How Long Does a Foreclosure Stay on Your Credit Report?

A foreclosure will stay on your credit reports for seven years.

By , Attorney

If you don't make your mortgage payments, you could lose your home to a foreclosure. As long as the foreclosure shows up on your credit reports, it will damage your credit.

So, how long does a foreclosure stay on your credit report? It remains there for seven years after the date of the first late payment that led to the mortgage default.

But the damage from having a foreclosure on your credit report is lessened as time goes by. And you can start fixing your credit scores and building a positive credit history immediately after a foreclosure.

How a Foreclosure Affects Your Credit

Negative credit information, like delinquent mortgage payments that lead to a foreclosure, severely hurts your credit. In addition, a foreclosure itself damages your credit.

A foreclosure won't ruin your credit forever. But as long as the foreclosure shows up on your reports, it will hurt your credit scores. Your credit scores are based on what's in the credit reports that credit reporting agencies produce.

How Does Having a Foreclosure on Your Credit Report Affect Credit Scores?

A "credit score" is a number that indicates your creditworthiness—that is, whether you're likely to repay a loan or a debt. Credit scoring companies, like FICO and VantageScore, calculate credit scores using complex formulas. These formulas evaluate:

  • whether you made timely payments on your debts
  • how much debt you have
  • the type of debts you have
  • how long you've had accounts
  • your current credit activity, and
  • your credit utilization.

Your payment history and amounts owed are the biggest factors in determining your credit scores.

A foreclosure (and other negative credit information) substantially impacts your credit. Poor credit scores can prevent you from getting favorable interest rates on a home loan, car loan, or credit card. Bad credit can even prevent you from obtaining credit at all in some circumstances—at least until your credit improves. It could also hurt you when applying for an apartment or a job.

How Long After Foreclosure Can I Buy a Home?

The waiting period after a foreclosure before you can buy a home generally ranges from two to seven years, depending on the type of loan. Some kinds of loans require you to wait eight years.

If you can prove you lost your home due to extenuating circumstances, like an illness that prevented you from working and being able to make mortgage payments, your waiting period will probably be on the shorter end of the range.

What Does Foreclosure Do To Your Credit Score?

When you fall behind in mortgage payments, the loan servicer (on behalf of the lender) reports the late payments to the credit reporting agencies. The payments get reported as 30 days late, 60 days late, 90 days late, etc. The agencies then list the delinquencies on your credit report.

According to FICO, your score will drop around 50 to 100 points when the creditor reports you as 30 days overdue. Because your payment history makes up about 35% of your credit scores, each reported delinquency causes your credit scores to fall even further.

In addition, the scoring systems that FICO and VantageScore use consider foreclosure a derogatory event. According to FICO, late payments, collection accounts, settled accounts, repossessions, foreclosures, and public record items, such as judgments or bankruptcies, can significantly negatively impact your FICO credit scores.

How Much Does Your Credit Score Drop With a Foreclosure?

The drop in credit scores after a foreclosure varies from borrower to borrower. But generally, you can expect to lose 100 points or more from your credit scores if you have a foreclosure on your credit report. If you already have low credit scores, you'll most likely see less impact than if you had high credit scores before the foreclosure action.

FICO says that if you have a credit score of 680 before foreclosure, you'll lose 85 to 105 points after a foreclosure shows up on your credit report. Because delinquent payments cause so much damage to credit scores, having a foreclosure on your credit report won't matter as much if you were already far behind in payments.

However, if you have a credit score of 780 before a foreclosure, your score will drop 140 to 160 points.

How Long Does a Foreclosure Stay on Your Credit Report?

Credit reporting agencies may report foreclosures in your credit reports for seven years after the first missed payment that led to the foreclosure. The Fair Credit Reporting Act imposes this seven-year limit.

But if you apply for certain jobs with a salary over $75,000 or apply for insurance or loans, including mortgage loans, over $150,000, all negatives can be seen, even if they're more than seven years old. (15 U.S.C. § 1681c.)

While a foreclosure will remain on your credit report for seven years, its impact on your credit decreases over time. If you stay current on all of your other debt payments, your credit scores can start to rebound in about two years.

Can I Get a Foreclosure Removed From My Credit Report?

If you go through a foreclosure, you can't remove it from your credit reports until it has run its seven-year period. Don't fall for credit repair scams. Companies that say they can remove a legitimate foreclosure from your credit reports are scammers.

You can't eliminate negative items, like a foreclosure or other debt delinquencies, that happened within the past seven years. In many instances, credit repair companies simply write a letter to credit report agencies disputing errors and outdated information, which is something you can easily do yourself.

While you can't magically improve your credit after a foreclosure, the impact of this event on your credit scores will lessen over time. Remaining current on your other debts and disputing any incorrect information in your credit reports are the main ways you can help your credit recover.

When Will a Foreclosure Fall Off My Credit Report?

Again, like many other negative credit events, a foreclosure stays on your credit reports for seven years from the date of the first missed payment, called the "date of first delinquency" (DoFD).

After that period expires, the foreclosure should automatically fall off your reports.

