How Long Does a Foreclosure Stay on Your Credit Report?

Keys sitting on top of a foreclosure notice.
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A foreclosure remains on a credit report for seven years. This is the case for similar derogatory marks, such as a collections claim, tax lien, or delinquent account. Other items vary in time. For instance, a hard inquiry only lasts for a couple of years whereas a bankruptcy can hang around on your report for as long as a decade.

A foreclosure doesn’t take place overnight. It’s the culmination of a series of missed mortgage payments that results in the seizure of the property in question by the unpaid lender who owns the debt. Once the foreclosure process is finalized, it will appear on your credit report. Once the seven years have passed, it should automatically fall off the report. If it doesn’t, further steps should be taken, as is covered below.

How Does a Foreclosure Affect Your Credit?

According to a study conducted by FICO, a foreclosure can significantly impact your credit. The research found that scores dropped by 100 points or more after a foreclosure. As a rule, the higher the score was in the first place, the more the score dropped.

This drop generally pushed all scores right into the “Fair” and at times even close to the “Very Poor” credit ranges. This puts consumers out of reach of many of the benefits that come with good credit, such as:

  • Getting approved for more loans with higher borrowing limits;
  • Accessing lower interest rates and security deposits;
  • Maintaining the ability to negotiate with lenders and refinance existing loans;
  • Passing housing and employment credit checks;
  • Qualifying for credit card rewards.

It is worth pointing out that if you clean up your act and correct your faulty financial behaviors, your credit can begin to improve over the seven years that the foreclosure is on your report. In other words, while it will still stay on your report, the damage that it does to your credit score will diminish over time.

Credit score aside, as long as a foreclosure lingers on your credit report (even if your score has recovered somewhat) you may not be able to get a mortgage from some lenders.

Getting a Foreclosure Removed From Your Credit Report

There are a few reasons that you can have a foreclosure proactively removed from your credit report. For instance:

  • If you found that your bank skipped steps in the foreclosure process and sprung the situation on you, you can challenge the situation as an unlawful foreclosure.
  • Your mortgage lender may have made a mistake in informing you that you were foreclosed on.
  • A foreclosure may have remained on your credit report past the seven-year point.

In general, if the foreclosure is not due to your prolonged inability to make your mortgage payments or it hasn’t dropped off your report at the end of seven years, you may have a chance to proactively remove it from your credit report.

If the foreclosure is a mistake or has been on your credit report for too long, you can send a dispute letter to the credit bureaus requesting that it be removed from your credit report. It’s important that you get your free annual credit reports from all three credit bureaus so that you can see which ones are reporting the erroneous foreclosure.

How to Repair Your Credit After Foreclosure

If your foreclosure is legitimate, you may not be able to do anything to remove it before the seven-year waiting period is complete. However, you can still begin to repair your credit in other ways.

Post-foreclosure credit repair involves several different activities, some of which are briefly outlined below:

Keep an Eye on Your Credit

Reviewing your credit report annually is one of the best financial habits that you can have. It gives you a regular overview of how your finances are currently looking. You can catch mistakes and address possible future derogatory marks on time, as well.

Pay Your Bills on Time

Your payment history makes up a sizable 35% of your total credit score. In other words, paying your bills on time is a really big deal.

Paying credit cards and other bills in full is ideal. If you can’t do that, though, at least make the minimum payment every time. The best way to do this is to set up autopay when you can. Otherwise, create reminders to ensure that no bills slip through the cracks.

Establish Responsible Credit Habits

While paying bills on time is critical, it should just be the tip of the iceberg. Countless other credit habits are worth cultivating in your life. A few of the best of these include:

  • Only taking out non-revolving loans when you need them.
  • Continuing to use your revolving credit, but paying off your balances every month.
  • Catching overspending and doing your best to get on (and stick to) a budget.
  • Creating short-, mid-, and long-term financial goals to work toward.

The more you can catch bad financial habits in your life, the better off your credit recovery will go.

Get Professional Credit Repair Services

If you find that despite your efforts, you’re still struggling to repair your credit, you may want to consider hiring a professional. Credit repair companies can help you establish a financial game plan. They bring extensive experience and knowledge to bear on your foreclosure recovery efforts.

If you do go the professional route, make sure not to fall victim to shallow sales pitches promising unrealistic or fast results. Look for quality credit repair companies that have a track record of delivering results for their clients.

Be Patient

As you go about your various credit repair activities, remember to be patient. Repairing the damage wrought by your foreclosure and other negative financial habits can take time. If you’re willing to put in the effort and stay the course, though, you’ll eventually start to see results. From there, work to establish long-term healthy money habits that can keep you on the financially straight and narrow road.

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