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Before deciding on what terms they will offer you a mortgage loan, lenders must discover two things about you: your ability to pay back the loan, and how committed you are to pay back the loan. To figure out your ability to repay, lenders look at your debt-to-income ratio. In order to assess your willingness to repay the loan, they look at your credit score.
Fair Isaac and Company developed the original FICO score to help lenders assess creditworthiness. We've written more on FICO here.
Credit scores only assess the information in your credit reports. They don't consider income or personal characteristics. These scores were invented specifically for this reason. "Profiling" was as dirty a word when FICO scores were invented as it is now. Credit scoring was envisioned as a way to assess a borrower's willingness to repay the loan while specifically excluding any other demographic factors.
Past delinquencies, payment behavior, current debt level, length of credit history, types of credit and number of inquiries are all considered in credit scoring. Your score is calculated from both the good and the bad of your credit report. Late payments count against you, but a consistent record of paying on time will improve it.
For the agencies to calculate a credit score, borrowers must have an active credit account with at least six months of payment history. This history ensures that there is sufficient information in your credit to assign a score. Should you not meet the criteria for getting a credit score, you might need to establish a credit history prior to applying for a mortgage.