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Foreclosure occurs when a lender takes possession of a home after a homeowner misses several months of payments. Record of a foreclosure remains on your credit report for seven years from the date of the first missed mortgage payment that led to the foreclosure action.
In addition to loss of the home, it can have long-lasting negative effects on the mortgage borrower's credit and ability to secure a new loan. Foreclosure can drag down your credit scores the entire time it's present, although its impact typically diminishes with time.
What Is Foreclosure?
Foreclosure is a legal process that allows a lender to repossess and sell a home to cover debts still owed by the homeowner. Many lenders must wait until a mortgage is 120 days delinquent before starting to initiate foreclosure activity. The 120 days of delinquency means a borrower has missed four months of mortgage payments.
How a Foreclosure Affects Your Credit
A foreclosure can put a serious dent in your credit. The missed payments that led to the foreclosure can severely damage your credit, and the foreclosure itself can add even more harm. Here's an overview of how a foreclosure affects your credit.
- Missed payments hurt your credit history. Every missed payment is recorded on your credit report and has a significant negative effect on your credit score. A late payment shows up on your credit report when the payment is at least 30 days overdue. Subsequent late payments also will appear on your credit report. Late payments stay on your credit report for seven years.
- Foreclosure stays on your credit report for seven years. A foreclosure stays on your credit report for seven years from the date of the first missed payment that led to it, but its impact on your credit score will likely fade earlier than that.
- Foreclosure may hurt your ability to get a new mortgage. Even after your credit score rebounds, a foreclosure on your credit report could hurt your ability to get a new mortgage. Lenders may not approve an application from someone whose credit report has an foreclosure on it. Other lenders may not agree to lend to someone until at least three years have passed since a foreclosure action.
- You may pay more for credit. Because a foreclosure is viewed as a sign of a risky borrower, lenders may impose extra fees or charge higher interest rates if you have a foreclosure on your credit report.
Improving Your Credit After Foreclosure
- Address the cause of the foreclosure. Think about what led to the foreclosure and what you can do to prevent the missteps that triggered it. Did you take on too much credit card debt? Did you lack an emergency fund that could have provided a financial cushion? Coming up with answers to questions like these may keep you get your finances back on track.
- Pay your bills on time going forward. On-time payment of bills, including credit card and loan payments, can go a long way toward polishing your credit health, even after a foreclosure. Payment history makes up 35% of your FICO® Score☉ , the score used by 90% of top lenders.
- Stick to a budget. Creating and closely following a household budget that tracks your income and expenses can help you keep a strong solid financial footing.
- Visit with a credit counselor. Assistance from a nonprofit credit counseling agency may help you reduce or eliminate debt, setting you off on a path toward healthier credit.
- Regularly check your credit. Staying on top of your credit reports and credit scores can help shape up your credit after a foreclosure. You can obtain a free credit report from each of the credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) once a year by going to AnnualCreditReport.com, or you can check your Experian credit report for free every 30 days.
- Use Experian Boost®ø. At no cost to you, Experian Boost can help you raise your FICO® Score by taking into account your payment record for things like cellphone service, utilities and streaming.
Tips to Avoid Foreclosure
If you're worried you may be at risk of foreclosure, you can do things to prevent the loss of your home. Here are five tips for avoiding foreclosure:
- Don't ignore the problem. As soon as you realize there's a problem, reach out to the lender to see what you can do to resolve the issue. And don't dodge phone calls from the mortgage servicer or toss any letters you receive from them.
- Seek help. Free or low-cost counseling is available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) if you've run into trouble keeping up with your mortgage payments. A HUD-approved housing counselor can review your options, help get your finances in order and negotiate with your lender on your behalf.
- Look into financial solutions. To avoid foreclosure, you might consider refinancing your mortgage, modifying the terms of your loan or getting help from a mortgage assistance program.
- File for bankruptcy. Pursuing Chapter 13 bankruptcy might allow you to catch up on past-due payments and keep your home. Like foreclosure, bankruptcy will have a severely negative effect on your credit.
- Sell your home. Although it's a drastic measure, you might head off foreclosure by selling your home and putting the proceeds toward clearing your mortgage debt.
The Bottom Line
Facing foreclosure can be frightening. Aside from losing your home, a foreclosure will stay on your credit report for seven years from the point when you first missed a mortgage payment. While a foreclosure can put a sizable dent in your credit, remember that you can reverse the damage by figuring out what caused the foreclosure, vowing to not repeat mistakes that led to the foreclosure and being responsible with your money.