We’re not necessarily looking to break technology news, but we are looking to put it all into greater context for you. Right now we’re hearing:

Understanding The News: An Appraisal Checklist Emerges

*An Appraisal Checklist Emerges*
**AMC Ensures Compliance**

***Currently, banks are expected to keep up with the numerous and changing regulations associated with appraisals, which is a very time-consuming endeavor. Many banks don’t have the resources to keep current, leaving themselves open to fines and regulatory scrutiny. So, MountainSeed Appraisal Management, a full-service appraisal management outsourcing firm for commercial and residential appraisals, now offers a free Compliance Checklist to help banks and lenders remain compliant with Dodd-Frank Act regulations. Here’s the full story:

****“What banks don’t know can hurt them,” said Carl Streck, CEO of MountainSeed Appraisal Management. “Banks and appraisers can use the Compliance Checklist at no cost to make sure that many of the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed on their appraisals when it comes to regulatory compliance.”

****Banks and appraisers only need to put in their name, company, state and an email address to download the checklist from MountainSeed’s website. The Compliance Checklist, designed to give a bank a brief snapshot of key appraisal regulations, will help banks evaluate and prepare themselves to address appraisal issues in their next regulatory exam.

****The Compliance Checklist includes important legislative developments, key interagency guidelines, the TILA Final Rule requirements, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s Appraisal Independence Requirements (AIR). By checking boxes next to each item, banks and appraisers ensure they are aware of the various regulatory requirements under all categories.

****“With the ever-changing regulatory landscape, it’s been challenging for banks and appraisers to be aware of the basic regulations required for residential and commercial appraisals, so this checklist is sure to be a big help,” Streck said.
MountainSeed also added blog postings along with its white papers on regulatory compliance for the appraisal community as new features to its website to help educate appraisers on new regulations from the Dodd-Frank Act. Banks and appraisers go through the same process—at no cost–to download white papers as they would to download the Compliance Checklist from the www.MountainSeedAMC.com website.

Understanding The News: What A Mess

*What A Big Mess*
**Putting The Meltdown In Perspective**

***PROGRESS in Lending has learned that there were 66,000 completed foreclosures in the U.S. in April 2012 compared to 78,000 in April 2011 and 66,000 in March 2012, according to CoreLogic. Since the start of the financial crisis in September 2008, there have been approximately 3.6 million completed foreclosures across the country. Completed foreclosures are an indication of the total number of homes actually lost to foreclosure. Here’s the details:

****Highlights as of April 2012:

****>> The five states with the highest number of completed foreclosures for the 12 months ending in April 2012 were: California (142,000), Florida (92,000), Michigan (60,000), Texas (58,000) and Georgia (57,000). These five states account for 48.8 percent of all completed foreclosures nationally.

****>> The five states with the lowest number of completed foreclosures for the 12 months ending in April 2012 were: South Dakota (62), District of Columbia (162), North Dakota (541), West Virginia (598) and Hawaii (601).

****>> The five states with the highest foreclosure inventory as a percentage of all mortgaged homes were: Florida (12.0 percent), New Jersey (6.7 percent), Illinois (5.3 percent), Nevada (5.0 percent) and New York (5.0 percent).

****>> The five states with the lowest foreclosure inventory were: Wyoming (0.7 percent), Alaska (0.8 percent), North Dakota (0.9 percent), Nebraska (1.0 percent) and South Dakota (1.4 percent).

****“There were more than 830,000 completed foreclosures over the past year or, in other words, one completed foreclosure for every 622 mortgaged homes,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Non-judicial foreclosure markets, like Nevada, Arizona and California, completed two and a half times as many foreclosures over the past year as judicial foreclosure states.”

****“The inventory of homes in foreclosure in judicial foreclosure states is growing, but this increase is being more than offset by declining inventories in non-judicial states where the processing timelines to clear a foreclosure are shorter,” said Anand Nallathambi, chief executive officer of CoreLogic. “Nationally the inventory of homes in foreclosure decreased 0.1 percent from what it was a year ago at this time, and has leveled off over the first four months of 2012.”

Understanding The News: Is Your Website HARP 2.0 Ready?

