How Long Does a Foreclosure Stay on Your Credit Report?
Unless you can get it removed, a foreclosure will remain on your credit report for seven years. While a foreclosure can do serious damage to your score, there are several things you can do to rebuild your credit while you wait for it to drop off your report.
What is foreclosure?
Foreclosure is what happens when you stop paying your mortgage and the bank decides to take back possession of your house, forcing you to leave. Once the bank takes possession, it can then sell the property to recoup some of its losses on the mortgage.
However, banks don't typically foreclose after a single missed payment. Foreclosure laws vary from state to state, but most require lenders to send at least one notice of missed payment before taking further action.
Once a borrower has missed a couple payments, the bank will issue a demand letter asking the borrower to bring their mortgage current. If the borrower misses too many payments, the lender will issue a notice of default and begin the foreclosure process.
In most cases, the period between a borrower stopping payments and the bank starting the foreclosure process is several months. The majority of mortgage lenders give homeowners several opportunities to catch up on payments.
Does foreclosure show up on your credit report?
If a bank forecloses on your home, this will show up on your credit report. In addition, paying your mortgage late or missing payments will also appear on your credit report.
This is one reason why a foreclosure is so damaging to your credit score. By the time the bank decides to foreclose, a borrower may have missed three, four, or more mortgage payments, causing serious damage to their credit score.
How long does a foreclosure stay on your credit?
A foreclosure will stay on your credit report for seven years. This seven-year period begins running from the date of your first missed mortgage payment.
After the seven years have passed, the foreclosure should automatically drop off your credit report. However, the credit bureaus don't always delete items on time, which is why you should review your credit report on a regular basis.
If a foreclosure ends on lingering on your report after the seven-year period has passed, you can file a dispute with the credit bureaus. By law, the bureaus must investigate your dispute and remove a foreclosure that shouldn't be listed.
How bad is a foreclosure on your credit?
Unfortunately, a foreclosure is one of the most damaging items to have on your credit report. When you combine the foreclosure itself with all the late payments that accumulated on your report before the bank foreclosed, you can expect your score to drop significantly.
Just how much your score will drop depends on a couple factors, including what your score was prior to the foreclosure as well as how many payments you missed before the bank took possession.
According to a FICO study of the impact of foreclosures and short sales, most borrowers will see their score drop at least 100 points. However, the damage varied depending on what the score was to begin with.
How to get a foreclosure off your credit report
Federal law requires creditors and the credit bureaus to report information accurately. It also gives consumers the right to dispute any mistakes on their credit reports.
You can dispute a foreclosure on your credit report by following three simple steps:
Step 1: Get your credit reports and review them for accuracy
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) gives consumers the right to receive one free credit report from all three major credit bureaus once every 12 months. You can get all three of your reports by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
Once you have your reports, review each one thoroughly. Check for any mistakes or inaccuracies, paying close attention to the following:
The balance listed on your foreclosure
Your account number
Any information or data associated with the original lender
The dates listed for any late or missed payments
Dates for the foreclosure
Identify any mistakes you spot. It can be helpful to make copies and mark the errors with a highlighter, as you will need to include proof of the errors when you file your dispute with the credit bureaus.
Step 2: File a dispute with the credit bureaus
If you identified any errors or inaccuracies on your credit report, file a dispute with the credit bureaus. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the bureaus have 30 days to investigate your claim and either verify the information or delete it.
Step 3: Dispute inaccuracies with the lender
If the credit bureaus verify that all the information related to your foreclosure is accurately reported, you should then dispute the foreclosure with the original lender.
There are many dispute letter templates available on the internet, but this letter template from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is straightforward, to the point, and contains all the information you need to include as part of your dispute.
If the lender responds with proof that your foreclosure is accurately reported, you do have one final option. You can consider hiring a credit repair company to dispute the foreclosure, along with any other errors it may uncover.
While a credit repair company can't do anything you can't already do on your own, companies that specialize in credit repair have the experience and resources to challenge creditors and the credit bureaus. If it's in your budget, enlisting the help of a credit repair company might be worth a try.
5 quick tips for rebuilding your credit
Just because a foreclosure stays on your credit report for seven years doesn't mean you can't start rebuilding your credit now. Here are five strategies for improving your credit score while you wait for a foreclosure to drop off your report.
Pay your bills on time - Your payment history makes up 35 percent of your credit score, making it the most important factor in your score. Make sure you pay all your creditors on time every month so you don't accumulate any late payments on your credit report.
Become an authorized user - You can piggyback on someone else's good credit by becoming an authorized user on their credit card account. Just make sure the creditor reports authorized user activity to the credit bureaus.
Pay off debt - Paying off debt will improve your credit utilization ratio, which accounts for 30 percent of your credit score. You should try to keep your ratio as low as possible and by no means higher than 30 percent.
Open a secured credit card - A foreclosure can lower your credit score considerably, making it hard to qualify for a regular credit card. Fortunately, you can probably still qualify for a secured card, which you can use to build a positive payment history.
Take out a credit builder loan - With a credit builder loan, you pay into a kind of savings account and then receive the "loan" money at the end. This gives you an opportunity to establish a positive payment history, which can boost your credit score.
Will my credit score go up when my foreclosure falls off?
Your credit score should go up when the foreclosure falls off your credit report after the seven-year period. However, how much your score recovers will depend on any other negative items that are active on your report.
Also keep in mind that the foreclosure will affect your score less and less as time passes. While it's never a good thing to have a foreclosure on your credit report, its impact will lessen over time — especially if you take steps to rebuild your credit while you wait for the foreclosure to drop off.
A foreclosure will remain on your credit report for seven years, but you don't have to wait that long to start repairing your credit. While a foreclosure will undoubtedly hurt your credit score, using proven credit-building strategies can help you reverse some of the damage and work toward rebuilding.
About the Author
Mike is a recognized credit expert and founder of Credit Takeoff. His credit advice has been featured in CNBC, Investopedia, CreditCards.com, Bankrate, Huffpost, The Simple Dollar, Reader's Digest, LendingTree, and Quickbooks. Read more.