Millions of Americans are seeing their credit scores sink to new lows.
Figures from FICO Inc. show that more than 43 million people now have a credit score lower than 599 and are a poor risk for lenders.
That's more than 25% of the United States population.
KHQA's Jarod Wells talked to a mortgage lender and a real estate broker to see what causes low scores, what they mean for the long haul and what you can do to turn them around.
VP of Mortgage Lending at First Community Bank in Keokuk April Girard said, "The last two years of your history is the most significant, when it comes to scoring systems as far as I've seen. It can go as far as seven to ten if you've had a bankruptcy out there, a foreclosure a repossession of a vehicle.."
A low credit score adds up fast. Late payments on credit cards, mortgage, student and auto loans make it difficult to get credit.
Girard said, "If you've had any recent lates though, you are looking at a longer time for it to heal. You can't have any lates out there if you're actively looking to get the best rate and pay the cheapest fees."
As far as buying a home with a bad score.
Century 21 Real Estate Broker Gary Broughton said, "If you're talking 599 or below, today in the financial market, they're probably not going to be able to purchase the home."
So what can you do?
Girard said, "The best way to build it back up is to get all the negative debt out there corrected. If you have a collection out there try to work on getting it paid off. And if you can only attack one at a time, at least try to make your minimum payments on everything and then try to tackle one debt at a time."
And once your score starts going back up, check out the difference it would make in a monthly mortgage payment.
Broughton said, "I've got a chart here and it's kind of an average chart, but say you had a 620 score. According to this chart your, APR would be 5.8% for a 30-year fixed at a $100,000 mortgage and your monthly payment would be $587. Consequently if you could get that to 700, your payment would be $503, that's $84 a month difference right there."
On a positive note, the number of consumers who have a credit score of 800 or above also has increased in recent years.