SmartMove is one of TransUnion’s tenant screening products. TransUnion is one of three major credit bureaus along with Experian and Equifax. In this SmartMove review, we will discuss the pros and the cons of their tenant screening product. This article will refer to the SmartMove product as the TransUnion Full Credit Report. Before we begin, let’s briefly examine how the product has evolved.
TransUnion SmartMove Over the Years
Here are some significant milestones and updates for the TransUnion SmartMove report:
- December 2010 – MySmartMove.com domain is registered and the service is launched shortly after
- December 2014 – Eviction records became available
- July 2017 – Judgments and liens were removed from reports
- April 2018 – Income Insights became available
You’re probably wondering why judgments and liens were removed and we will get to that later in this post. Before we dive into this review, it’s worth noting who I am and any bias I have in writing this article. My name is Stephen White, I’m the Founder of RentPrep a nationwide tenant screening service since 2007. I’m uniquely qualified to review the TransUnion Full Credit Report product because we offer it as one of our screening packages.
Until 2014, I largely dismissed the TransUnion Full Credit Report product because it did not include eviction data, which is the most critical data a landlord can look at. However, many landlords want to see the full credit report including the actual credit score of the tenant applicant. In April 2017, we launched a partnership with TransUnion and began offering their TransUnion Full Credit Report product to our clients.
So, how much does SmartMove cost? Here’s what the TransUnion Full Credit Report pricing looks like as of February 20th, 2023.
SmartCheck Basic – $24.99
SmartCheck Plus – $39.99
SmartCheck Premium – $41.99
If you’re a fine print reader, you may wonder why certain states don’t include criminal data. Later in this post, we will explain why certain states do not offer criminal data to instant background check services.
You’ll notice in the $24.99 SmartCheck Basic package they do not offer eviction data. Again, in my opinion, a tenant screening report without eviction data is not worth your time.
SmartMove Income Insights Product
Income Insights is a new product launched by TransUnion in April 2018.
The product provides the following:
- An estimate of whether or not the applicant’s credit behavior aligns with self-reported income.
- An estimated variance between the applicant’s self-reported income and the Income Insights estimate.
- A recommendation of whether or not to request additional proof of income from an applicant, such as a recent pay stub.
This sounds great for an extra $2 until I tested this on myself and a few others. What I found is that the estimates were off because they’re being based in large part on credit behavior. If your tenant is thrifty and a big saver, this tool will likely tell you they make less than what they reported. That’s because it looks at their credit history and average expenditures and compares that against their algorithm. I wouldn’t want to look at a tenant applicant in a negative light because of an estimate that underreports their income.
Cons Of SmartMove
There are pros and cons to every service and I’ll do my best to explain those with TransUnion Full Credit Report.
1. Criminal Data
First, let’s address the criminal data not offered in 5 States. Certain States have decided not to allow “instantaneous access” to their criminal data. Why would a state do this?
You guessed it…money.
If your tenant applicant committed a crime in Colorado, Delaware, South Dakota, Wyoming, or Massachusetts, you would not see this data on a TransUnion Full Credit report. South Carolina is starting to move down this road as well. These States realize they can make an extra buck by charging CRAs (Consumer Reporting Agencies) to access their data.
Every time we run a RentPrep Background Check we pay a little extra for the criminal data in those states whereas TransUnion Full Credit Report, also known as SmartMove, omits that data. Something to be aware of is that even if your rental is not in that State, that doesn’t mean your applicant didn’t live there at some time.
2. Tenant Involvement
This one bothers some landlords and others could care less. When you order the report, also known as SmartMove, the sequence of events looks like this:
- Place the order for the report
- Enter your applicant’s email
- Your applicant receives an email and fills out the necessary details
- You’re notified that your report is ready
This oversimplifies the TransUnion Full Credit Report ordering process, but I want to address the gap between Step 2 and Step 3. If your tenant applicant fills out the necessary details minutes after getting their email, you’ll receive a completed report within 10-15 minutes of placing the order. If the renter takes a week to complete Step 3, you won’t receive the information for a week. Let’s say a potential renter loses that email in their spam folder, you’re not getting that report until they get it. If your tenant applicant doesn’t have an email address, they cannot use the TransUnion Full Credit Report option.
Some landlords could care less about tenant involvement because they see it as a warning sign if the tenant cannot complete the report promptly. The advantage of no tenant involvement is that you can move through the tenant screening process quicker (in most instances) and at a more predictable pace. You’ll see many services touting themselves as “Instant Screening Services.” Most of these services assume the applicant will do their part immediately, which is unrealistic.
We’ve found that about 40% of ordered TransUnion Full Credit reports, also known as SmartMove, are never completed by the tenant applicant.
3. Instant Data = Instant Errors
My major problem with TransUnion Full Credit Report is not a problem inherent to only TransUnion Full Credit Report, but a problem plagues most tenant screening services. And that is the actual data that gets returned. Instant criminal records are not as accurate (as discussed earlier).
TransUnion Full Credit Report contains a national criminal background report as well. The problem with this is that database criminal reports are not as accurate. For this very reason database criminal reports are not allowed for employment screening.
We use multiple databases on RentPrep Background Checks (3 to be exact) because every day we find a criminal record that is recorded in one database and not the other. The explanation for this is simple, the courts and sources of these records have no obligation to share their documents with any particular database. That means we can find a criminal record for murder on one database and not a single record on another for the same person.
