For anyone who needs to improve their credit, the first question they ask is usually, “How long does it take to repair credit?” You’ll find that the answer isn’t a straightforward one. The time it can take to repair your score fully can vary tremendously, depending on a few factors.
You’ll need to determine exactly how many mistakes you made in terms of your credit, what they were, and the result you would like to see once you’ve repaired it.
People usually start this process when they’re looking to accomplish something significant, like buying a house or negotiating with a creditor. Knowing how long the repair process can take is essential in these situations to enable yourself to plan effectively.
With all this in mind, we’ve put together the following information so you can understand the options you have for repairing your credit in a certain amount of time.
What You Need to Know About Your Credit Report
First, let’s explore the basics of your credit report. Having a complete understanding of your particular situation is crucial since different factors go into determining FICO scores. This information can lead you to make better choices in terms of your financial standing and recovery since the answers might not be the same for everyone with bad credit across the board.
How Long Does Negative Information Affect Your Credit?
Not all errors are created equal, and you could find yourself dealing with the adverse effects of specific items long after you’ve corrected for other marks in your credit history.
Here are some general guidelines for how long negative information remains on your report:
- Paid tax liens last seven years.
- Judgments or lawsuits last up to seven years.
- Bankruptcy can last up to ten years.
- Collections can last up to seven years.
- Charge-offs last seven years.
- Late payments last seven years.
- Unpaid tax liens will always remain in your records.
How Is a Credit Score Determined?
What exactly goes into determining a FICO score? Five core factors combine to determine your credit score. Depending on the scoring model, these percentages can vary slightly, but you can refer to the following:
- New Credit. This item refers to how many accounts you have and amounts to 10 percent of your score.
- Credit Mix. This factor refers to the “mix” of the type of accounts you have that comprise your credit report. This factor also amounts to 10 percent.
- Your history refers to the amount of time you’ve used your credit. This item amounts to about 15 percent of your score.
- At 30 percent, this refers to the ratio of your available credit limit to your credit balance.
- Payment History. Most significant at 35 percent, payment history refers to how timely you make your payments. If you make late payments, this will have a negative effect, and vice versa.
These percentages are crucial and show you how to prioritize your credit. As you can see, making payments on time is the most important thing you can do to build a strong score.
Beginning the Process
Now that we’ve reviewed the essentials of your credit score and report, we can discuss the process of repairing your score and address the critical question: How long does it take to repair credit?
Step 1: Downloading Reports
The first step in credit repair starts with reviewing your credit reports. For this step, you need to download your report from one or all of the three major credit bureaus. You can get one free annual report from any of these bureaus:
Step 2: Review
Next, you’ll want to review these reports to find any possible errors they might contain. This stage is where the time you need to spend can vary. It depends on if you’ve reviewed documents like these before and if you’re familiar with what they contain.
Step 3: Compile Documentation and Write Dispute Letters
Your report may contain incorrect items. This issue is more prevalent than consumers realize. If an adverse item appears on your report, you have the right to dispute it.
You will need to draft your dispute letters and gather appropriate documentation to accompany them. If you have organized records, this step shouldn’t take too long. The variation comes from if you need to sort through your financial records or request documents for your accounts.
For this step, you do have the option of hiring a third-party credit repair service. When this is the case, the company can expedite the process to complete it as fast as possible.
A credit repair organization comes in handy since the third-party service will complete most of the process for you. All you need to do is complete step one and hire them for the rest.
Step 4: Waiting for a Response
The real waiting comes after you’ve submitted everything to the bureau. This submission starts the clock on the 30 days they have to verify and respond to your dispute.
Keep in mind that these 30 days encompass the time that the bureau has to review each case. If you have multiple disputes and submit letters to different bureaus, the timing may vary. The variation in how much time this step will take depends on how many disputes you have and how soon the bureau will respond within the 30-day window.
Here is your basic timetable for your credit repair.
Step 1: 30 minutes
Step 2: Up to 2 hours, depending on your expertise.
Step 3: Up to 1 week, depending on how many disputes you file and how clear your records are.
Step 4: A maximum of 30 days per dispute
Total: While much of this depends on your records, expertise, and the number of disputes you have, the total time can range from 1 to 6 months.
Keep in mind that the only real situation in which it would only take a month to finish the process is if you had no errors, gave few disputes, and were familiar with the material. For this reason, while one month is possible, it’s better to hedge your bets on three to six months.
Rebuilding Your Credit
The dispute process is only the first step in improving your score. It’s also crucial to work on rebuilding your credit while you are in this repair process.
Depending on how low your initial score is, fulling rebuilding your credit could take anywhere from less than a year to much longer.
You can’t do much while you’re waiting, but what you can do is take steps to build your credit. Focus on making your payments on time to create a positive payment history. Do your best to pay off any debt and ensure that your credit utilization ratio ends up as low as possible.
Repairing and rebuilding your credit might seem like a daunting task. However, it is manageable once you break down the process into simple steps. When thinking about how long does it take to repair credit, you can expect an improvement anywhere from one to six months. Focusing on repairing and rebuilding, you should be well on your way to a much-improved FICO score.