If you’re in the market for a home, you’re probably in the market for a mortgage. With the exception of all-cash buyers, most buyers will find out soon what their FICO score is and what banks think about it.
The FICO score has a huge impact on whether or not lenders consider you an acceptable credit risk, and yet there are more than 53 million Americans out there who don’t have a credit score at all. This doesn’t mean they’re a bad risk, necessarily… it just means they haven’t used credit cards, held a previous mortgage, or had an auto loan. They may be perfectly responsible financial citizens. So how do they apply for a mortgage?
In an attempt to broaden access, FICO has begin to factor new data sources. Announced in April, 2015, FICO will now include two additional sources: A national utility database, presided over by Equifax, and LexisNexis, which relies on public records.
The idea behind the change is this: First, the timeliness of utility payments can be used as month-to-month evidence of financial health. Second, FICO will be looking at LexisNexis address changes to determine how often people have relocated. In theory, frequent moves may be an indication of increased risk.
Though the impulse may be good, the changes are not without some controversy. Some argue the accuracy of the Equifax database may be a concern. It also adds one more credit reporting database which must be monitored. There’s also a worry that the “frequency of move” may unfairly punish people and provide a disincentive for relocations, downsizing, and upsizing of homes, provided FICO only uses the LexisNexis information in a punitive way.
More details are sure to emerge, but one thing is for sure: The era of Big Data in the cloud will be sure to cast their shadow on the way financial institutions assess risk in the years ahead. One hopes that they ultimately let in more sunshine than shade when it comes to helping buyers attain the dream of homeownership.
Steve Hill and Sandra Brenner
Windermere Real Estate