle that only requires a ‘soft’ search. Soft searches don’t hurt your score – that’s why we use them in Credit Karma’s credit card and loan marketplace.

A Mortgage in Principle can help you strengthen your offer for a property, as it shows a lender has made an initial assessment of your finances and decided how much they’re willing to lend you. It gives sellers confidence that you’re ready to buy.

How do I know my score’s ready to apply for a mortgage?

Once you’ve given a Mortgage in Principle a go and done everything you reasonably can to get your credit score into a place you’re happy with, you should be in a good position. 

Oh, and you’ll want to have found that perfect property and had an offer accepted. We can’t help with that bit unfortunately – and we know from experience that it’s easier said than done. 

Try to stick to the guidance shown in your credit factors while you’re going through the process though. It’s best not to rock the boat during that time, so try to avoid applying for too many other products and be extra careful to keep on top of your other credit payments. 

The bottom line

There’s no minimum score requirement when it comes to getting a mortgage – instead, think of it as the better your score, the higher your likelihood of being accepted for a mortgage, and the better the deal you could get on your mortgage. To get a better score, you need to tackle the factors that underpin it – more on that on your Credit Karma Credit page. A Mortgage in Principle  can help you work out where you stand before you apply for the real deal – better to be safe than sorry, as a hard search for an unsuccessful mortgage application  could hurt your score and set you back when you try again. 

We hope you find Credit Karma useful in getting your score prepped for the big move – don’t forget to visit your Credit page to figure out how to make financial progress.