FICO, the data analysis firm which launched and maintains the widely used FICO credit score, claims to have developed the ability to better predict which borrowers are going to strategically default on their mortgage commitments.
Strategic default has become the popular term for choosing to default on a mortgage note, usually because the value of the property has fallen so far below the value of the loan. Lenders have traditionally used the degree of home price depreciation as a basis for predicting strategic defaults; however, new FICO Labs research indicates that borrowers whose houses have lost the most value are only twice as likely to default as those whose houses have lost the least value, the company said.
“Through the use of custom analytic models, FICO Labs researchers have demonstrated the ability to identify borrowers who are over 100 times more likely to default strategically than others,” FICO said. The problem has been particularly acute for FICO because many of the strategic defaulters have been among the groups of consumers who appear to be the best sorts of credit risks on paper.
The company said its research found that that, as a group, strategic defaulters tend to be more savvy managers of their credit than the general population, with higher FICO scores, lower revolving balances, fewer instances of exceeding limits on their credit cards and lower retail credit card usage, the company said.
"Mortgage payment patterns have shifted, and some borrowers are intentionally defaulting on their mortgages because they believe it is in their best financial interest, and because they believe the consequences will be minimal," said Andrew Jennings, chief analytics officer at FICO and head of FICO Labs.
"Before mortgage servicers can work effectively with potential strategic defaulters, they must first be able to identify them. Our new research shows it is possible for servicers to find those at greatest risk of strategic default, both to prevent losses and to prevent borrowers from making a decision that will damage their credit future," Jennings said.