by William DiPaolo
I’ve got a headache. Literally.
In a mortgage market that is arguably one of the most difficult we’ve seen in decades, you’d think today’s mortgage originators would use every available resource to increase their applicant’s qualifying ability. Too often however, they do nothing but order a credit file, glance at the scores and decline the applicant.
For the past six months I’ve been talking with broker after broker in webinars, on the phone and via magazine articles about the simple and very real fact that FICO is punishing applicant credit scores because of errors and issues in their credit files. I could say the same thing this way: “Don’t trust the credit scores on your applicant’s credit report, their probably lower than they should be”. Yet in all this, it seems I’m the only one that’s learned anything and that being how true the saying, “old habits die hard”, which is to say they don’t really die at all.
Ok, so I’ve given my self a headache by beating my head against wall after wall – but I’m amped up on Advil, so here I go again. Mortgage qualifying depends (to a great extent) on the credit score. While the paper credit report reveals your applicant’s current credit scores, it doesn’t reveal the data used to calculate those scores. The credit report is a composite (merged data from three different sources) which makes it near impossible to understand how the account tradelines relate to the credit scores. But what we do know is that over 70 percent of the time credit scores are wrongfully lowered because of bad file data or the applicant’s improper use of available credit.
So what to do? Since the odds are that the scores you see on a printed credit report are lower than they rightfully should be, it would be helpful to know A) what the scores actually should be and B) what issues need be corrected. You can pour over the paper credit report for hours on end and never answer any of these questions. But, run the file through some good credit proofreading software and you’ll get your answers instantly. You see, you need software to sift through the data solely from TransUnion in order to understand where errors are pulling down its score. Ditto for Equifax and Experian. You can’t use the merged tradeline data in a printed report since it may be a mash-up of data from all three sources. When it comes to qualifying, paper credit reports aren’t enough.
The ironic thing about this… and perhaps the root cause of my headaches is that credit proofreading software doesn’t cost anything since these tools come free when you purchase a paper credit report. All it requires is a change of habit. Most mortgage originators connect to their credit agencies through loan management software like Calyx Point or Encompass, which only pass through a paper (PDF) credit file. Left behind are all the credit proofreading tools that can help them increase file accuracy and raise credit scores. This is the habit that needs breaking. Instead, order the credit file directly through the credit agency’s software so that you can see the true qualifying potential. Then retrieve the existing file into the loan management software (rather than ordering it). There is no extra cost to do this – and it doesn’t add much time to the process. It will however, help you qualify significantly more applicants.