Your credit score is one of the most important factors in a lender’s decision to approve you for a mortgage. This number is designed to predict how likely you are to pay back a loan. It takes into account things like bill payments, unpaid debt, and the amount of credit history you have.

The higher the score, the easier it is to get a mortgage. And the better your loan options, too. Most credit scores range from 300 to about 850.

Your credit score is just one piece of your entire financial picture, so don’t worry if yours isn’t where you want it to be. Raise it by following these three tips.

Pay everything on time

Just one late payment can prevent you from getting approved for a mortgage by a year or more. That applies to everything: credit cards, utilities, medical bills, rent, cars, and loans. If you’re concerned about your ability to make a payment on time, contact the creditor. You can usually explain your circumstances and put together a plan with them to make it up.

Avoid high balances on credit cards

When your balance is close to the maximum limit on a credit card, it may signal to lenders that you’re already carrying too much debt. Try to limit the amount of credit you use, ideally as low as 10–20% of what’s available to you.

Set up auto-pay

It’s easier to navigate a small negative balance on your checking account than a 30-day late payment on your credit report. So for credit cards, or anything else you pay in installments, set them up to come out of your account automatically.

If your FICO score is at least 550, you may be eligible for the Landis program. That means renting your dream home while you work with a dedicated financial coach to get ready for a mortgage.

Get prequalified to see if Landis is right for you.

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