By Tony Garritano
What’s going on in the mortgage market? What trends should you be aware of? Tony tells you in this daily column.

Closing Rates Rise In October

Closing rates for all loans increased to 72.2 percent in October, the highest point in 2018 according to the October Origination Insight Report from Ellie Mae. This is up from 71.7 percent the month prior. Closing rates on refinances increased slightly to 64.9 percent in October, up from 64.4 percent the month prior, and closing rates on purchases held steady at 76.4 percent for the second consecutive month.

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In October, the average 30-year interest rate for all loans increased to 5.01 percent, also the highest in 2018 and up from 4.91 percent in September. The percentage of Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) increased to 8.2 percent in October, up from 7.2 percent in September.

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“As interest rates continue to rise, the percentage of Adjustable Rate Mortgages is increasing as homebuyers are looking to take advantage of the best rates from their lenders,” said Jonathan Corr, president and CEO of Ellie Mae. “Additionally, FICO scores remain the highest we’ve seen in 2018, indicating that lenders are not yet loosening credit availability to attract the shrinking refinance market. We’ll continue to watch this trend into the winter months.”

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Other statistics of note in October included:

>>The time to close all loans increased to 45 days in October, up from 44 days in September. Time to close a purchase loan increased to 46 days, up from 45 days in September, while time to close a refinance increased to 43 days in October, up from 42 the month prior.

>>The percentage of purchase loans dropped to 68 percent of total loans from 71 percent the month prior. Refinances represented 32 percent of total loans in October.

>>Overall FICO scores remained steady at 727 in October for the second month. LTV held at 79 for the third month while DTI increased to 26/39.

The Origination Insight Report mines data from a  sampling of approximately 80 percent of all mortgage applications that were initiated on the Encompass all-in-one mortgage management solution.

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USF Federal Credit Union Donates $10,000

We are in the season of giving, so I want to talk about how our industry is giving back. For example, USF Federal Credit Union (USF FCU) donated $10,000 to Tampa General Hospital (TGH) Foundation to purchase three, high-tech UV lights to disinfect toys in the play area of TGH’s Children’s Medical Center.

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The lights, known as toy sterilizers, quickly kill viruses and bacteria, making the toys safe for children to play with. “The toys need to be cleaned after each child plays with them,” explained Kelly Shelor, nurse manager of the Children’s Medical Center. “The UV lights will be a great help to us.”

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She said the lights typically kill germs in about a minute, and will make it much easier for staff to make sure the toys are clean.

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“We are pleased to be able to make this donation to the hospital and are glad this will help the children stay safe,” USF FCU president and CEO Richard J. Skaggs said. “The work they’re doing at the Children’s Medical Center is vitally important and we’re happy to help with this donation.”

TGH is a Select Employee Group for the credit union and TGH employees and their families are eligible to join USF FCU.

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Industry Leading CUSOs Join To Offer Innovative Solutions

CU RateReset, the provider of Financial Product Reset, Acquisition and Retention Software, today announced a partnership with myCUmortgage to offer CU RateReset Solutions to the myCUmortgage partner credit unions. CU RateReset’s three primary solutions all designed to engage the member through its KNOCK KNOCK platform are:

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Reset – for Auto, Mortgage, Credit Cards, CDs, HELOCs, and Personal Loans:

>>Enables a member to reset existing financial products they have with a credit union without the cost and hassle of refinancing – only a few clicks to complete the transaction.

>>Credit union selects members for program inclusion based on their internal requirements and CURateReset automates the member outreach, reset, and the closing documentation.

>>CURateReset automates loan and CD retention so Member Advocates can focus on expanding exisiting and developing new member relationships.

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LoanGEN – for Loan Acquisition and Recapture:

>>Recapture member mortgages, auto loans, personal loans and credit cards at other financial institutions as well as showcase products to attract new members.

>>Members can design their custom auto payment and move their existing loans over to their credit union.

>>Very successful as a tool for member facing areas to improve effectiveness and efficiency in presenting products to members and capturing a loan application.

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Digital Pre-Approval – for Credit Card, Auto Recapture, Home Equity Loans and new CD’s

>>Credit Union creates specific offers for each member and uses CU RateReset to create a unique digital experience for each member

>>The offer puts the member in control and allows them to execute documents, fund the transaction if necessary, and authorize balance transfers.

“We are excited to partner with myCUmortgage to offer the KNOCK KNOCK platform to its partner credit unions. We believe that beginning with Reset Mortgage, this partnership will help those credit unions with their digital transformation in an affordable and deliberate way with great support from both of these highly respected CUSOs” said Keith Kelly, Founder and CEO of CU RateReset.