*Is Your Website HARP 2.0 Ready?*
**Reach Out To Borrowers Easily**

***PROGRESS in Lending has learned that Financial Literacy Solutions LLC, a firm that uses the power of the Internet and the accessibility of video to educate consumers about their mortgage options and to provide a more effective communication channel for loan originators, servicers and asset managers, has released a new video solution that lenders can use on their websites to attract borrowers who hope to refinance their loans under the government’s HARP 2.0 program.

****“Borrowers are tired of hearing about government programs that can’t help them because they don’t qualify,” said Garth Graham, founder and president of Financial Literacy Solutions. “This happens when borrowers don’t fully understand the programs or what it takes to qualify. The result is that the lender loses credibility and loses the borrower’s trust. Our new educational video on HARP 2.0 reduces that risk and puts more borrowers into the lender’s pipeline.”

****Like all of the web video widgets that FLS provides, the HARP 2.0 video allows lenders to more effectively communicate with borrowers in a manner that has been shown to be more engaging to American consumers. Video is currently the most viewed online content and home loan borrowers who view online videos are more engaged with the lender that offers it.

****In addition to the video, the widget provides links to other useful information, including a qualification wizard that leads the borrower through the qualification criteria without every leaving the video player.  FLS widgets can be shared easily with partners, such as real estate agents, who also want to provide valuable information to their clients. It can be deployed on a website, a blog or a Facebook page, with installation typically in only minutes.

****FLS has been heavily involved in creating solutions for the mortgage servicing and credit counseling industry, deploying video-based, consumer-facing educational material to help borrowers avoid foreclosure. Just as video can be used to help borrowers avoid losing their homes, it can also be used to educate consumers on their options for new loans.

Understanding The News: Research Points To Some Growth

*New Research Points To Some Growth*
**Equifax Report Seems Positive**

***Non-home finance write-off dollars year-to-date through April have decreased 52% according to Equifax’s April National Consumer Credit Trends Report. The write-offs have decreased to $26.2 billion as of April 2012 from $54.1 billion in April 2009. Today’s write-offs approach 2006 pre-recession levels of $24.0 billion and continue an improving trend.

****Non-home finance write-off dollars have declined due to both improvements in general repayment patterns and lower numbers of bankruptcies. Bankruptcy dollars have declined at a slower rate, comprising 15.7% of write-off dollars in 2009 but 18.5% of write-off dollars today.  This is due to faster declines in the average dollar size of general delinquencies, relative to the peak of the recession.

****Non-Home Finance balances declined by 7% or $193 billion since October 2008, but the deleveraging trend ended about a year ago, with balances now 1.5% higher than in May 2011.  Auto balances are increasing following the trend in rising auto sales, while card balances are declining at a slower rate due to sustained origination increases and payment improvements that mirror pre-recession levels.  Based on current trends, card balances will stop declining and begin increasing during 2012.   With the continued weakness in labor markets, demand for additional education is very strong.  As a result, student lending balances rose 66% to $766 billion in November 2011 (from the pre-recession average of $460 billion) before falling back to $753 billion as of April 2012.

****“Consumers are now starting to see greater accessibility to credit opportunities and they are taking advantage of those opportunities, though in moderation,” said Equifax Chief Economist Amy Crews Cutts. “The American household’s balance sheet is looking much better now, with debt burdens down significantly due to both write-offs and consumer-led deleveraging, and slow but significant improvements in the economy.”

****Other highlights from the data include:

****>> Home Finance balances have decreased $1.2 trillion since October 2008, posting a fourth consecutive year of decline.

****>> Home Finance real estate owned dollars (write-offs) for April 2012 have dropped 29% from April 2010 to $71.5 billion and is at the lowest level since 2008 ($74.7 billion).

****>> In April 2012, Home Equity revolving balances were near $560 billion, down $115 billion from April 2009, and down $43.8 billion from April 2011.

****>> Foreclosures In-Process for Home Equity Revolving credit dropped 37% from same time a year ago. At just under $1.25 billion, it is the lowest in two years.

