PERSON OF THE WEEK: A critical first step to establishing wealth for many Americans is the purchase of a home. However, the reality is that securing a traditional mortgage can be a challenge for millions of credit invisible consumers. These consumers must go through a time-consuming manual underwriting process of obtaining physical documentation to show they have credit history when applying for a mortgage loan.
With advancements in certain insights, the housing industry is finally in a position to potentially extend this opportunity to even more Americans – providing benefits on a national scale. In a recent interview with MortgageOrb, Craig Crabtree, senior vice president and general manager, mortgage and housing solutions, for Equifax, explains how access to certain data sets can benefit the entire mortgage ecosystem.
Q: How can the mortgage industry improve financial visibility for mortgage applicants and help open the door to home ownership for millions of Americans?
Crabtree: Expanding access to credit is an initiative the entire mortgage industry continues to focus on. Working together, the industry is helping to facilitate greater inclusion to the mortgage lending process by introducing more tools, technology advancements, and access to data to provide visibility to millions of consumers. Credit reports continue to provide an indication of credit history and past financial behaviors, however, reviewing various forms of alternative data, such as telco, pay TV and utilities insights, can help provide greater visibility of a borrower’s financial profile and increase opportunities for borrowers.
Q: How does using telco, pay TV and utilities attributes alongside traditional mortgage credit reports help create greater homeownership opportunities and expand the customer base?
Crabtree: While traditional credit reports remain a strong indicator of credit history and past financial reliability, thin file, young and unscorable consumers may not have strong enough credit files which can push the consumer into a time-consuming manual review of a mortgage application. A traditional credit history consists of whether payments are made on time, what debt a consumer owes, and what might be in collection. This credit history is then used to help determine creditworthiness and costs of credit, as well as assist the lenders and others in the mortgage industry in underwriting the loans.
Expanding the use of various insights to capture potentially more accurate indicators of financial strength opens the door for U.S. consumers that have traditional credit files but may benefit from additional insights into their financial profile. With differentiated data sets, such as telco, pay TV and utilities insights, Equifax is helping to broaden visibility into consumer creditworthiness, streamlining the mortgage underwriting process and providing greater access to credit – opening the door to home ownership.
In addition, our firm is always evaluating alternative and differentiated data and insights that can support mortgage lending decisions and facilitate the underwriting process. Greater insight into the true financial health of individuals helps lenders approve a prospective home buyer safely and more accurately. Many underserved borrowers still display the ability to pay on time. Incorporating differentiated data sets into lending can help alleviate lender uncertainty and help reduce barriers to accessing financial services.
Q: How will the mortgage industry/ lenders benefit from the use of telco, pay TV and utilities attributes?
Crabtree: Delivering these insights alongside traditional credit reports will help provide lenders additional visibility on 191 million consumers, of whom 38 million are credit invisible or un-score-able consumers. Reviewing traditional credit reports alongside expanded data insights enables the mortgage industry to develop a more complete picture of a consumer’s financial profile to drive greater financial inclusion by streamlining the mortgage underwriting processes for many more consumers.
These additional insights provide a more comprehensive view of a borrower’s true creditworthiness which enable lenders to help more consumers gain access to mainstream financial services and opportunities.