Credit scores influence but do not determine the terms and costs of your loan

As emphasized, most mortgage lenders assess your creditworthiness through credit scoring. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA, and portfolio lenders such as Washington Mutual all follow some form of this so-called "black box" credit evaluation.

If your credit score pops out at, say, 720 or higher, problems are not likely. Just make sure you've not messed up any of the other Cs of credit approval, and you're home free at (or near) the lowest interest rates and costs available (provided that you understand the mortgage process and don't let some sharpshooting loan rep get you in his sights). If your score totals between 660 and 720, however, you may not get the best terms with the least amount of hassle. And if your score falls below, say, 620, some lenders will push you into subprime (much more expensive) mortgages unless your other Cs tell a persuasive story. Below 600 or so, watch out for predators or try for protection with FHA or VA.

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