Mortgage originators will pay more to access consumer credit reports in 2024, reigniting complaints from mortgage lenders and trade associations.
In 2024, Fair Isaac Corp. (FICO), the company that retains the rights to the market’s adopted methodology to measure consumer credit risk, will charge one price – higher than the current price – to all mortgage lenders, independent of their volumes. The change represents a departure from the tier-based pricing structure it implemented in early 2023.
FICO will also collect the same per score price for soft pulls and hard pulls next year, an initiative that started in 2023 despite significant differences in these products.
“FICO will collect approximately $10 total for all three scores out of a $50 (or more) tri-merge report and score bundle, which continues to constitute a low percentage (approximately 20% or less) of the overall cost of a tri-merge report,” a spokesperson for FICO wrote in a statement to HousingWire.
For 2023, FICO said it would collect approximately $2 to $8 for all three score tiers out of a $40 to $50 (or more) tri-merge report and score bundle and out of an average $3,800 in closing costs. Compared to 2022, mortgage lenders in 2023 saw a price increase between 10% and 400%, mortgage trade groups and other stakeholders said.
For 2024, two mortgage executives who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, told HousingWire that they expect prices to increase by more than double in some cases. Ultimately, the sources added that lenders will charge more to their borrowers, who are already facing affordability challenges.
“It seems like only yesterday you could pull a single borrower tri-merge for $15 and a joint for $30,” Greg Sher, Managing Director of NFM Lending, wrote in a LinkedIn post that went viral in the mortgage industry. “Now those prices will be in the neighborhood of $50 and $100 respectively — one well-known, widely used credit reporting agency plans on charging $75/$150. For clarification purposes, every IMB uses 3rd party vendors (also known as credit reporting agencies).”
Scott Olson, executive director at the Community Home Lenders of America (CHLA), said that increasing prices in this difficult economic environment will “only make it difficult for borrowers to participate in the American dream.”
Soft and hard pulls
Another change for 2024 is related to the pricing structure of soft pulls, which are performed to provide pre-approval letters, only visible to the borrower and without impacts on credit scores. Its prices will come closer to those applied to hard pulls, which are recorded on the borrower’s credit report, visible to anyone and can trigger leads.
“Last year, we implemented a tier-based pricing structure for mortgage originations, and FICO collected the same per score wholesale price for most soft pulls as hard pulls, but some lenders qualified for a lower price in certain cases for some soft pulls,” the spokesperson for FICO told HousingWire.
Brendan McKay, president of advocacy at the mortgage broker group Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME), complained FICO doubled the cost of hard pulls at the beginning of 2023.
“Now they are charging the same amount for a soft credit pull, an inherently inferior product that provides less actionable information than a hard credit pull. There has been no justification given for the increased expense.”
According to McKay, the cost burden will be passed directly onto consumers, and those from underserved communities will feel it most.
“Despite being a private institution, FICO is currently a critical component in the mortgage process. As an industry, we owe it to future homeowners to bring attention to the misuse of power,” McKay said.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are moving away from the current Classic FICO credit score model, requiring lenders to use two credit scores generated by the FICO Score 10 T and the VantageScore 4.0 models, which are considered more inclusive than their predecessor.
Price to originators
A FICO representative said the company does not set the retail price for end users.
Ultimately, “Anything above these wholesale prices, charged as part of a tri-merge score and report bundle, is collected and retained by others who sell and distribute the scores,” the spokesperson said.
Credit bureaus, which work with the FICO model, may pass the FICO price increases to their clients.
TransUnion and Experian did not reply to a request for comments.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Equifax wrote to HousingWire that beginning in January 2024, it will have a price adjustment to “reflect cost increases from third-party providers of credit reports and credit scores.”
However, the spokesperson added, “Equifax is sensitive to the impact these third-party cost increases may have on customers, especially given current market conditions. With this in mind, Equifax is not increasing the costs related to the Equifax credit file component of the tri-merge credit report for 2024.”
The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) president and CEO Bob Broeksmit said that, “In light of these media reports about another round of unexplained sharp price increases, we reiterate our concerns about the lack of transparency into the factors that are driving these pricing changes.”
“Given the unique market structure and limited options for obtaining credit reports and credit scores, MBA urges policymakers to examine the drivers of these cost increases to ensure transparency and to protect consumers from paying higher costs in connection with their home mortgages,” Broeksmit said.
Editor’s note: This story was updated after publication to include comments from the Mortgage Bankers Association.