What is a credit score?
Your credit score is a number that gives information about how good a history you have of borrowing and paying back money. The higher the number, the better your credit score. Things like loans and credit cards will improve your credit score if you’ve always paid them back on time. However if you’ve paid them back late your credit score will be lower.
You need a sufficient credit history in order to have a credit score. If you haven't borrowed much money, or you haven’t borrowed any at all, you might not have one.
Why does my credit score matter when I’m buying a property?
As a homebuyer, your credit score matters because it’s one of the things mortgage lenders will look at when deciding whether to approve your application.
If you’ve got a good credit score that demonstrates you have a good history of borrowing money and paying it back on time, you’ll be seen as more reliable by the mortgage lender. They’ll be more likely to give you a mortgage, and the interest rates may be lower.
Does my credit score need improving?
If you have a history of debt it’s a good idea to put in the work to improve your credit score.
If you’ve never borrowed any money before, you’ll probably need to do some work to improve your credit score, as sometimes having no credit history can be just as bad as having a bad one.
If you’re not sure whether your credit score needs work, there are many ways in which you can check it. For example, you can use Clearscore or the Money Saving Expert Credit Club.
Read more about how to check your credit score.
How can I improve my credit score?
Luckily, if your credit score could do with some work, there are many ways you can improve it.
Register on the electoral roll
It will only improve your score by a little bit, but it’s so easy to register to vote so you might as well do it. Lenders will use it to check your details when they’re carrying out a credit check, so it will also speed up your application as they won’t need to find other, more complicated ways to verify your identity.
Get a credit card
As long as you use it wisely, one of the best ways to improve your credit score is to get a credit card.
By using a credit card to make small purchases and paying it back on time, you’ll be demonstrating your ability to borrow and repay money responsibly. Keep doing this and your credit score will slowly start to climb.
Read more about how to get a credit card for a mortgage, or find out what the best credit card is if you’re a First Time Buyer.
Pay off all your debts
For obvious reasons, outstanding debts will affect your credit score. Try to make sure you’re debt-free when you’re applying for a mortgage. If it would take too long, try to significantly pay down your debts so you’ve paid off the majority of a loan or are using less than 20% of your credit limit.
Check who you’re associated with
If you’re connected to people on your credit report who have a bad credit history, it will bring yours down too. Make sure that you’re not still tied to, for example, an old housemate who never paid their bills on time.
Put your name on the accounts
If you currently live in a shared house, your bills might be in your housemate’s name. By putting your names on at least some of the accounts, you can start to build credit this way. This is especially important if you have no other credit history.
How can I maintain a good credit score?
If you’ve already good a decent credit score – great! But make sure you keep it that way.
Keep up to date with all your bills
Keep on top of all your bills and make sure they’re paid off on time. It would be very unfortunate for your credit score to take a knock just because you forgot to pay your gas bill. Setting up direct debits can be useful, as you won’t need to remember to pay every month.
Don’t move house too much
Staying at one address for a long period of time can demonstrate you’re dependable. Multiple house moves in a short period of time can affect your credit score. Whilst sometimes moves are unavoidable, if you know you want to buy a home soon, try to stay put as long as you can in the build up to buying.
Don’t apply for too much credit
It may seem counterintuitive but applying for credit can actually negatively affect your credit score, especially if you’re rejected. As a result don’t complete too many ‘hard’ searches or applications – only apply for credit if you think you have a good chance of being accepted.
Similarly, applying to multiple sources of credit in a short period of time can suggest you’re in financial difficulty. If you are looking for a new credit card (perhaps to consolidate some debts and pay them down more efficiently) do so carefully and after much consideration.
If you’re going to need a mortgage to buy your property, your credit score should be one of the first things you check. Improving it could be the difference between getting a mortgage or not, so it’s worth investing the time into it.