“myCUmortgage is focused on providing comprehensive solutions to its partner credit unions to help them become exceptional mortgage lenders,” said Tim Mislansky, President of myCUmortgage. “As we looked at new opportunities to expand what we provide, we were struck by how the Reset Mortgage program offered by CU RateReset not only helps credit unions increase their mortgage retention and lowers their origination costs, but also how members benefit from easily controlling the interest rate on their ARM loans.”

“We’re thrilled to partner with an innovative CUSO like CU RateReset to bring the Reset Mortgage solution to our partner credit unions, as well as connect them to the whole suite of CU RateReset products through the award-winning KNOCK KNOCK platform. We look forward to working with them to bring new mortgage products to market for our partner credit union, “added Mislansky.

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Plaza Home Mortgage Adds New Disclosure Capabilities

Plaza Home Mortgage, Inc., a national wholesale and correspondent lender, announced that its BREEZE loan origination system now gives wholesale mortgage brokers a new option in generating both required disclosures and the LE at the point of sale.

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Plaza mortgage brokers will now be able to initiate and send disclosures to a borrower along with the LE through the BREEZE system. The disclosures that will be sent to the borrower include Broker state and federal disclosures and Plaza lender state and federal disclosures, as well as a Fannie Mae 1003 Application. For FHA and VA loans, the 92900-A or 26-1802a forms and other required program disclosures will be included. Loan originators will have the option of electronically signing the Fannie Mae 1003 and other forms that require their signatures.

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Once the disclosures and LE are received by the borrowers, they can consent and sign them electronically, and notifications will automatically be sent via email keeping the originator informed at each step. All documents are then automatically stored in BREEZE’s imaging system where originators can access and save for their record.

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As always, mortgage brokers can continue to use their own systems to prepare disclosures and the LE or submit the loan to Plaza which will create and issue the LE to the borrower.

“At the end of the summer, we introduced our new Loan Estimate capability that lets BREEZE users create LEs in five minutes or less. Now we are adding disclosures to complete the digital experience for brokers and their clients,” said Jeff Leinan, executive vice president, National Wholesale Production at Plaza Home Mortgage. “In today’s competitive market, where every loan counts, technology enhancements and skilled Account Executives allow Plaza clients to offer a superior user experience and increase loan pull-through.”

Plaza Home Mortgage has scheduled mortgage broker training webinars on how to use its new disclosure capabilities on November 19 and November 27.

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Equity Rich Properties Represent 25.7% Of U.S. Properties

ATTOM Data Solutions released its Q3 2018 U.S. Home Equity & Underwater Report, which shows that in the third quarter of 2018, nearly 14.5 million U.S. properties were equity rich — where the combined estimated amount of loans secured by the property was 50 percent or less of the property’s estimated market value — up by more than 433,000 from a year ago to a new high as far back as data is available, Q4 2013.

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The 14.5 million equity rich properties in Q3 2018 represented 25.7 percent of all properties with a mortgage, up from 24.9 percent in the previous quarter but down from 26.4 percent in Q3 2017.

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The report also shows more than 4.9 million U.S. properties were seriously underwater — where the combined estimated balance of loans secured by the property was at least 25 percent higher than the property’s estimated market value, representing 8.8 percent of all U.S. properties with a mortgage. That 8.8 percent share of seriously underwater homes was down from 9.3 percent in the previous quarter but still up from 8.7 percent in Q3 2017.

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“As homeowners stay put longer, they continue to build more equity in their homes despite the recent slowing in rates of home price appreciation,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president with ATTOM Data Solutions. “West coast markets along with New York have the highest share of equity rich homeowners while markets in the Mississippi Valley and Rust Belt continue to have stubbornly high rates of seriously underwater homeowners when it comes to home equity.”

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Honoring Industry Innovation

Recognizing The Best Of The Best!

PROGRESS in Lending Association was formed to give industry thought leaders a voice. The right formula of technology combined with business strategy can come together to solve real industry problems. Now we’re going even further with the Innovations Program. The Innovations Awards Ceremony is always a great event. Read about which companies were named the Top Innovations of 2010, those companies that were just named the Top Innovations of 2011, those that were named the Top Innovations of 2012, those that were named the Top Innovations of 2013, those that were honored as the Top Innovations of 2014, those that were honored as the Top Innovations of 2015, those that were honored as the Top Innovations of 2016 and those that were honored as the Top Innovations of 2017.

