Average Credit Score for Home Buyer Mortgage Loans: 2017 Update

The average credit score among home buyers using mortgage loans was 722 in April 2017, according to the latest data. But you don’t necessarily need a FICO score of 722 to qualify for a home loan. Read on to learn why.

In April 2017, home buyers who successfully closed on their mortgage loans had an average FICO credit score of 722. This is based on the latest “Origination Insight Report” published by Ellie Mae, a company that creates mortgage loan origination software.

Ellie Mae’s reports are based on data from a “robust sampling of closed loan applications.” This means they’re a pretty good indicator of what is happening across the mortgage industry.

In addition to identifying the average credit score for home buyer mortgage loans, the company’s reports show which types of loans are used most, average interest rates, loan-to-value ratios and more.

Average Credit Score Among Home Buyers: 722

In April, the average credit score among home buyers using mortgage loans was 722. The majority of purchase loans (70%) had scores over 700.

These numbers are based on the FICO scoring scale, in particular, which ranges from 300 to 850. Higher is better, when it comes to qualifying for a mortgage loan. Generally speaking, home buyers with higher scores have an easier time getting approved for financing, and tend to qualify for lower interest rates as well.

The 722 average credit score applied to all loans that were processed and closed using the company’s software solutions and network. Here are some additional breakouts for the three most popular loan types:

  • Conventional: The average FICO score for a conventional purchase loan was 753, during April 2017.
  • FHA: The average score for an FHA-insured purchase loan was 684.
  • VA: The average FICO number for a VA-guaranteed mortgage was 708.

You’ll notice a significant difference between FHA and conventional mortgage loans. The Federal Housing Administration program requires borrowers to have a minimum score of 580, in order to take advantage of the low 3.5% down payment option. Conventional loans (which are not insured by the government) often require higher scores.

FHA loans are generally easier to obtain, when compared to conventional mortgages. This may account for the wide gap between the average FICO credit scores shown above.

You Could Get By With Less

It bears repeating: The numbers shown above are just average credit scores for home buyer mortgage loans, based on the loan origination data collected by Ellie Mae. They do not represent the minimum scores required for the different mortgage programs.

Based on our conversations with lenders, it appears that most prefer to see a score of 600 or higher for loan approval. But that number is not set in stone. Mortgage underwriting and approval is a highly individualized process. It can vary from one borrower to the next.

Additionally, mortgage lenders tend to look at the big picture regarding applicant qualifications. Down payment size, credit history, income, and financial assets all play a role as well. So a relatively low credit score, by itself, might not be a deal-breaker.

Why Do Credit Scores Matter?

Why do mortgage lenders care so much about credit scores? In a word, risk.

Banks and lenders use these three-digit numbers to get a feel for how a person has borrowed and repaid money in the past. They also look at the credit reports that are used to produce those numbers.

Credit scores are just one part of a broader risk-assessment process. In general, a borrower with a higher number will be viewed as a lower risk (a “safer bet,” if you will) compared to someone with a lower score. Having a high number can make it easier to land a home loan in the first place, and could also affect the mortgage rate you receive from the lender.

As mentioned earlier, there is no single cutoff point used across the mortgage industry. Different lenders have different business models and appetites for risk. So the minimum credit score needed to buy a house can vary from one company to the next. It can also vary based on the type of loan you choose. This is why it’s important to shop around and compare your options.

Disclaimer: This article shows the average FICO credit scores for home buyers using FHA, VA and conventional mortgage loans, as of April 2017. These figures were reported by Ellie Mae. We encourage borrowers to understand the difference between average and minimum credit scores, and to get offers from more than one lender.