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CoreLogic® has released its 2019 Rental Applicant Risk (RAR) Report, showing the national RAR index declined by two points, compared to 2017, to 83. This indicates a decline in tenant risk, which could suggest the rental market will see an uptick in profitable lease activity. The annual report provides a benchmark of national and regional applicant traffic credit quality scores and indicates the relative risk of an applicant pool fulfilling lease obligations. The 2019 report found the credit quality of prospective property renters in the U.S. improved over the past five years across the Northeast, West, South and Midwest regions.

Data from the RAR Report shows favorable conditions for the continued improvement in rental applicant qualifications in the year ahead. Lower rental applicant risk can alleviate pain points for property managers and help avoid the risks of tenant default, and can also indicate a possible redistribution of applicants across “Middle Rent” and “Low Rent” properties following rising rent prices across the country.

“It’s encouraging to see an increase in qualified rental applicants over the previous five years, which could indicate continued improvement of economic health,” says Dr. Ralph McLaughlin, deputy chief economist for CoreLogic. “Rents have since rebounded from the Great Recession and are now growing at the same pace as house prices. However, it’s important to note that these rising rents might be causing Middle Rent applicants to apply for Low Rent properties, which can indicate that a subset of the population now is becoming priced out of the traditional rental market.”

Rent-to-income levels decreased for renters of the least expensive rentals, indicating more available capital for those applicants. Incomes rose 4.7 percent for applicants of Low Rent properties (under $750 per month), while income of applicants of Middle Rent properties (between $750 to $1,100 per month) and “High Rent” properties (over $1,100 per month) remained flat from 2017 to 2018.

The RAR Report found rental applications were down for both Middle and Low Rent properties. While Middle Rent properties increased rent by 0.7 percent to an average of $899 in 2018, Low Rent properties remained flat at an average of $675. Applications for High Rent properties, which on average increased rent prices year-over-year by 0.26 percent to an average of $1,524, were up in 2018.

Regionally, the West is below average in rental applicant risk, while the Northeast, South and Midwest are above average compared to the U.S. index value of 83. The West had the lowest index value at 73, indicating a higher potential for positive lease performance in the region. The Northeast is the second-least risky region, with a value of 85. The South and Midwest regions show higher index scores and thus illustrate lower credit quality among prospective renters.

The Index is calculated exclusively from applicant-traffic credit quality scores from the CoreLogic SafeRent® statistical lease scoring model, Registry ScorePLUS®. Registry ScorePLUS is the multifamily industry’s only screening model that is both empirically derived and statistically validated. For an interactive version of the 2019 RAR Report, which includes interactive charts and images, visit this link.

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