Minimum Credit Score Required to Qualify for FHA Loans

David Cohn
Apr 23, 2024
FHA loans

An FHA loan is a mortgage backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). It is aimed at individuals who may not qualify for traditional loans due to less stringent financial criteria, including lower credit score requirements.  

This makesFHA loans an attractive option for many homebuyers.

But first, can you use FHA loans to finance commercial real estate?

Technically,FHA loans are not intended for commercial real estate investments. However, there are specific circumstances under which you can use these loans for properties that might be considered commercial, particularly multifamily residential buildings.

This creates a nuanced scenario where, under certain conditions, FHA loans can support investments that straddle the line between residential and commercial real estate. 

The exception: multifamily properties

While FHA loans primarily promote homeownership by focusing on residential properties like single-family homes and condos, they offer options for multifamily dwellings.  

These properties — which include apartment complexes — can sometimes align with commercial real estate investments due to their potential to generate income through residential leases. Here are the key considerations:

  • Property type - To qualify, the property must be zoned for residential use despite potentially having multiple units that accommodate several families. The primary income must come from residential leasing.
  • Owner-occupancy rules—Some FHA loan programs for multifamily buildings may not require the borrower to live in one of the units, offering more flexibility than typical FHA loan conditions.

If you want to use an FHA loan to buy a qualified commercial property, the next stepis to check if you meet the minimum credit score. 


Understanding the minimum credit score for an FHA loan

FHA's general guideline states that applicants need a minimum credit score 580 to qualify for an FHA loan with a down payment of 3.5%. This guideline provides a pathway for many prospective homeowners to enter the housing market. 

However, since lenders can set their standards, the exact credit score needed can vary from one lender to another.


The importance of shopping around for FHA loans

Given the variability in lender requirements, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau(CFPB) advises potential borrowers to seek loan estimates from at least three lenders. This approach ensures competitive terms and an understanding of what different lenders offer.


Can you get approved for an FHA loan if your credit score is 500?

It is possible to secure an FHA loan with a credit score as low as 500, though conditions become stricter. 

Applicants in this credit score range must provide a down payment of at least 10%. Lenders may impose additional restrictions — such as requiring a lower loan-to-value ratio or a larger down payment — to offset the increased risk associated with lower credit scores.


How credit scores affect FHA interest rates

While there's no fixed scale for how credit scores directly influence FHA interest rates, the general trend is that higher credit scores equal lower interest rates. Lenders view credit scores as an indicator of risk, so a higher credit score (which indicates lower risk) can lead to more favorable interest rates.


Beyond the Credit Score: Other factors influencing FHA loan eligibility 

Credit scores are important in commercial real estate loans, But Lenders do not solely rely on credit scores to determine FHA loan eligibility.

Other financial aspects such as income, employment history, and debt-to-income (DTI)ratio also play critical roles. DTI is particularly important as it show much of your income goes towards existing debts.

A lowerDTI indicates more disposable income for your mortgage payment. It also demonstrates to lenders that you can responsibly manage and repay your debts.This could lead to better loan terms.


Determining credit score requirements for FHA loans

Lenders have the freedom to set credit score minimums for FHA loans. This decision is influenced by several factors, including the lender's risk tolerance, the requirements of investors who may purchase the loans, and compensating factors in a borrower's financial profile. 

Compensating factors such as cash reserves or a steady employment history can help applicants with lower credit scores offset the perceived increased risk and qualify for an FHA loan.


Tips to raise your credit score for FHA loans

Improving your credit score can help you secure an FHA loan. It will make you appear less risky to lenders and boost your chances of approval. Here are practical ways to elevate your credit score effectively.


Pay your bills on time.

Your payment history is a critical component of your credit score. Make timely payments on all your bills to raise your score quickly. Remember that late fees—which can remain on your credit report for up to seven years—may harm your score.  

Paying on time consistently demonstrates consistent financial responsibility and clearly indicates your reliability to lenders.


Keep your credit utilization below 30%

The ratio of your current credit usage to your total available credit — known as credit utilization — also plays a substantial role in your credit score.

Maintain a utilization rate below 30% to signal to lenders that you manage credit wisely, without over dependence.

For instance, if your credit limit across all cards is $10,000, aim to keep your total balances under $3,000.


Limit new credit applications.

Do you frequently apply for new credit? This can raise red flags for lenders and potentially lower your credit score. 

Note that when shopping for a mortgage (including FHA loans), credit bureaus typically regard all mortgage inquiries within 45 days as a single inquiry. This allows you to compare options across lenders without multiple impacts on your score.

Check your credit reports regularly.

Review your credit reports regularly to identify and rectify any inaccuracies or errors that might lower your score.

Each of the three major credit bureaus provides a free annual report. Be sure to dispute any inaccuracies you discover promptly.

Be patient

Raising your credit score is a process that requires time and discipline. There are no instant remedies to improve your creditworthiness. 

That said, it's worth the effort. Adopting these strategies can help you raise your credit score and strengthen your ability to qualify for an FHA loan.

With a higher credit score, you can secure more favourable loan terms, benefiting your financial health and commercial real estate venture.

If you need help securing an FHA loan to finance your commercial property project, contact Capital Investors Direct.