As you begin your journey to the home-buying process, you'll learn very quickly that your credit score plays a huge role in determining your buying power. Not only does your credit determine if you can get a loan, but it determines your interest rate if you do.

A credit score is a number that shows lenders how well you do when it comes to paying debts off.

There are several ways that you can check your credit score.

There are many websites that offer free annual credit scores, such as Free Credit Score. In addition, you are entitled to a free report from each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, Transunion) every year at Annual Credit Report.

Recently, many major credit companies began including credit scores on monthly statements. The next time you receive yours, keep an eye out to see if you can locate your score on your bill. If you use paperless billing, log in to your account online and you should be able to locate it on your digital statement.

After you get your scores and reports, you'll want to know what to do with it. Your lender can help you determine which loan program may work for you, but it's important to be sure your report is clear of things that you believe are inaccurate. Review your report closely and report anything that looks off so that your interest rates aren't impacted by false marks.

And remember, even if your credit is lower than what you thought it would be, that doesn't necessarily mean you're ineligible for a home loan. There are ways that you can improve your score quickly to position yourself for a competitive rate when buying real estate. Talk to your lender to discover your options!