From the NYT:
IF you want to see how quickly you can ruin a great credit score, just skip a mortgage payment.
Missed mortgage payments, serious loan delinquencies, loan modifications, short sales, foreclosures and bankruptcies all drag down credit scores. Because a mortgage is such a big slice of anyone’s credit profile, it carries more weight than other loans. Both FICO and VantageScore have studied and quantified those impacts.
They reached similar conclusions: for people with near-perfect records, a single mortgage payment that’s 30 days late reduces a credit score enough to hurt. For anyone, a short sale — selling a home for less than the amount owed — can be almost as destructive as a foreclosure.
In contrast, a loan modification — when the lender approves new loan terms — can have a “very, very minimal” effect, said Sarah Davies, the senior vice president for analytics at VantageScore. In some cases, the borrower’s score might drop 10 or 15 points.
With a loan modification, said Joanne Gaskin, the director of global scoring solutions at FICO, “the consumer does not have to go delinquent to get assistance.”
Modification horror stories abound; some borrowers have been told they can’t be helped unless they’ve already missed payments. That doesn’t have to be the case, said Josh Zinner, the co-director of the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, a New York City nonprofit company active in foreclosure prevention.
In a study last month, FICO looked at how choices would affect three hypothetical mortgage holders: One with a spotless 780 score; another with a good 720, who may have missed a couple of credit card payments three years ago; a third with a not-great, not-toxic 680, who has sometimes fallen seriously behind on credit cards or a car loan. (Most lenders consider poor credit about 650 and below, Ms. Gaskin said.)
-30 days late: The gold-plated 780 drops to 670-690, the middling 720 becomes 630-650, and 680 is now 600-620. Effects are most significant for the strongest borrower. “A continued progression is going to have less and less impact on a score,” Ms. Gaskin said.
-90 days late: This is seriously delinquent, and brings the onetime best borrower down to 650-670, the midlevel one to 610-630, and the weakest to 600-620.
-Short sale, deed in lieu of foreclosure, or settlement, assuming the balance has been wiped out: The result is just a bit less serious. The 780 score deteriorates to 655-675; 720 to 605-625; 680 to 610-630.
-Foreclosure, or short sale with a deficiency balance owed: For either, 780 is 620-640; 720 is 570-590; and 680 is 575-595.