ATLANTA — The average price of a home in the 12-county area of metro Atlanta has skyrocketed 23% from 2021, according to data collected by Georgia Multiple Listing Service.
Homebuyers in the area are paying an average of $353,000 dollars in 2022 -- and that’s if you get lucky.
First time homebuyers like Carly Zabkar have experienced the frustration of the housing market firsthand.
“It has been extremely difficult," she said. "First time homebuyers don't have a shot. It's really hard to compete with people that have a lot more equity from houses that they already have."
One of the major factors working against many first time homebuyers is credit, explained Shazia Virji, General Manager of Credit Services at Credit Sesame.
"They feel like there are a lot of cards stacked against them," she said. "Two thirds of millennials are credit invisible, meaning that they don't have a credit score or their credit score is very low."
In fact, roughly 50 million American consumers have either a limited credit history, or no credit at all. Virji said a large chunk of that population is millennials, the same generation that makes up a majority of today's homebuyer hopefuls.
Virji said there are some factors playing into millennials' record low credit visibility.
"They're still burdened with student loan debt, and they also saw the consequences that the 2008 financial crisis had on their families and their upbringing," she said. "So they're very averse to take on additional debt. The unintended consequence is that they've essentially locked themselves out of the credit system, making it a lot more difficult for them.”
Zabkar, who is also a junior loan officer, said she and her fiancé have had the opportunity to build credit over several years, but even then often feel it's a losing game.
“The houses that we're attracted to and then we want to put an offer in, they disappear in days and minutes," she said. "I thought I would be in a house already. I've been renting. I'm about to be 30 years old and it's not as easy as I thought.”
She's not alone. The number of millennials who expect to rent forever has doubled in the last few years to more than 18%, according to Apartment List’s millennial homeownership report.
But here’s the good news.
All three major credit bureaus and mortgage buyer Fannie Mae recently announced they’ll allow rent payments to count toward credit and loans.
“It is the largest obligation that people have, and so it should be included, and now it is,” said Virji. "It can help you boost your credit score and the positive impact can happen rather immediately, sometimes in as little as 10 days."
People can't yet do this themselves, but rent reporting services like Credit Sesame can help get your rent payments on the books, including those from the past two years.
Most charge a fee, $50-100 on average. Others are free, or pass the cost of the service on to landlords.
“It's establishing that they're able to make the payments on time, that's what building credit is," Zabkar said. "So why not be able to do with rent?”
It's potential leg up for those who just want a place to call home.
"You just have to keep fighting and keep trying and keep looking, and hanging in there," Zabkar said. "You can get so much return and just building so much equity in your name to buy, so I think it's worth the risk if you can build up enough credit."
According to Virji, for someone with a credit score at or below 550, the average increase after factoring in rent is more than 50 points. She said that’s huge for many people – since credit really isn’t just a generational issue, but a socioeconomic one too.
"We're giving people more access to enter the financial system," she said. "It's really serving a lot of these underserved populations and segments of the population."
Here are some companies that offer credit reporting services:
- Rent Reporters: There is a one-time enrollment fee of $94.95, which includes up to two years of reported rental payments. From there, you can enroll in a monthly plan ($9.95 per month) or the annual plan ($7.95 per month). It reports to TransUnion and Equifax.
- Rental Kharma: Initial setup is $50, including six months of past history, and the service is $8.95 per month. It reports to TransUnion.
- LevelCredit: Previously known as RentTrack, LevelCredit charges a $6.95 monthly fee to have your rent and utility payments reported to Equifax and TransUnion. A look-back of up to 24 months is available on your current lease for a one-time fee of $49.95.
- eRentPayment: Free for users. Landlords are charged $3 per transaction or $10 for up to five transactions per month. Reports to Equifax and Experian.
- PayYourRent: Collects rent and reports payments to all three bureaus. Free for tenants, generally set up by landlords.
- Rock the Score: There is an enrollment fee of $48, and ongoing service costs $6.95 per month. There is a $65 fee for reporting up to two years of rental history. It reports to TransUnion and, if the landlord is a property manager, Equifax.
- Esusu Rent: Reports your rental payments to the three major credit bureaus. You can sign up as an independent renter for a $50 annual fee on the Esusu Rent mobile app. (It also has a version offered through landlords.)
- MoCaFi: Free for debit card or MoCaFi app users, $3 per report for online users after the first report. Reports to Equifax and Transunion.
- CreditMyRent: This service charges a monthly fee of $14.95 with no setup fee. There are additional charges if you want past rent reported. It reports to TransUnion and Equifax.
- PaymentReport: A $49 enrollment fee gets you two years of rental history reported to Equifax and TransUnion. Ongoing reporting is free, and you can add an additional roommate or spouse for free. (It also has a version offered through landlords that requires electronic rent payments.)
- Piñata: Free to renters. It reports to at least one major credit bureau, no matter your landlord. If your landlord signs up for a specific partnership with Piñata, your rent payments can be reported to all three bureaus.