(Bloomberg) -- U.S. mortgage borrowers during the pandemic have had the highest credit scores in more than 15 years.  

It’s not that lenders have toughened standards. Instead, ratings jumped largely because white-collar workers have raced to take advantage of the lowest mortgage rates in history. 

In the first quarter, 82% of borrowers had FICO credit scores of 700 or above, on a scale of 850, according to a study by Moody’s Analytics of the latest available data from Equifax Inc. That about matches the level for the previous two quarters, which was the highest in records going back to 2005, and up from 73.8% in the first quarter of 2020 as Covid-19 lockdowns were beginning.

Many homeowners have stayed put and cut costs by refinancing their mortgages, while others moved to bigger properties in the suburbs or in more-affordable cities to work remotely.

Average credit scores also have gotten a lift because Americans have more savings, thanks to government stimulus and the lockdowns, which reduced opportunities to spend money. Many have paid off debts and some have saved for down payments.

“Lots of excess savings in the pandemic have been used to pay down credit card debt, at least until recently,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “And credit card payments are a critical part of the credit score.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.