Understanding The News: Painting A Very Clear Picture Of HARP II

*Painting A Very Clear Picture About HARP*
**Webinar Looks to Educate All**

***Will HARP II be the thing that restarts the mortgage industry? Probably not. However, HARP II does present a set of opportunities for lenders to help borrowers. So, what’s HARP II really all about? There’s a lot of misinformation out there so AllRegs will offer a training webinar entitled, “The HARP II Program,” Tuesday, May 22, 2012, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Registration is $265 per site, to educate the space. Here’s the details:

****The Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) was originally introduced as a part of the Making Home Affordable Program in March, 2009. The program had two outstanding advantages – it afforded someone who had worked hard to stay current the ability to refinance, and they were allowed to refinance their outstanding principal balance despite the fact that their property value may have be significantly “underwater” based on the fair market value. Servicers were still concerned about using the program as many of the people had loan-to-value ratios that far exceeded the 105% limit. The limit was raised to 125%, then to 140% of fair market value.

****In 2012, the HARP II program was announced to allow lenders to deliver HARP loans without a cap on loan-to-value ratios. Making changes to the LTV ratios is just one of the many changes to the revised HARP II program.

****During this 90-minute webinar, AllRegs will look at all of changes to this program and how they will impact those borrowers who were locked out of refinancing to a lower rate based on previous LTV restrictions. AllRegs Academy instructors Elana Lovoy and Pat Taylor will provide ideas on how to communicate this program to potential borrowers, analyze the risk and determine best practices for originating this type of loan program.

****Production and Servicing Managers, Risk Officers, Asset and Portfolio Managers, and any staff members responsible for early intervention of loans that may be at risk of default are encouraged to attend.

****The cost for this course is $265 per site, with the ability to dial in to the conference from one phone line at each site. To learn more or register, click here or visit www.allregs.com.

Understanding The News: Knowledge Is Power

*Knowledge Is Power*
**LOS Sees Refi Upswing**

***As vendors look to provide more value, they are realizing the importance of market visibility. So, what are they doing? They are using their data to create industry reports. Interthinx has been very successful in publishing its fraud report, for example. Now, origination vendor Ellie Mae has released its Origination Insight Report for April 2012. The report draws its data and insights from a sampling of the volume of loan applications that flow through Ellie Mae’s Encompass360 mortgage management software and Ellie Mae Network. Here’s what the report found:

****“As we move into the spring and summer buying season, there was a significant pick up in the percentage of purchase loans: 44% in April up from 39% in March,” said Jonathan Corr, chief operating officer of Ellie Mae. “This is the highest level of purchase loans activity in the last nine months.”

****To get a meaningful view of lender “pull-through”, Ellie Mae reviewed a sampling of loan applications initiated 90 days prior (i.e., the January applications) to calculate a closing rate for April. Ellie Mae found that 48.1% of all applications closed in April compared to 46.9% in March (see full report).

****“In April, the average loan-to-value (LTV) for closed loans hit 80%, the highest we have seen since we started tracking in August 2011,” Corr added. “The increase was driven by an easing of LTVs on conventional refinances (the average LTV was 69% in April compared with 65% in March) and what we believe to be the first surge in Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) 2.0 activity from correspondent lenders.

****“Last month closed refinances with LTVs of 95%-plus, nearly doubled to 7.1% compared to 3.6% in March. This has been slowly increasing since the HARP 2.0 announcement in October 2011, but correspondent lenders have only recently been able to run these loans through Desktop Underwriter and Loan Prospector.”

****However, the spike in activity has had some negative consequences. “Recently, the Wall Street Journal and other media outlets have been reporting that the nation’s largest retail lenders are now quoting long timelines for refinances—in some cases as long as 60 to 90 days,” said Corr. “While the average refinance going through our platform took five days longer in April than in March, it still only took 47 days. So, it appears that small and mid-sized lenders and community banks on our platform are providing faster decisions than the retail channels of some mega-lenders.”

