Getting a mortgage with bad credit is difficult, but it's not impossible.
Can I get a mortgage if I have bad credit? In short, yes. It’s hard, but getting a mortgage with a poor credit history is possible. Your options might be limited, though.
Mortgage lenders perform credit checks on everyone who applies, and black marks on your credit history will stand out every time. The level of significance depends on the amount(s) of money involved, as well as how recent the incident(s) occurred.
A number of high-street banks will refuse you a mortgage because of poor credit history, but other corporations like building societies are more flexible. There are also specialist ‘bad-credit mortgage lenders’ who focus on deals for people who have gone through difficult life events, such as serious illness or divorce.
These lenders are more flexible when considering mortgage applications, but have higher-than-average interest rates in place and charge larger deposits.
How to get a mortgage if you have bad credit
There are still a lot of ways you can give yourself the best possible chance of being accepted for a mortgage:
Ask if your partner is in debt: your partner’s credit score is taken into consideration if you’re buying together, so get everything out in the open before you proceed.
Get your own credit in order: being able to show a history of paying in full and on time raises your credit score and tells lenders that you are reliable.
Be patient: the magnitude of blotches on your history will reduce over time, most certainly if you are much better off financially when you apply.
Be honest with lenders: mortgage lenders will find anything, so don’t try to keep things covered in the hope of them brushing passed it. A lying customer is an untrustworthy customer.
Explain your situation: mortgage lenders will invariably want to know why you were in financial trouble and, more importantly, what you have done to turn things around.
Types of bad credit: missed payments, IVAs, CCJs and bankruptcies
Like we said earlier, mortgage lenders don’t just look at your credit score, but also the details of your credit history, when analysing your application. They need to know what happened, when it happened, and why. There are levels to this – for example, a missed utility bill will be judged much less harshly than a court judgement.
Each lender’s criteria will vary, so it could come down to finding the lender which is most suited to, or understanding of, your circumstances.
Here are the most common examples of bad credit, how each one may affect your mortgage application, and some examples of available help:
Missing a payment
Failure to make payments on time for things like bills or outstanding debts are recorded as defaults on your credit history and lower your rating. They don’t all hold the same importance, though. A missed bill payment is understandable, but a missed mortgage payment at any point will make any lender extremely unwilling to agree to a mortgage.
County court judgements (CCJs)
A CCJ can be ordered against you when you fail to pay someone the money you owe, even just for minor sums, and they can stay on your record for seven years.
Banks will take the failed repayment amount into account when looking at your mortgage application. Amounts of £200 will not be viewed as harshly as those of over £1,000, for example.
Most high-street lenders might be willing to give you a mortgage despite a CCJ if it is more than three years old and the amount is fully repaid, but any CCJs that are not ‘fully satisfied’ will severely lower your chances.
Debt management plans or IVAs can help
If you find yourself in large amounts of debt, one of the best ways to get out of it is by setting up a debt management plan. This is where you reach an agreement with a creditor to repay a limited amount of money per month.
Or, you can go for an individual voluntary agreement (IVA), which enables you to pay in affordable amounts for a longer period of time – often over five to six years. These are recorded in a public register and creditors cannot demand complete repayment while you have an IVA set up.
In extreme circumstances, declaring bankruptcy might be your one and only option. Your application may be considered by specialist lenders if the bankruptcy occurred over six years prior to the application and has been discharged, but high-street lenders are much less likely to be considerate.
Checking your credit score
It is advisable to think twice about applying for a mortgage if you think there’s a chance that you could be rejected, because every failed attempt shows up on your credit history and lower your score.
You might get around this if you’re applying for a mortgage in principle because lenders may only conduct a ‘soft check’, which will not appear on your record. But, soft checks don’t cover everything in your history, so a future mortgage application could still fail if issues crop up later down the line.
Whether you believe these factors apply to your situation or not, it is always worth checking your credit report before you apply for a mortgage. It could be beneficial to check with a few companies, because they all score differently.
Once you have the report(s), make sure to check that all your information is correct and start thinking of how you can improve your credit score.
In most cases, you will be better off waiting until your credit history has improved because this gives you access to more affordable mortgage deals. A reliable broker will advise you on the deals you'll likely be accepted for, or will tell you you’re better off waiting.
For more information and to get advice on mortgages with bad credit, visit our mortgage advice page.