Under 600 Credit score, what that’s mean

Once your credit score has fallen below 600, purchasing or refinancing a home becomes somewhat more complicated; but is usually achievable through the right lending source.

If your housing payments, (monthly rent or mortgage payments), have never been 30 days late over the past 12 months¸ your overall approval chances are optimistic with these programs. In such cases, your interest rate and thus monthly payment would likely be much the same as if your score were actually 600 or better. 

If your mortgage payment history is not good, there are refinance programs available for credit under 600. However, in such cases, being late on your mortgage or rent more than twice over the past 12 months will usually disqualify you from these programs. As well, if you have been 30 days late twice over the past 12 months and have a credit score under 600, underwriters will look for a strong explanation of why you were late during those months. 

When credit scores are below 600 and there are late housing payments involved over the past 12 months, (30 days late on mortgage or rent payments), explanations must be backed up with proof. You would have to show that the late payments were caused by extenuating circumstances beyond your control. 

For example: believe it or not many people do not realize that loss of employment from layoff, injury or medical reasons are acceptable and understandable explanations to be late on your house payment (rent or mortgage). But any such explanations must be proven, and income must be re-established and also proven. 

Fabricated stories will never convince any underwriter to sign off on your approval. Being open and honest with your underwriter is the best way to go. Bring the truth and be prepared to prove it. 

Credit scores below 600 are usually accompanied by other mishaps that have occurred in an individual's life. FHA loans are the most popular today. FHA underwriters are allowed a range of discretion in making their decision about approving a file. So even if your story is unusual, but you can prove that something happened and that it did in fact occur from circumstances beyond your control, you would likely have a chance for approval, even if not today, but sometime in the next several months to come. 

Credit scores below 600, but above 550, usually encompass something currently good on a credit report that will help an underwriter make a positive decision, if other elements of an individual's file can be approved such as income and/or if purchasing a home down payment. Also when refinancing with a credit score below 600, low loan to value can also help. In many cases sub 600 credit scores can also be approved if debt-to-income ratios are low and duration of employment and/or the number of years in same line of work are strong. Strangely enough many credit analysts consider credit scores below 600 to be “bad” credit. If this is so, then certain FHA lenders are consistently financing people with so called “bad credit”. However in actuality, when an FHA underwriter approves a credit score under 600, he/she is actually taking many other factors into consideration. By applying a deeper analysis, the approved credit, even sub 600 score, would more likely be considered “good” rather than “bad”. This is simply because the individual has been evaluated and their credit worthiness has been based upon what caused the score to drop below 600 in the first place. In turn, by evaluating and applying other life factors manually and mentally, an FHA underwriter can make a determination about the more human side of things rather than solely and simply relying on an algorithm generated by Trans union, Experian and/or Equifax. 

To sum it up, whether it's bad luck or just the randomness of life itself, some people have 800 credit scores and some have scores below 600 or even less. Whatever the reason, if your credit score is below 600, and if you have re-established some credit and can prove stable income, there are a distinct few lenders that will consider the human factors of your life seriously consider your file for approval. 
There is a common misconception about how the financing of an FHA loan actually works.  Most people think that the government is actually lending them the money. Although the lender must be approved by the federal government to make FHA loans, the government is actually only insuring the loan.  It is the lender that must provide the funds for the loan.
As such, most lenders are subject to the guidelines that are placed on them by the investor source providing the money.
Wall Street seems to be controlling much of this.  Since the fall of the subprime market, mortgage back securities and their decision makers have adopted much stricter guidelines for financing "credit challenged" borrowers; even for FHA insured financing. 
HUD does not reference any credit score requirement for approving financing for an FHA insured mortgage.  Again it is the money sources and/or investors providing funds for the lenders that are placing these 640 credit score requirements on the system.
There are lenders providing FHA insured mortgages with credit scores under 640.  Some FHA approved lenders will go below 600.  There are a very select few that will approve borrowers with credit scores of 500 and up.  In the few cases seen, a score of 500 is required for a refinance and a credit score of at least 531 is required for a purchase. FHA insured mortgages seem to have become more popular in today's market.  There are several reasons for this.
Although these mortgages have not replaced many of the programs lost with the fall of the subprime market, FHA insured mortgages are provided quality financing for many people whom might have otherwise become prey from the less desirable subprime interest rates and pricing.
FHA guidelines and requirements are different from the many of the former subprime programs in that:
1)      First and foremost, FHA insured mortgages provide low interest rates for many folks with less than perfect credit.  These loans are usually provided with a 30 year fixed rate mortgage.
2)      FHA insured mortgages can provide 96.5% financing for folks trying to purchase a home.  Negotiate a sellers concession to pay toward closing costs (up to 6% of the purchase price), and borrowers with challenged credit can often find themselves purchasing their dream home for as little as 3.5% down.
3)      FHA's primary concern seems to be housing payment history.  If your mortgage and/or rent have been paid on time for the past 12 months, you are usually off to a good start in the underwriting process.  However, there is other criterion that must be met.
4)      Credit score is not supposed matter per FHA guidelines so credit score below 640, 600 or even 580, should not matter.  However much of the private sector money that actually funds FHA insured mortgages often puts minimum credit scores before other qualifying requirements.  As such, finding the right lender will be crucial if your credit score falls under 580, 600, or even 640.
5)      Income must always be provable and real.  IRS form 4506 is required to be signed.  As well the IRS form 4506 is processed on virtually every FHA insurance loan underwritten.  Transcripts from the IRS are pulled on just about every FHA insured file to confirm borrower income and actual income tax filings for the past 2 years.
6)      Self employed borrowers are also required to provide an YTD P&L Statement (year to date profit and loss) prepared by a verifiable CPA.
7)      Debt to Income ratios are usually strictly set at 43% back end, with FHA compensating factors making allowances up to 46% if reserves can be provided.
8)      If previous mortgage payment history is perfect and LTV is low, (less than 65%), sometimes stable income will qualify for 50% DTI on FHA insurance refinance.
9)      Non-occupying co-borrowers, in effect acting as FHA co-signers can often be added to the loan to improve debt ratio on borrowers that are in the 55% DTI range without the co-signer/co-borrower.
10)  Stated income, "no-ratio" and/or "no income check" mortgages are strictly forbidden on any FHA insured mortgage.