Understanding The News: The Mobile Technology Advances Keep Coming

*The Mobile Technology Advances Keep Coming*
**LenderMobile Enhances Its Offering**

***PROGRESS in Lending has reported on a few vendors getting their feet wet in the mobile space. One of those vendors is LenderMobile, a provider of mobile mortgage loan applications for iPad computers. Now we have learned that the vendor has added two new features to its LenderMobile+ flagship application in response to users’ requests. Here’s the full details on how this vendor hopes to take this space mobile:

****The new imaging feature lets loan originators and borrowers take photos of documents with the iPad camera and add the images to loan files through cloud computing technology. Plus, the new loan notes feature lets users add notes to a loan file directly from their iPad.

****On the iPad screen, loan originators can click the new photo button of the LenderMobile+ app to take pictures of documents for a loan file, such as W-2 forms, tax returns, paystubs and drivers licenses, and do so from anywhere, from a borrower’s home to the local coffee house. Or users can choose from the iPad app’s library of photos to add to a loan file. This feature gives users the option of cancelling photos, so they can re-take photos of documents if not satisfied with the original ones.

****Once added to a loan file on an iPad, the document photos in the LenderMobile+ app are then validated and processed in the LenderMobile computing cloud and can be sent to a lender’s LOS. With the app’s photo feature there is no need to scan, email or fax documents.

****The new LenderMobile+ loan notes feature enables loan originators to add notes to individual loan files. A loan notes form is available on the screen for each loan file where users can type and save their notes in a free form text.

****“We’re making our iPad app more useful to users when originating mortgages,” said Iavor Boyanov, chief technology officer and co-founder of LenderMobile. “The new document photo feature is great for loan agents on the go who need copies of borrower loan information quickly to avoid any processing delays. And more and more loan agents requested the ability to write and add notes for particular loan files from their iPads, and we delivered.”

****The LenderMobile+ iPad app uses cloud computing technology to bring mortgage origination capabilities to the screen of any iPad user who has downloaded the mobile application. Loan originators using the app can complete all the required mortgage application forms, save the loan data and securely submit them to their LOS. Borrowers can electronically sign the loan application directly on the iPad. Loan agents also can order vendor services from their iPads, such as credit reports and review them in real-time with borrowers.

****LenderMobile+ can generate individual loan files, enabling users to add documents and other data to the file as well as deleting documents that are no longer necessary. Uploaded mortgage forms are automatically checked to see if they have been completed and electronically signed. The app handles all the necessary file generation for lenders, such as files for Fannie Mae’s DU 3.2. Data files can be written based on DU 3.2 specifications for a new file.

****The LenderMobile+ application can be downloaded at no charge from the online Apple App store. A monthly subscription is required for loan originators using the LenderMobile+ app to order services from third-party vendors and submit mortgage loan documents to their LOS. The subscription is available on www.LenderMobile.com

Understanding The News: Avoid Risk, Know The Subject Property Better

*Avoid Risk, Know The Property Better*
**Partnership Makes Property Visibility Easier**

***One leg of making a good decision about a loan is knowing everything there is to know about the property. So, how do you do that? It just got easier. CoreLogic, a provider of information, analytics and business services, and California Regional MLS (CRMLS), the nation’s largest multiple listing service (MLS) provider, today announced that CRMLS has joined Partner InfoNet by CoreLogic. The companies also announced that CRMLS has agreed to a multi-year extension of its Matrix MLS system contract.

****Launched in June 2010, Partner InfoNet is an innovative revenue-sharing program in which MLSs license their listing data to CoreLogic for use in risk management products for mortgage lenders, servicers, and capital markets (but not consumer outlets). With the addition of CRMLS, Partner InfoNet now encompasses nearly 1.1 million active listings and more than 450,000 real estate professionals from 78 MLSs.

****Matrix is an enterprise-class MLS system that provides real estate brokers and agents with a flexible, high-performance platform for managing real estate listings. 16 MLSs serving more than 163,000 real estate professionals currently use Matrix, and six more installations are scheduled for this year. In total, CoreLogic serves approximately 550,000 real estate professionals with its MLS systems—more than half the North American market.

****“Through our local member associations, we strive to provide the most dependable, convenient and affordable listing technology services available,” said Art Carter, CEO of CRMLS. “Matrix has proven to be an extremely fast and reliable MLS system that meets the needs of our progressive subscribers by supporting virtually all computing platforms and devices. Partner InfoNet supports our goal of keeping costs down for our members by simply and securely leveraging the value of our listing data.”

