Subprime credit scores are declining across the country with strong declines in a few rebounding markets, according to Atlanta-based Equifax, a leading credit reporting agency.
“Consumer credit scores are improving in most major metropolitan areas,” said Trey Loughran, president of Personal Solutions at Equifax.
Designating credit scores below 620 as “subprime,” Equifax found the number of subprime borrowers decreased 2.1 percent from the third quarter of 2011 to the third quarter of 2012. The 2.1 percent translates to about 1 million Americans who rose from the subprime category.
“We are seeing a trend of consumers being careful and disciplined about their use of existing credit while also being cautious about using new accounts they have opened,” Loughran said.
Equifax observed the greatest improvements in markets where employment rates are strengthening. Population shifts are also impacting some markets, according to Equifax.
Equifax also found “early housing-bust markets” are experiencing improving credit scores as time passes since the worst of the foreclosure crisis. These markets include San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Miami.
The number of subprime borrowers in San Francisco declined 6.4 percent. In Sacramento, the number declined by 6.2 percent.
San Diego and Los Angeles experienced identical declined of about 5.3 percent.
Of the 25 metro areas Equifax measured, Chicago experienced the greatest decrease in subprime borrowers—about 9 percent.
Chicago’s rising employment rate is one major factor leading to this decline.
The only metro on Equifax’s list to experience an increase in the number of subprime credit scores is Houston, Texas. However, when population growth is taken into account, it is evident credit scores in Houston are improving as well.
The percentage of subprime creditors in Houston declined 0.5 percent from the third quarter of 2011 to the third quarter of 2012.
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