As part of the Innovations Program we want to reward industry-changing innovations. For those companies or groups that have come together to do something truly game changing for the mortgage space, we want to recognize all that you do in order to change the industry for the better.

What are we looking for? We want to recognize innovations introduced into the mortgage market between January of 2018 to December of 2018 that truly changed the mortgage market for the better. As part of this competition, we’re not only looking to recognize a new release, although we certainly don’t want to discourage the entry of innovative new releases that hit the market in 2018. We also want to reward companies and groups for doing creative things throughout 2018 that made a positive difference.

Understand that this is not a subjective competition. All applications will be scored on a weighted scale. We will be looking for the innovation’s overall industry significance, the originality of the innovation, the positive change the innovation made possible, the intangible efficiencies gained as a result of the innovation, and the hard cost and time savings that the innovation enables industry participants to achieve. Find out more about our criteria.

How will we judge? This recognition will not be decided by mere industry onlookers, all industry experts that make up the PROGRESS in Lending Association executive team will act as judges and all will be given an equal say in how applications are evaluated. Learn more about our executive team. Applicants will be judged by industry peers who know the space inside and out, just like you do.

The winners will be named at a ceremony to be held in Dallas, Texas on Sunday, March 24, 2019.

Lenders Now Have A Single Access Point To Dozens Of Real Estate Lending Products, Solutions

LenderClose has integrated with MeridianLink’s LoansPQ loan origination platform. Enabled as an optional feature for LoansPQ users, the LenderClose platform provides API connections to every vendor it takes to approve, underwrite and close a mortgage or HELOC loan. Through LenderClose, lenders access a suite of reports and services – from flood certification and valuation products to title reports and e-recording services. The result is a streamlined and vastly accelerated underwriting process, an increasingly essential capability for all community lenders. With one vendor, one integration and one invoice, lending teams realize multiple points of efficiency.

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“Today, community lenders are working with more vendors and fintechs than ever before to meet increased consumer demand for speed and personalization,” said Doug Glagola, vice president, Enterprise Solutions, MeridianLink. “That’s why it’s so important for lenders to have access to vendor aggregators like LenderClose. Unless that information is integrated seamlessly with the systems they already use, it’s incredibly difficult to provide the instant, accurate and reliable experiences members expect. LenderClose’s technical expertise and community lending market connections make them an ideal partner for our growing ecosystem of lending solutions.”

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The LenderClose/LoansPQ integration means loan officers and processors will have less data-entry tasks and fewer platforms to manage. Forms and other documentation that comes through the LenderClose platform will be automatically uploaded to LoansPQ, saving staff upload and download time. In addition, loan officers will have access to real-time data and reports across both platforms and a digital archive of forms for quick retrieval from anywhere.

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Andrea Remington, loan processing manager for Collins Community Credit Union in Iowa, anticipates the integration will have a dramatic impact on her team’s efficiency. “The ability to access LenderClose through our MeridianLink interface will free up an incredible amount of time for our staff,” she said. “Just the ability to use data that’s been pre-loaded by the originator will save us so much from both a time and errors stand-point. Every organization, especially in financial services, is looking for ways to keep staff engaged. When we find ways to make their lives easier, we have more time to spend on making the experience for the member easier.”

“One of the most exciting aspects of this integration is that our clients asked for it, and we were able to deliver, thanks in no small part to the big thinkers at MeridianLink,” said Omar Jordan, CEO of LenderClose. “Everyone we’ve worked with at MeridianLink – from the C-suite to the developer team – sees very clearly where the market is headed and what our mutual clients need to be successful.”

“Borrowers today enjoy a great and growing number of options for lending,” continued Jordan. “As competitors shout ‘no paperwork,’ ‘approval in minutes’ and ‘turn-around is less than two weeks,’ consumers hear it, and they expect local lenders to play ball. MeridianLink and LenderClose are helping the nation’s community lenders make the changes they need to do exactly that.”

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Act! CRM Introduces Marketing Automation Built For The Financial Services Industry

Swiftpage, the provider of Act! CRM software has launched the next generation of Act! which marries proven CRM with powerful marketing automation. The new Act! represents a significant step forward, both for Swiftpage and the broader financial services market, and is available in English in North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand this week.

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The new Act! is purpose-built for SMBs and includes rich customer management, dynamic sales pipeline management, powerful marketing automation, actionable business insights, and integrations with hundreds of business optimization applications.

