Will buying a house hurt your credit? Research on how taking out a mortgage impacts your credit score is finally here to answer this age-old question.
Your credit score will fall an average of 15 points over a period of four months after buying a house, according to consumer analysis by LendingTree. More specifically, your credit score will fall after you start making payments and your mortgage lender starts reporting to the credit bureaus.
It’ll take at least another five months (on average) for your credit score to return to its prior level. Within a year, credit scores have typically recovered and are poised to move higher, but credit score recovery time varied regionally. Cities with the shortest credit score recovery time included Richmond, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Providence and New Orleans. Milwaukee, Austin, Riverside, San Francisco and Raleigh were cities with the longest credit score recovery time.
Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree, said he and his team studied a sample of the group’s users, who were generally representative of the national population. He said LendingTree was motivated to conduct the analysis because of the overall emphasis the housing industry puts on credit scores before buying a house, while there’s often little thought as to how a borrower’s credit scores are impacted (and for how long) after the closing.
“Getting a mortgage is, after everything that you’ve done to improve your credit score, the big payoff, right?” Kapfidze said. “That’s when your credit score is most valuable to you because that’s the largest amount of money probably that you’re ever going to borrow. And, the biggest potential for savings [with a mortgage comes] from having a higher score.”
LendingTree’s research confirms that your credit score will dip after buying a home, but it will also recover within a year. That means, all you need to do is continue to keep up the same good financial management practices that earned you a good credit score in the first place.
“If you can, revolve your credit card debt, don’t carry a balance from month to month,” Kapfidze said. It’s a great suggestion, but Americans have over $1 trillion in credit card debt and the average American has a credit card balance of $6,375.
Yes, the best case scenario is to avoid carrying a credit card balance. However, if you’re one of the 40 percent of Americans that can’t afford a $400 unexpected expense, you might turn to a credit card to cover it. In that case, make more than the minimum payment whenever possible and set up automatic payments so you won’t get a late fee if you forget to make a payment. Paying your bills on time (and, if you can, in full) is one of the best ways to boost your credit score.
Experian recommends using less than 10 percent of available credit limits, but if that’s not possible, aim to use no more 30 percent of your total available credit limits. Continue using your available credit responsibly after buying a house and before you know it your credit score will be higher than it was before you took out your mortgage.
Read more about what factors into your credit score: