What Are Lenders Looking for on My Credit Report?

An inside look at credit report findings that can make or break your mortgage application.

When you apply for a mortgage, your lender will look at your entire financial picture to determine whether or not you qualify. This vetting includes a review of your credit history, employment, the funds you have available to purchase a home, and more. These factors will ultimately determine the type of loan and interest rate you qualify for. But just what does a lender look for on your credit report? Knowing that somebody is going through your records with a fine-toothed comb can be a little intimidating, but we’re here to give you a heads up on what a lender is looking for when they review your credit report.

credit history

The most important factor lenders look at when analyzing your credit report is your credit history. This shows how well you’ve paid your bills, like credit cards, student loans, and auto loans. If you take care of your financial obligations on time and don’t use all the credit available to you, lenders will look more favorably on your application as it’s a sign that you can responsibly handle your credit.

Lenders will also check to see if you have any recent significant derogatory events on your credit report. A significant derogatory event is any single event that may give the lender cause to consider you a high risk for future default. Examples of significant derogatory events include bankruptcies, foreclosures, deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure, pre-foreclosure sales, and short sales. If you have any of these events on your credit report, you’ll probably have to wait a while before you can apply for a new mortgage. These waiting periods are usually between two and seven years, depending on the circumstances.

debt-to-income ratio

Also found on your credit report, your debt-to-income ratio is one of the most important things that lenders pay attention to when considering you for a mortgage. Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) tells them whether your income can cover your mortgage payments and other debts (such as credit cards, student loans, auto loans, and other obligations). Your DTI puts a quantitative value on your ability to pay back your loan. The higher your DTI, the more likely it is that you will not qualify for the mortgage amount you applied for. Think of it this way: if your total income cannot cover your monthly expenses and leave you with some spending money for things like groceries, gas, and entertainment, then it could be difficult to make your monthly mortgage payments. Lenders look at your DTI in two ways:

Housing Ratio: This is your gross monthly income divided by your proposed monthly housing expenses (your mortgage payment, including principal, interest, taxes, insurance, and homeowners association dues, if applicable). The limit for this ratio is typically around 26% to 28%.

Total Debt Ratio: Your gross monthly income divided by the sum of all your recurring debt payments (such as student loans, auto loans, credit card payments, etc.) including your proposed housing expenses. This limit is typically around 43%.

One of the most important things that lenders pay attention to when considering you for a mortgage is your debt-to-income ratio.

payment history

At the end of the day, your lender is lending you money with the intention of getting paid back. That being said, they want to see that you have a track record of not only making payments, but making them on time. A major determining factor in your credit score is payment history, which accounts for about 35% of the total score. Late or missed payments, especially on your mortgage, or a past bankruptcy are all considered red flags to lenders—because nobody wants to loan money to someone who won’t pay them back. That doesn’t mean that a few minor late payments will stop a lender from giving you a loan, but you may be either approved for a smaller loan or your interest rate may be higher than that of someone who has never missed a payment.

new accounts

It’s always good to have an established credit history. However, opening a bunch of new credit card accounts in a short period of time may cause your credit score to drop and the lender to question if you are having trouble managing your finances. It may be tempting to put new appliances and furniture on new credit cards, but be patient. You’ll have plenty of time to buy things for your new house after you close.

stable employment

Another important indication of your ability to repay is a record of stable employment, which can also be found on your credit report. Lenders will look at how long you have held your current job and how long you have worked in your current profession. Having a stable job lets your lender know that you have a dependable source of income to repay your mortgage. Moving jobs frequently may affect your ability to be approved for a mortgage, especially if those job changes are not consistent for your industry.

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About the Author

Khari is one of our blog authors. He hails from the state of Georgia, and can tell you everything you need to know about rap music, the NBA, and Game of Thrones. As the youngest writer on staff, Khari enjoys learning about the ins and outs of homeownership and looks to provide a fresh, Millennial's perspective on happenings within the industry.