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“Just like big enterprises, in order to stay competitive, small businesses are always looking for ways to improve customer engagement, drive retention, and increase loyalty through repeat business,” said H. John Oechsle, president and CEO of Swiftpage. “With the introduction of Act! Marketing Automation to the portfolio, we are now able to provide our customers with the ultimate toolset to drive business growth.”

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What’s New in Act!

Powerful Marketing Automation

Act! subscribers now have access to a single integrated platform combining CRM and marketing automation, allowing them to optimize all the ways they communicate with prospects and customers to maximize engagement and drive business growth. Act! Marketing Automation delivers comprehensive campaign management, a visual workflow designer to map out the perfect customer journey, real-time response metrics, and time-saving CRM workflow to fuse marketing and sales efforts.

Dynamic Sales Pipeline Management

Users can now manage their sales pipelines more effectively and intelligently with dynamic pipeline management tools, including an interactive sales funnel, in context KPIs, an actionable sales pipeline with drag-and-drop capabilities, and advanced filtering.

Subscriber Exclusive Enhancements

Act! delivers a number of additional valuable subscriber-exclusive enhancements driven by customers.

The Act! Growth Suite

For new users, Swiftpage’s SMB-focused Act! Growth Suite, delivers Act! Marketing Automation and Act! CRM, on a single, integrated platform, at a great introductory price. Active Act! CRM subscribers will also benefit from an introductory price when taking advantage of the new, integrated Act! Marketing Automation as a part of their current subscription.

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Mortgage Payoff Statements Becoming Gateways To Fraud

Fraud perpetrators are increasingly initiating wire fraud scams by targeting the industry practice of emailing or faxing payoff requests to title and escrow companies, according to a new white paper from CertifID.  As a result, the company is observing a breathtaking increase in the use of “spoofed” mortgage payoffs and fraudulent payoff statements to pull off wire fraud schemes.

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This disturbing trend is analyzed in Mortgage Payoffs Under Siege, a free, online white paper published by CertifID CEO/Co-Founder Thomas Cronkright, author of multiple reports on the burgeoning wire fraud trend. According to the white paper, over $1 trillion in mortgages are paid off each year; with most done so by wire. Traditional mortgage wire fraud scams usually began with a fraudster deceiving a buyer or key party to the transaction into believing that imposter was a key party to the transaction (such as the seller); then changing already established wiring instructions (with the funds then being diverted to the scammer).  Now, fraudsters are deceiving title companies by issuing counterfeit mortgage payoffs and wire instructions from the start.

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“Fraudsters now understand that it’s not that hard to ‘spoof’ or imitate an authentic payoff statement—and that statement is the ultimate authority for title or escrow companies awaiting official wire instructions,” said Cronkright.  “As a result, the agent’s guard is down and, once the fraudulent payoff statements are received by fax or email, the funds are quickly and mistakenly wired directly to the criminals.”

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Cronkright notes that this new wrinkle directly attacks the conventional best practice which marks any change to wiring instructions as a red flag. “Now, the fraudulent directions are often the first instructions the escrow or title agent even sees.”

The white paper describes five emerging examples of payoff fraud, including how the schemes work and what title and lending professionals can do to identify and prevent them.

The white paper can be downloaded at no cost at

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Partnership Enhances Digital Mortgage Efficiency

Ellie Mae and SimpleNexus, a provider that is bringing the home mortgage process to mobile devices through their dynamic digital mortgage platform, have announced an official integration partnership.

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The partnership provides SimpleNexus’ 180 clients and 18,000 LO’s fast and secure data transfer between the Ellie Mae’s Encompass Lending Platform and SimpleNexus’ Mobile Originator tools. The direct system-to-system integration with Ellie Mae enables loan officers on the SimpleNexus platform to access to their entire loan pipeline, order credit, run pricing, view appraisals, and send pre-approval letters from their mobile device, all while syncing in real-time with Encompass.

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“We are excited to provide Encompass users with this secure and powerful integration enabling the originator to do their job on-the-go, helping lenders improve relationships with Realtors while getting more loans in the door,” stated Matt Hansen, SimpleNexus Chief Executive Officer.

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The partnership between Ellie Mae and SimpleNexus ultimately helps lenders reduce costs and drive efficiency in operations, improve loan officer productivity and provide convenience and transparency to borrowers and real estate partners during the loan process.

SimpleNexus enables mobile origination, with fifteen of the top 25 retail mortgage lenders in the U.S. using their digital mortgage platform. This latest integration with Ellie Mae delivers the fastest real-time Encompass data transfer speeds available in the industry and further establishes SimpleNexus as a best-in-class digital mortgage solution.

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