We realized this huge problem many years ago and stopped offering instant criminal background checks. Instead, we aggregate every report through an FCRA Certified Screener who can search multiple databases and ensure the quality and accuracy of the report being returned.
4. Eviction Records Are Spotty
I’ve often said that once a person goes through an eviction, they’re more likely to go through another. They’ve lost the fear of the unknown and know there’s light on the other side of eviction. A second eviction is like going through a haunted house the second time, it’s far less scary.
We see many cases where an eviction is filed and appears on a judgment search, but not an eviction search. So again the only solution is to run these tenant screening reports using multiple databases, which an instant report plugged into one database, like TransUnion Full Credit Report, cannot do. A credit report is NOT a background check. However, there is a way to run a TransUnion Full Credit report and still be able to see Judgment and Liens.
5. Judgments and Liens
As of July 1st, 2017, the three major credit bureaus began removing judgments and tax liens from credit reports. This was due to the creation of the National Consumer Assistance Plan. The TransUnion Full Credit Report is a souped-up credit report, it will no longer show 95% of Civil judgments and over half of all tax liens. I discussed this on episode #149 of the RentPrep For Landlords Podcast.
We recorded the podcast above four months before these changes took place. Looking back, we have more data over a year later, such as the quote below.
Both TransUnion and Equifax found that about 9 percent of people in the national consumer credit databases have either a tax lien or judgment reported on their credit file. That’s about 19.8 million people who could be affected by the change. – Credit Karma.
However, not every tax lien or judgment has been removed from credit reports, just the majority. FICO ran a study on 10 million credit files and found that about 6 to 7 percent of their 10 million files had a judgment or tax lien removed from their file. At a population of about 336 million, you can figure about 19.7 to 23 million Americans who have had a judgment or tax lien removed from their credit report due to the National Consumer Assistance Plan.
How important is this data though? It turns out it’s essential.
LexisNexis Risk Solutions, an aggregator and seller of information, found that mortgage borrowers who have a judgment or tax lien are 5 ½ times more likely to go into pre-foreclosure or foreclosure. – BusinessWire
A mortgage lender will not lend to someone who is 5.5 times more likely to go into pre-foreclosure or foreclosure. That’s for a homeowner, now I’d wage that those numbers are even higher for a renter not paying their rent on time. Unfortunately, rent payments are not typically reported so there is no juicy data to share.
There is a silver lining though—our TransUnion Full Credit Report package with the $7.00 add-on for judgments and liens. You’ll receive a report identical to the SmartCheck Plus report. All the data comes directly from TransUnion. One of our FCRA Certified Screeners will do a manual Judgment/Lien search after your tenant finishes their part of the ordering process.
As far as we know, we’re the only tenant screening service in the U.S. offering this add-on to TransUnion Full Credit Report. Most automated services do not do this; this search requires a human screener.
Why Not Use TransUnion For The Report?
This is a fair question. As mentioned earlier we can offer the Judgment/Lien search, but we also provide more than that. Our mission is to help landlords before, during and after the tenant screening process. That’s why we’ve created a host of free resources for you.
RentPrep For Landlords Facebook Group
When you create a RentPrep account, you can join our RentPrep For Landlords Facebook group. This Facebook Group has over 13,500 landlords ready to answer your questions. It’s a free bonus we offer to RentPrep clients.
We also have our podcast to keep you updated on the latest news affecting landlords. The podcast is listed on significant streaming channels including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and more. We’ve also included the transcriptions of podcasts on our blog.
RentPrep Weekly Newsletter
Every Tuesday, we send out our weekly newsletter with the latest posts from our blog and any company news or industry insights we may have for landlords.
Pros Of SmartMove
After all, we offer the product and find it the best of the instant credit report options on the market.
1. Reputable Company
The top of this short list is going to be the fact that TransUnion Full Credit Report is a TransUnion product. I like this because TransUnion is the authority in credit reports for the real estate industry.
Having used all three bureaus’ credit reports (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax) I have to say that TransUnion uses a FICO score model that is much more “real estate friendly” because it doesn’t inflate the scores.
This is only useful if you know about credit scores, and how to read a credit report.
2. Full Credit Report With Score
We offer a Tenant Credit Check that can be added to our RentPrep Background Checks. Some landlords (including Brandon Turner of BiggerPockets) love this option. However, some landlords don’t want a pass/fail metric and want to see the specific credit score. If this is you, we recommend sticking with a TransUnion Full Credit Report.
3. Tenants Can Pay
Finally, the last feature I like about the SmartMove report is letting the tenant pay for the report. This is not a feature exclusive to TransUnion Full Credit Report, but it’s convenient for a landlord who doesn’t want to handle application fees.
Final Verdict On SmartMove
It all depends on what you’re looking for with a screening service. You’re not wrong with whatever you choose. Many screening services will “white label” the TransUnion Full Credit Report product as their own. If they offer complete credit reports, without onsite inspections, they’re using either TransUnion Full Credit Report or Experian Connect to gather that data.
I believe between those two services that the TransUnion Full Credit Report is the superior product. We don’t believe in white labeling services. Transparency is one of our values as a company, which is why we make known that we work directly with TransUnion on this.
If you’re set on seeing the credit report with the score, your best bet is the TransUnion Full Credit Report. If you want to know the judgment and liens search, you’ll only see that by ordering a TransUnion Full Credit Report through RentPrep. Purchase the RentPrep report here.