How's your FICO Score?

Since our society is so computer-driven, it's probably not that surprising that your ability to repay your mortgage loan boils down to a single number. The years of paying your various bills: your mortgage, car payments, and credit card bills can be analyzed, spindled and mutilated into a single indicator of whether you're likely to meet your future obligations.

The three reporting agencies use slightly different formulas to build a credit score. The original FICO score was developed by Fair Isaac and Company. Experian uses this model and calls its score FICO. Equifax's model, based on FICO, is called BEACON, while TransUnion, which also uses a slightly modified FICO, calls its score EMPIRICA. While the formulas vary from one agency to another, all of the agencies use the following to calculate your score:

  • Credit History - How many years have you had credit?
  • History of Payments - Do you pay your bills on time?
  • Balances on your Credit Cards - How many credit card accounts do you have, and how much do you owe on them?
  • Requests for Credit - How many times have you had your credit checked for a loan?

These factors are weighted differently depending on which formula the agency uses. The result is one number. FICO scores can be as low as 300 and as high as 800. Higher is always better. Most people getting a mortgage in the current environment have a score above 620.

Your score greatly affects your interest rate

FICO scores affect more than your ability to get a loan. They also affect your interest rate. Lenders give lower interest rates to individuals with higher scores.

Improving your score

What can you do to raise your FICO score? Very little in the short term. Despite what you hear from "credit repair" companies, the score is calculated from your lifelong credit history, so it's not possible to raise it significantly in the short term. You must, of course, remove any incorrect data on your credit report; this is the only way to quickly improve your credit score.

How do I find out my credit score?

Before you can improve your score, you have to know your score and be sure that the credit reports from each agency are correct. Fair Isaac, the company that offered the original FICO score, offers scores on It's inexpensive, fast, and easy to get your credit score as well as credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies. They also provide information and online tools that help you understand how to improve your FICO score.

You can get a federally-mandated free credit report once per year from the three major credit reporting agencies when you visit These reports do not include a free credit score, but it's very inexpensive to get one at the same time.

Now that you have all the facts, you will be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to get the most favorable mortgage.

Want to know more about your credit score? Give us a call at (510) 683-9850.

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