Understanding The News: The CFPB Concerns Most Lenders

*The CFPB Concerns Most Lenders*
*Research Reveals Compliance Woes**

***The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has made designing a new disclosure form that combines the Truth in Lending Disclosure (TIL) and Good Faith Estimate (GFE) a top priority in 2012. The pending reform also ranks as lenders’ greatest compliance concern according to QuestSoft’s fourth annual compliance survey. What else are lenders concerned about? Here’s the full details:

****The combined TILA/GFE disclosure was cited by 48 percent of lenders as a high concern, with an additional 33 percent citing the reform as at least of medium concern. The survey, which polled 426 lenders on their level of anxiety for regulatory changes, also found fair lending exams, continued refunds and losses from the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) fee tolerances (40 percent highest concern) and Dodd-Frank rule making (42 percent highest concern) as top issues.

****“The CFPB has been testing new disclosure forms for the past year, and we are expecting the final rule to be announced within weeks,” said Leonard Ryan, president of QuestSoft. “Factor in the CFPB’s position that consumers who do not receive proper disclosure should have the right to walk away from a loan, and it is no surprise that disclosure compliance is the top concern.”

****Ryan added that the overwhelming number of Dodd-Frank laws remains a high concern due to the uncertainty of what specific rules will be implemented, and their enforcement deadlines. RESPA Fee Tolerances were in the top three concerns for the second year in a row, polling as the second highest area of concern for 2011.

****“Dodd-Frank has listed seven new major reforms as its mandated priorities for 2012, but there is still uncertainty. These seven reforms are all required to have the final rule on or before January 21, 2013, and yet what exactly they will entail is unknown,” Ryan said. “This uncertainty naturally causes stress among lenders. Additionally, there is concern that the rush to comply with the law will result in final rules with unintended consequences.”

Understanding The News: Can You Calculate How Much Your LOS Saves You?

*Can You Calculate How Much Money Your LOS Saves You?*
**A New Report Quantified LOS ROI**

***Lenders never seem to be happy with their loan origination systems. And they’re right to be upset. Many LOS systems on the market are based on old technology and hinder the lender from truly advancing. Lenders become hostages to their LOS. Nonetheless, lenders need an LOS. So, how do you quantify the true return on investment? Origination vendor Blueberry Systems LLC released the independent findings of a MarketWise Advisors’ detailed ROI Analysis of the implementation of its RELAY loan origination system at Plano, TX based Starkey Mortgage. Here’s what the report found:

****“We are excited about the direct and measurable advantages that RELAY has already given us. We’re looking forward to the increased returns as time goes on,” said Starkey CIO Bill Burke. “But just as important to us has been the high level of service and the partnership they have developed with us. They are sincerely invested in our success.”

****Starkey Mortgage implemented RELAY in January 2012 and MarketWise Advisors closely analyzed the subsequent impact of the system on the lender’s loan origination operations. Based on the system’s performance, it found that in a typical implementation of RELAY, a mid-tier mortgage lender with $500M-$5B in annual origination would ultimately save nine hours of work, or approximately $287.75 per loan. Starkey Mortgage is well on the way towards achieving this objective ahead of plan. This operational impact spans all areas of origination, processing, closing, post-closing and secondary marketing and MarketWise projected direct ROI benefit at 5.07x payback with a peak efficiency levels within three years of implementation.

****“Based on our analysis, Blueberry Systems’ RELAY LOS offers a solid approach for lenders to manage business stages and the underlying data flow,” said Jordan Brown, CEO of MarketWise Advisors LLC. “It is also important to note that the indirect benefits of RELAY can potentially outweigh the direct benefits. These would include improvement of loan quality, data management, auditing framework, information security and process flow.”

****“RELAY has been thoughtfully designed with advanced technology and innovative strategies to help lenders manage their loan production pipelines efficiently and profitably. We are encouraged that MarketWise Advisors’ findings validate our value proposition,” said Wil Armstrong, a founder and CEO of Blueberry Systems. “We are proud to count Starkey Mortgage as a partner and are thrilled about their future prospects.”