Most people know that your credit score is a critical piece of the puzzle when buying a home. But too many people mistakenly view their credit score as the most important qualifier to buy a home. Your credit score matters, but it’s not the end-all when it comes to home loans. Here’s what you need to know about your credit score when you are going through the homebuying process.

You don’t need a perfect credit score to buy a home

Credit scores range from 300 to 850. Most lenders consider a score of 740 or higher to be very good. But you can still buy a house with a lower score. For example, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which guarantees most of the mortgages in the United States, requires a minimum credit score of 620. This is considered “fair” credit and lower than average. Sure, this may not get you the most favorable loan terms. But the point is that this type of credit score does not keep you out of the housing market. There may be other government-backed loans that can accommodate an even lower credit score.

The higher your credit score, the better your interest rate

You are more likely to receive a better interest rate on your mortgage if you have a high credit score. That means the higher credit score can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan. Now you don’t need that perfect 850 to get the best interest rate. According to The Mortgage Reports, generally if you have a credit score of 740 or higher—with solid finances—you will qualify for some of the lowest available rates.

You can improve your credit score quickly before buying a home

Man paying credit card bills to improve credit score when buying a house

Traditionally, to boost your credit score, you would pay your bills on time and slowly whittle down your debt. You would also need to correct any errors on your credit report. But all of this can take time. In addition to continuing best practices like those, there’s a little trick to boost your credit score quickly. Pay your credit card bill shortly before it’s due—even if you pay your balance in full every month. This is because credit card companies report your monthly statement balance to the credit bureaus. If you pay your bill or balance before the due date, the figure reported to the credit bureaus is lower. This results in a lower credit utilization rate.

If you are in the process of buying a home, pay down your credit card balance before the due date. Then ask your lender to do a rapid rescore.

Credit scores are not the only thing that matters to a mortgage lender

Unemployed woman on steps

Yes, your credit score is important when you are buying a home. But it’s not the only thing that mortgage lenders will look at. They will consider your debt-to-income ratio, which is the percentage of monthly income that goes toward paying your debts. Lenders also will look at your employment history to make sure you have stable income. Some practical advice: Keep your debt as low as possible. Don’t take out new lines of credit, and don’t switch jobs.

Keep up with your finances and work with a good lender

Stay vigilant once you get approved for a home loan. Lenders will review your financial profile before your loan is funded, so make sure to keep up the best practices for your credit score and finances even after you are approved.

Stay on top of your bills and manage debt wisely to keep those credit scores up when you’re buying a home. Make sure you’re working with a high-quality lender who will be able to offer tailored advice and guidance for your specific situation.