How to See if a Foreclosure Remains on Your Credit Report

Review your credit reports to determine if a foreclosure is still showing on your credit history. Request a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Everyone is entitled to a free report from each agency once every 12 months. Also, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are offering free weekly online credit reports during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You're also entitled to a free report if:

  • Someone has taken adverse action against you because of information contained in your report.
  • You're on public assistance.
  • You reasonably believe your report contains errors due to fraud.
  • You're unemployed and expect to apply for a job within 60 days.
  • You're the victim of identity theft and have placed a fraud alert on your file.

To get your free reports, go to www.annualcreditreport.com. You can also request your reports by phone at 877­-322-­8228 or by mailing a form to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348­5281. The form is available online or by phone at the number listed above.

What If a Foreclosure Doesn't Fall Off After Seven Years?

Sometimes errors happen in the credit reporting process. A mistake can occasionally result in a foreclosure or another negative mark not falling off your credit report automatically after seven years. If you find yourself in this situation, you can dispute the credit report error.

The FCRA protects against the misuse and misreporting of your credit information. Under the FCRA, you have the right to dispute all incomplete and inaccurate information in your credit report with the agency that made the report. You may initiate a dispute about an incomplete or inaccurate item in your credit report online, by mail, or by phone.

Regularly reviewing your credit reports is the best way to fix credit errors and ensure that negative items drop off the reports when they should.

When You Should Contact Your Lender

In some situations, you should also contact your lender if you think they're wrongly reporting a foreclosure. For example, if your lender reports to the credit reporting agencies that you went through a foreclosure rather than a short sale, contact that lender in addition to filing a dispute with the agencies. The lender is then legally required to look into your dispute.

When to Contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

If the lender or credit bureaus won't correct your reports, and you're sure you're right about inaccurate reporting, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

How Can I Rebuild My Credit After a Foreclosure?

You can improve your credit reports and credit scores after a foreclosure. First, make a budget and a plan for paying down or paying off your credit card debt. Also, clean up your credit reports. Finally, use any existing or new credit wisely.

Make a Budget

The first step in rebuilding credit is controlling your debts and finances. Determine your expenses, your income, and the amount of your debt. Then, come up with a way to pay your debts and live within your means.

Contact a consumer credit counselor if you need help in the budgeting process. The U.S. Trustee's website has a list of government-approved debt counselors. Also, you can find a counselor through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

Pay Down or Pay Off Your Credit Card Debt

Because your credit utilization ratio is a big factor in your credit scores, pay down or pay off your credit card debts. (Your credit utilization ratio measures your credit card debt compared to your total credit limit.)

The more credit card debt you have and the closer your balances are to your credit limits, the higher your credit utilization ratio. The smaller, the better, so try for 10% or less.

Some experts say you shouldn't ever charge more than a third of the limit on your credit cards. One way to change your ratio of debt to available credit is to ask your creditors to increase the credit limits on your existing cards. Your outstanding credit card debt then becomes a smaller percentage of your credit limit.

But your balance must stay the same or go down. This tactic won't help your credit if you charge more after getting the limit raised.

Clean Up Your Credit Reports

After you get copies of your credit reports, note any negative items that are too old to be reported, including:

  • lawsuits, accounts sent out for collection, late payments, and any other adverse information more than seven years old
  • bankruptcies more than ten years after the filing or dismissal (Chapter 13 bankruptcies often stay on credit reports for only seven years, but they can stay for as many as ten), and
  • credit inquiries (requests by companies for a copy of your report) more than two years old.

Also, look for incorrect or misleading information, such as:

  • incorrect or incomplete name, address, phone number, Social Security number, or employment information
  • accounts that aren't yours or lawsuits in which you weren't involved
  • incorrect account histories—such as late payments when you paid on time
  • closed accounts listed as open—it might look as if you have too much open credit, and
  • any account you closed that doesn't say "closed by consumer."

After reviewing your report, dispute any outdated, incorrect, or misleading information.

You can also add positive information to your reports. For example, if your credit reports are missing an account that you pay on time, send the credit reporting agencies a recent account statement and documentation showing your payment history. Ask them to add this account to your reports. The agencies aren't required to add the account to the reports, but they often will.

Use Your Credit Wisely

If you have a credit card, use it every month. Make small purchases and pay them off on time. Again, making on-time payments for your debts and disputing any incorrect information in your credit reports are the main ways to help your credit recover after a foreclosure.

If you don't have a credit card, get one. Department stores and gasoline companies are likely to issue accounts, so this is often a good place to start.

If you can't qualify for a new card, consider getting a secured credit card or credit-builder loan. Credit-builder loans are solely for helping people build good credit. Some credit unions, community banks, and a few online lenders offer them.

With a secured credit card, you deposit money with a bank, and the bank issues a credit card with a credit limit that is a percentage of your deposit. Some secured cards don't report to credit reporting agencies, so check first. Otherwise, the card won't help rebuild your credit. Another option is asking a friend or relative to act as a cosigner or guarantor on a loan.

But don't apply for new credit before recovering financially. If you fail to make payments on new credit, your situation will only worsen.

Getting Help

If you have questions about improving your credit or need help fixing your credit reports, consider talking to a consumer protection attorney. If you have questions about ways to avoid a foreclosure, consider talking to a foreclosure attorney or HUD-approved housing counselor.

If you need help or advice about repairing your credit, instead of dealing with a credit repair organization, consider talking to a reputable lawyer or an accredited nonprofit credit counseling agency. Again, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling website is an excellent place to start looking for one.

But you should avoid credit repair companies and for-profit debt relief services.

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