How does mortgage affect credit score, and credit score affect mortgages?

How does mortgage affect credit score, and credit score affect mortgages?

In Australia, credit reporting agencies collect a variety of information about your borrowing history from banks and other financial institutions.

As part of Australia’s Comprehensive Credit Reporting, both your positive and negative repayment history information is reported and included in your credit report. Thanks to this more in-depth reporting, your credit score is impacted in more nuanced ways.

To keep track of how your mortgage affects your credit score, get a copy of your credit report from a credit reporting agency, perhaps even for free

Does applying for a mortgage affect your credit score?

Taking on debt always comes with some risk, and you need to make sure you can afford to repay the amount you owe, whether to a credit card company or a lender. Not repaying your debts or bills on time is reflected in your credit score and can make it difficult for you to borrow money later. Which is why even applying for a new source of debt, such as a mortgage, can affect your credit score. For most lenders, your credit score is a shortcut to understanding your level of responsibility when dealing with money, whether through a large mortgage or an average utility bill. 

When you submit a mortgage application, the lender will ask one of the three credit reporting agencies - Equifax, Experian, or Illion - for your credit report. This contains the details of all reported credit transactions involving you, including credit enquiries, debts, repayments, delayed payments, and payments defaults. The lender can then use all this information to estimate the risk of you failing to repay the loan, which helps them decide whether to approve your mortgage application. 

You may want to check your credit score before applying for a home loan. This will help give you an idea beforehand whether a lender will consider your application favourably. Remember that your credit score is unlikely to change if you check it, but mortgage inquiries can affect credit score.

Do I need a credit score to get a mortgage?

Having a credit score, especially a high score, can certainly improve the chances of getting your mortgage application approved. What’s more, if your credit score is in the excellent range, you may even qualify for discounts such as lower interest rates. Consider asking the lender how credit score affects the mortgage rate when you discuss the loan with them.

Each credit reporting agency follows a different credit scoring policy and has different score categories, which are still quite similar. The below range is the one adopted by Equifax and may help you understand the rating:

Tier 1: Your credit score is between 833 and 1,200 and rated excellent.

Tier 2: Your credit score is between 726 and 832 and rated very good.

Tier 3: Your credit score is between 622 - 725 and rated good.

Tier 4: Your credit score is between 510 and 621 and rated average.

Tier 5: Your credit score is between 300-509 and rated below average.

You should remember that your credit score is a moving indicator of your financial health, which means it can increase and decrease based on your transactions. Accessing your credit report is one way of learning about the positive or negative impact of each of your financial obligations. Credit reporting agencies are required to give you access to your report for free once every 12 months.

A low credit score simply means you may need to work on improving your score. Some ways you can do this are ensuring you don’t have too much outstanding debt and repaying your bills on time. You may find you don’t have a credit score if you haven’t ever taken on debt or if none of your transactions has been reported.\

Does paying off my mortgage early affect my credit score?

Taking out a mortgage is going to be one of the largest financial commitments you make in your life, which means there is a lot of responsibility to it. You may feel that repaying your home loan as soon as possible is the best idea. But you need to consider if paying off your mortgage early affects your credit score and therefore your ability to get credit or loans in the future. 

The short answer is yes - if you repay your home loan early, your credit score will probably go up. But just because paying off your home loan early will increase your credit score doesn’t mean you should push yourself beyond your financial means to do so. One of the benefits of keeping your home loan, rather than paying it off early, is that maintaining your repayments indicates to other lenders that you're a responsible borrower. Having a good repayment history also improves your credit score.

How to get a mortgage with bad credit score

Most lenders may be wary of approving loans for borrowers with low credit scores. Some lenders may be open to having a discussion and trying to understand the reasons for the low score. If you have errors on your credit file like a wrongly included negative incident or the same incident included more than once, you can have them corrected by contacting the credit reporting agency.

Sometimes a lower score may be caused by a fairly old repayment issue that is still included in your file. This can occur because of the reporting agency’s policy on how long incidents stay on your file. You may want to discuss these issues with the lender to ensure they don’t affect your mortgage application. For instance, you can show that you’ve consistently tried to improve your score.

Even if your credit score is genuinely low, some lenders may offer you a mortgage. They may just not let you borrow as much, may ask you to pay a larger deposit, higher fees and possibly a higher interest rate. However, if you can pay off the loan in time, it can help to improve your credit score.

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Learn more about credit score

Do landlords check credit scores?

For landlords, credit score checks can tell if a potential tenant has a history of delayed or missed rent payments. Usually, a poor record of repayments is likely to result in a low credit score. Also, your credit history may include information from tenancy databases such as the number of times landlords have inquired about your credit score. 

If there are too many inquiries within a short time, landlords may conclude that you have had issues renting in the past.  However, there is no rule as to when landlords check your credit score. Some might check every time they receive a tenant’s application. In some cases, landlords may even rent out their property to tenants with a poor credit history if they can submit additional documents or sufficiently explain their situation and how they are trying to address it.

 What credit score do landlords look for?

Landlords may look for issues relating to repayment rather than a specific credit score, although a low credit score probably suggests that you’ve had repayment issues. In general, if your credit score is categorised good, very good, or excellent - which corresponds to an Equifax credit score range of 622 - 1,200, landlords may not scrutinise your credit history too closely.

Can I check my credit score without a driver's license?

In Australia, your driver’s license is the preferred identification document for credit reporting agencies. This means you may not be able to confirm your identity using another document, such as a proof-of-age card. You may have genuine reasons like concerns over identity theft for not wanting to provide your driver’s license number. Unfortunately, most credit bureaus won’t allow people to check their credit score without a driver’s license. 

If you don’t have a driver’s license, there’s a good chance you haven’t applied for credit in the past and don’t have a credit score at all. In case you are concerned about identity theft, credit reporting agencies can offer you paid packages that include insurance against identity theft. Such packages may also include monthly credit score checks or alerts whenever your score is updated.