If you have taken advantage of your free credit report and seen your score, maybe you're not happy with where it's at. Maybe you waited too long to check it, and you don't have enough time to raise it into the excellent category before going forward with your mortgage application. So what really is the lowest mortgage credit score you can have and still be approved?
For the majority of lenders, the absolute lowest is 580. Once your score falls below that, you're part of the bad credit category, and definitely considered sub-prime. Lenders are more likely to deny you. If they do take the risk of approving you, be prepared to pay outrageous interest rates.
Of course, applying for a mortgage loan with a score of 580 isn't really much better than applying with a score of 500. To guarantee the best terms and lowest possible interest rates, your mortgage credit score should be at least 720, sometimes higher for some lenders, and that's quite a jump. It may not be realistic to improve your score by that much in a relatively short period of time, but it would be in your best interest (no pun intended) to get it as high as possible.
You probably don't want to pay more for your loan than you really have to, so even if you've found your dream home, you might want to seriously consider holding off if your mortgage credit score is lower. Especially if you're nearing the sub-prime level, you may not only be denied, but you'll pay much more in interest than someone with even a slightly higher score than you.
Give yourself a minimum of 3-6 months before applying for a loan. Request your free copies of your credit report and score and review them. Then start taking steps toward improvement. Pay your bills on time, pay them in full whenever possible, and keep your balances low. Then you can walk into your lender's office in confidence and spend more time worrying about what color to paint the living room than the status of your mortgage credit score.