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“A lower FICO score will mean even when you put 20 percent down, the pricing will be higher if your score is low than it would have been if your score is high,” Ms. Sheehan says.

Mr. Busch says all consumers need to be aware of their credit score and address this issue first before applying for a loan. Consumers can get a free copy of their credit report each year from each credit reporting bureau through www.annualcreditreport.com, but must pay a fee to learn their credit score. Many websites offer free FICO scores, but the score often comes with a subscription to a score-monitoring service.

“Credit-repair companies can help you if you don’t have the time to follow up on mistakes on your credit report or need some advice,” Mr. Busch says. “But the first thing everyone needs to do is limit their use of credit and try to get each credit use under 50 percent of the credit limit.”