Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Credit scores will get more personal

Credit scores will include estimates of annual income. FICO is developing separate credit scores to incorporate any payday loans, evictions, and child support payments.

By Mary Ellen PodmolikChicago Tribune/MCT / October 20, 2011

David Cholewa (shown in this 2008 file photo) is CEO of YourCreditCompany.com, which offers solutions for credit-related problems and advice on how to acquire optimal credit scores. Soon, credit scores will include options that include far more personal data about an individual.

YourCreditCompany.com/PRNewsFoto/File

Enlarge

CHICAGO

Many consumers applying for a mortgage are going to start sharing more personal information with lenders next year, like it or not.

Skip to next paragraph

FICO scores, the industry standard for determining credit risk in mortgages backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration, largely have been based on a person's credit history. But in an attempt to develop a more well-rounded picture of a person's finances beyond credit, tools are being developed to help the lending industry dig deeper.

Fair Isaac Corp., or FICO, the company behind the widely used scoring formula, and data provider CoreLogic last week announced a collaboration that will result in a separate score that will be available to mortgage lenders and incorporates information that will include payday loans, evictions and child support payments. In the future, information on the status of utility, rent and cellphone payments may also be included.

Separately, last month, the big three credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, began providing estimates of consumer income as a credit report option. And earlier this year, Experian began including data on on-time rental payments in its reports.

The new information could prove to be a double-edged sword for consumers: It may open the door to homeownership to some consumers who have, according to industryspeak, a "thin file" or worse, a "no-file," meaning they lack sufficient credit histories.

On the other hand, the extra information may make a borderline borrower look even worse on paper. And it's unlikely to quiet critics who complain that too much emphasis is put on a single number.

Still, there is thought among researchers that consumer transparency, if it demonstrates both good and bad behavior, has its place.

"You're trying to convince someone to loan you an awful lot of money at a low interest rate," said Michael Turner, president of the Policy and Economic Research Council. "Only you know whether you're going to pay it back. There is a harmony in this data exchange."

The FICO-CoreLogic partnership won't result in a credit score that will rule out a borrower for a mortgage backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or the FHA, which together own or guarantee at least 90 percent of the mortgages being written. That's because the "tri-merge" report required for such a loan does not rely on CoreLogic data. But it could mean either more or fewer mortgage fees or a higher or lower interest rate charged by lenders that in today's cautionary lending environment have heartily adopted risk-based pricing.

"We're fascinated to see, as we get into the data, whether that may expand the universe of people who can get a mortgage," said Joanne Gaskin, director of product management global scoring for FICO. "Banks are saying, 'How do I find ways to safely increase loan volume, to find the gems out there?' "

As a result, there's a rush by credit reporting agencies to provide financial companies, whether it's a mortgage bank or a credit card provider, with a wealth of information on individual customers.

"Before the (housing) bubble burst, there was a huge amount of interest in targeting the unbanked," said Brannan Johnston, an Experian vice president. "It was a desperate dash to try and grow and go after more and more consumers. When the bubble burst, that certainly dialed back some. They want to grow their business responsibly by taking good credit risks."

FICO scores have been around since the 1950s, but they didn't become a major factor in mortgage lending until 1995, when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac began recommending their use to help determine a mortgage borrower's creditworthiness. The score, which ranges from 300 to 850, factors in how long borrowers have had credit, how they're using it and repaying it, and if they have any judgments or delinquencies logged against them.