If you plan on buying a house and need a mortgage, a lender is going to perform a credit check to help determine whether to give you a loan and the interest rate you’d have to pay. The higher your credit score, the more likely you’ll get approved and the lower your interest rate might be.

Shopping around for the best deal can save you thousands of dollars over the life of a mortgage, but it’s also important to understand how credit checks work and might affect you. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, here are some main factors to keep in mind:

A credit check is reported to the credit reporting agencies as an “inquiry.” Inquiries tell other creditors that you’re thinking of taking on new debt. An inquiry typically has a small, but negative, impact on your credit score that could affect your chances of getting other types of loans. Inquiries are a necessary part of applying for a mortgage, so you can’t avoid them altogether. But it pays to be smart about them.

As a general rule, apply for credit only when you need it. Applying for a credit card, car loan or other type of loan also results in an inquiry that can lower your credit score, so try to avoid applying for these other types of credit right before getting a mortgage or during the mortgage process.

Personal Credit Checks
Because your credit plays a major role in mortgage eligibility and rates, you should make sure your credit is in good standing and the information correct before applying for a loan. Fortunately, doing a credit check on your own does not affect your credit score. You can get a free copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. If you find any errors, get them corrected immediately to avoid potential impacts.

Shopping Around
Within a 45-day window, multiple credit checks from mortgage lenders are recorded on your credit report as a single inquiry. This is because other creditors realize you’re only going to buy one home. You can shop around and get multiple pre-approvals and official loan estimates. The impact on your credit is the same no matter how many lenders you consult, as long as the last credit check is within 45 days of the first credit check. (Note: The 45-day rule applies only to credit checks from mortgage lenders or brokers–credit card and other inquiries are processed separately.)

Even if a lender needs to check your credit after the 45-day window is over, shopping around is usually still worth it. The impact of an additional inquiry is small, while searching for the best deal can save you a lot of money in the long run.

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