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Ask John: How low can your credit scores go?

Hey John,
I've got horrible credit. My scores are very low. My highest score is 510 and my lowest score is 480. And what if I stop making payments on my mortgage and the bank forecloses? Will my scores go down even more?

Renee Haverstein
Fall River, MA

Renee — The score range for the FICO® score is 300 to 850. That means even your low scores can go lower if you're not careful. The lowest I've ever seen is 393, so it can happen. Here's a screen shot...

FICO Score: 393

I think you should keep the following in mind...

You're going to find it pretty much impossible to get approved with scores as low as yours. I'd think twice before applying right now; even if you're approved, your rates are going to be obscene. You really need to go into score improvement mode, which might mean avoiding new debt for now.

Your scores could definitely go even lower if you end up losing your home to foreclosure. However, I don't think the foreclosure factor matters right now in relation to your scores. I just don't see any lender approving your applications. What foreclosure will do, however, is prolong the life of your low scores.

You can expect a negative item to affect you for at least seven years after it hits your credit file. That will make efforts to improve your scores much more difficult because you start from scratch each time something like that hits your reports. There's a component of the scoring system that severely penalizes you for recent negative events. Your last delinquency really needed to be your last. Draw a line in the sand and don't let it happen again. Then you can focus on score improvement and eventually jump back into the world of prime borrowing.

As always, if you have any questions about credit reports, credit scores, or anything credit-related, please feel free to contact me at CreditExperts@credit.com

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