Applying for a mortgage can be time-consuming, and there's a lot of preparation to do before you even apply. With this in mind, Motley Fool analysts Kristine Harjes and Nathan Hamilton talk in the video below about why homeowners in three particular states should nail down their finances before applying.

Kristine Harjes: Here at The Motley Fool, we've been doing a lot of thinking about mortgages lately. We found a great article by our friends at NerdWallet that highlighted the different approval rates in states across The United States. In that article it really stood out to us how low some of these approval rates were in certain states.

Nathan Hamilton: Yeah. Actually, putting it in context how low the rates are in each state, I was actually surprised that overall, the approval rates are so high because many of them, even when you're saying the lowest, they're still above 80% -- which to me was a little bit surprising. Hadn't really looked into what mortgage application approval rates were before, but it was a little bit shocking to see.

Looking at the three states that have the lowest approval rates, essentially you've got Florida, West Virginia, and Maine. If you look at the actual numbers, Florida is 82.9%; West Virginia, 84.3; and then Maine, 84.5, just a little bit ahead of West Virginia.

Harjes: The reason for this, at least for two of these three states, has to do with the average credit score of somebody applying for a mortgage.

Hamilton: Yeah. I looked at the date and was saying, OK, what could be the actual cause of it? To me, it's like, OK, is it income? Is it some other demographic information? I was looking across average credit scores for different states. It's pretty shocking when you look at, OK, low approval rate and what the credit scores are. You can definitely start to see that correlation with the exception of Maine, I would say, in this instance. In Florida, the average credit score is 678 on the FICO scale. West Virginia, it's 680. If you look at the average across the nation, it's just under 700 -- about 699 is what they really peg it at.

Harjes: Here's somebody in one of these states, and/or you're somebody with a below-average credit score. This is really important to note because, in the end, it could end up costing you a lot of money on your mortgage.

Hamilton: Yeah. Looking at it, one tip that you can do to essentially improve your credit score rather quickly is start paying down your debt because, with your FICO score, you're credit utilization ratio is measured. What that is, essentially, is how much debt you're borrowing versus what you have available. As you pay it down, your ratio goes down. Your FICO score improves.

Harjes: Right, and it could be hard to adjust how much you're actually using of your credit on the numerator side of that equation, but if you can adjust the denominator, meaning how much total credit you're extended, then bam, that is one super simple way to help out your credit score.

Hamilton: It can be as short as a month or two to actually see those impacts to your credit score, which, if you look at all the other factors and what you can do to improve your credit score, that is one of the quicker [ways].

Harjes: Yeah, and it's a pretty easy process.

Hamilton: Rather easy.

Harjes: I personally did this no more than a month ago. It was kind of on a whim. I was just like, "You know, I wonder if I can increase my credit limit on my credit card." Maybe five clicks later I was approved.

Hamilton: Done, boom.

Harjes: Yeah. It's really simple. Listeners, if you're thinking about it and you haven't done this in a while, definitely investigate and see if you can also utilize this trick to improve your own credit score, and if you've been there and done that or you're just looking for even more ways to improve your credit, please visit There are a ton of helpful mortgage tools including a guide called "5 Tips To Increase Your Credit Score Over 800."