Credit Score dropped from 860 to 682. Any advice?

I did everything right. Over a decade, I paid off all of my credit card debt, two cars, my wife’s student loans, and my credit score jumped up to an 860 (I think that was the highest). I bought a house and got the lowest interest rate available at the time. I even had a back up plan in case of unexpected change. Kept building my savings. Paid my bills on time.

Then I unexpectedly lost my job. I put the plan into action. Decided to move cross country to an area with a lower cost of living. Sold my house, moved back east, lived with family while I looked for a new job.

I finally got a job and the next part of the plan was to buy a house. This is where I realized I had a problem. As it turns out, after more than 10 years without a missed or late payment, my wife and I had somehow “forgotten” to pay our last electric bill of about $200. We only found out about it after receiving a letter from a collections agency. We mailed in the payment and I checked my score.

My credit score score had dropped to 682 in less than a year. It looks like after we sold the house, the score dropped from 860 to about 780. Then after this missed bill, it dropped down to 682.

I talked to the electric company and explained that something obviously went wrong, because being 8 months delinquent on a bill didn’t match our history with them OR with any creditor. They responded by telling me that they had not only mailed us two large envelopes we “couldn’t miss”, and had records of 8 different attempts to call us about this outstanding bill. They even claim to have records that my wife answered 2 of the calls (to her number), and that they left 6 voicemails. They say this was all BEFORE they sent us to collections. The man on the phone refused to listen to (what I consider to be ) logic. It just doesn’t make sense for someone to just suddenly ignore a bill.

I have no question that this bill was missed. After the chaos of a cross country move (with two kids), I’m honestly surprised nothing else slipped through the cracks. I just can’t explain HOW it was missed for so long. We never got any of their letters. My wife’s phone history shows no record of calls or voicemails.

I disputed the claim with Transunion and they ruled that the negative mark was accurate and would remain on my report.

Does anyone have any advice? What can I do here? Do I have any options? I want to buy a house, but with interest rates slowly climbing, the difference between the payment on a 4.8% apr, and a 5.8% apr is pretty drastic. In fact, it’s throwing my back up plan into a tailspin.

Sorry for the length of this post. I just wanted to put in as many details as I could. I really hope someone has any advice, or recommendation other than “sorry bud, you’re screwed,” or “wait it out, the score will go back up.”


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