Facts About Credit Scores Loan Officers Need to Know

Editor’s note: Guest post provided by business development and education expert for American Reporting Company (ARC), LLC., Mike Olden.

Here are a few facts about credit scores loan officers need to know, because in the mortgage finance industry we sometimes hear the following from borrowers:

“Are all credit scores the same?” or perhaps more often, “Why aren’t all credit scores the same?” There can be several answers to these questions.

To best understand the facts about credit scores, it’s important for the consumer to consider the variables at play — what company provided the credit score; what version or generation of the credit score was used; and the timing of when each score was accessed. Any time a consumer applies for a mortgage loan and the lender uses a credit score, the consumer must receive a disclosure that identifies the score, the date the score was created, the range of possible scores, the key factors that adversely affected the consumer’s score and the identity of the provider. This information is intended to help consumers better understand each score. Here are a few facts about credit scores loan officers need to know to best assist their customers.

Credit Score Competition

The two most common credit scores used by lenders are the FICO® Score and the VantageScore®. They are separate and often compete for use by lenders. In the mortgage finance industry, FICO Scores generally are preferred.

FICO offered its first general-purpose score in 1989. FICO Scores are based on credit report data obtained from consumer reporting agencies, also called credit bureaus. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac first began using FICO Scores in 1995 to identify mortgage loans for eligible for purchase by the companies.

In the mortgage industry there are also differences. Currently the following versions of FICO Scores are used:

  1. Experian – FICO Score V2
  2. TransUnion – FICO Score V4
  3. Equifax – FICO Score V5

The VantageScore consumer credit scoring model was unveiled in 2006 as a collaboration of the three main consumer reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Today VantageScore Solutions, an independently managed firm, maintains, revalidates, and updates the scoring model.

The VantageScore is often used by non-mortgage lenders and in conjunction with some consumer credit report sites such as Credit Karma. Currently there is discussion about requiring the mortgage industry to adopt multiple credit scoring models, which requirement is under review by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) although no timeline has been established for the completion of this review.

Credit Score Range

Historically, FICO Scores have a range of 300 on the low end to 850 on the high end. The first generation VantageScore had a range of 550 – 990. If a consumer received a VantageScore and then applied for a mortgage loan which required a FICO score, the consumer’s credit scores may be (very) different. We have all heard these laments:

“I just saw my credit score and it was 750; now you pull my credit report and it is only 680. What did you do?!”

The loan officer didn’t do anything, but there could be several reasons for the difference. The most common cause may be that different credit score models were used with different credit score ranges. Both may measure the same basic factors but calculate them differently. What are some of those factors?

Credit Score Factors

FICO Score

  1. Payment History
  2. Amounts Owed
  3. Length of Credit History
  4. Applications for New Credit
  5. Credit Mix/Types of Credit

VantageScore

  1. Payment History
  2. Age and Type of Credit
  3. Percentage of Credit Limit Used
  4. Total Balances and Debt
  5. Recent Inquiries for New Credit
  6. Available Credit

Regardless of which credit score model is used, the most critical factor reflected in the score is the consumer’s payment history, specifically if accounts are paid on time each month. It’s also helpful for consumers to keep balances – especially credit card balances – low. A good rule of thumb is below 25% of the credit limit. Limiting any additional applications for credit until after the mortgage transaction is completed can also be helpful.

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