As a couple, together you certainly could qualify for a home, though the qualifications would rest more upon your partner's score and income. I would talk to a lender before doing anything and he/she could tell you best about what you could qualify for. My recommendation also is to talk to more than one lender and not to a big bank, but to a smaller local lender. They will be friendlier with your low score towards a loan package and more likely to assist you in getting your score up so you can qualify for a better loan.
As for your score, while I am not a financial adviser, I have helped numerous clients (and my husband before we bought our first house) with the following tips:
- if you don't have a credit card in your name get one or two, even if they are secured
- use the card every month, even if it is just to buy gas for your car
- DON'T pay the balance OFF, but pay it down each month. They want to see you use it and carrying a small balance.
- in paying the balance down, pay more than the minimum by at least $5. It's sounds silly, I know, but this will boost your score 5-20 points per month, depending on the card.
- If you already have a card, get your balance below 50% of the total limit. This will boost your score 20-30 points. If you can get it below 30%, you get a bigger boost.
- by paying only slightly more than the minimum each month, your balance will start to rise, so every now and then, pay more than what you charged in that month or, if you can afford it, a couple hundred dollars. A combination of this and the last two can potentially boost you 50 points in one month. I've seen it happen!
- Do not miss payments or pay late on anything, including utility or cell phone bills. They get reported also!
Over a period of 6-12 months you could have your score up to 700 or better if you are consistent.
Hope this helps!