New credit reality: scores must be higher to get the best rates

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Getting the best interest rates on major purchases, whether that's a house or a car, can be much harder with today's stricter credit standards. Credit scores must be higher, and so does the amount you plan to put down on a house, even to get a mortgage.

In 2006, when I wrote my book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Improving Your Credit Score, you could get a 0% down home loan with a credit score of 720 and still get the best interest rate. Today in order to get the lowest rates for a home loan, you'll need at least 10% down and a credit score of 760 or higher. For a 15-year equity line, you'll need a score of at least 740 and you'll only be able to get a loan for up to 80% of your home's value. In 2006, you could get a loan for as much as 100% of the home's value. Loans for as much as 125% of the home's value were also available, but you wouldn't get the best interest rate.