As someone who has worked within and closely watched the real estate world for more than 30 years – both in Detroit and throughout the Midwest – I am often asked for my opinion on the current economy and where I think it might be going. When looking at one key indicator, FICO, or, credit scores, the scene is far from pretty.
10 years ago, when the market was robust, just one or two out of every ten applications and scores we looked at had what we call “hair on them”; that is, some sort of “warning flag” that a particular person might be a risky tenant. Today, by contrast, six out of every 10 applications are suspect and risk from customer defaults is pronounced.
In turn, as managers and receivers for multi-family apartment and condominium properties, we have been forced to adjust accordingly. Where, in the freewheeling days of easy credit, we routinely offered security-deposit-free lease deals, now we must weigh fiscal responsibility with real and tangible risk; for example, a sliding scale menu of security deposit “breaks” (i.e. no deposit with a credit score of 750; reduced at 650 and full below 600).
It is an unfortunate ramification of risk mitigation today in an economy where a tenant is just as likely to walk away from their contract as honor it. If only these same individuals considered the long-term effects of thinking in the short term. Such irresponsible decision-making can come back to haunt in a major way down the road when trying to get a loan on a new home. Not to mention how a plummeting FICO score will adversely impact insurance costs – from health to auto. It is “pay me now or pay me later” via a slippery slope which can be hard if not impossible to recover from.
Can we recover? Yes. Will we recover? Absolutely. It will, though, take sacrifice and a new mindset to, in time, turn things around. How often have we seen it over the years? From crisis can come redemption.