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Barry Choi | Blog,Mortgages

What Does My Credit Score Need To Be To Get A Mortgage In Canada?

November 6, 2018

Buying a home is one of the most important (and expensive) decisions that you’ll ever make in your life. If you’ve decided to take the leap into homeownership, congratulations! Depending on where you live, it may be a tough process, but it’s certainly rewarding once you get the keys to your new home.

We’re not going to get into a heated discussion about the price of real estate in Canada, instead, we want to focus on how high your credit score needs to be to get a mortgage in Canada. Don’t know what a credit score is? Don’t worry, we got you covered.

What a credit score is

In Canada, your credit score is a number between 300 – 900. The higher your credit score is, the more likely you’ll be approved for a loan or credit various credit products in the future.

But, how does your number get determined? Your credit score starts getting built as soon as you start using products that relate to credit. The most common things that would help you build your credit score include your cell phone and credit card bills. As long as you’ve been paying those bills on time (even if it’s been just the minimum payment), then your credit score should be 650 or higher.

How high your credit score needs to be to get a mortgage

Generally speaking, your credit score needs to be at least 650 (which is considered good) for traditional lenders to approve you for a mortgage. If you have a credit score of 750+, then you’re in excellent territory. When the credit bureaus give you a credit score of 650+, they’re basically telling mortgage lenders that there’s a low chance that you’ll default on your payments since you have a history of paying your bills on time.

Now, if your credit score falls below 650, it’s still possible to qualify for a mortgage. The catch is, you’ll likely only be approved by alternative mortgage lenders who charge higher interest rates. Those rates could be double of mortgage rates today which means you’ll be paying quite the premium.

How to improve your credit score

The good news is that improving your credit score is relatively easy as long as you follow a few steps.

Pay your bills on time and in full – Paying your bills on time is one of the biggest factors when determining your credit score. As long as you’re making those payments, you’ll be in good shape. Technically speaking, you only need to make the minimum payment to maintain your credit score, but it’s in your best interest to pay off the entire balance every month. Note that missing two payments in a row will dramatically lower your credit score.

Keep your credit utilization ratio down – The amount of credit you’re currently using compared to the amount you have available is known as your credit utilization ratio. Having a low ratio improves your credit score since you’re not using all the credit available to you.

Get a secured credit card – In the event that you don’t qualify for a traditional credit card, you can apply for a secured card to help you rebuild your credit score. With secured cards, you need to deposit funds onto your card before you can use it. It sort of acts like a prepaid card, but your payments are reported to the credit bureaus so your credit score will go up after time.

Should I improve my credit score before applying for a mortgage?

Improving your credit score so it’s in good standing before applying for a mortgage can only benefit you. Mortgage lenders will see that you have a good history of making your payments on time and will likely offer you the best interest rates possible.

Keep in mind that your credit score and history aren’t the only things mortgage lenders look at when determining if they’ll lend to you. They’ll also consider your total debt service ratio (the amount of debt you owe compared to your income) and employment status.

If you have stable income and minimal or no debt and keep working to improve that credit score, you’ll be fine. 

About The Author

Barry Choi is a personal finance and travel expert based in Toronto who makes frequent media appearances in Canada and the US. You can read more of his work at moneywehave.com or follow him on Twitter: @barrychoi

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