Creating The Ultimate Experience In Today’s Mortgage Environment

Across every industry, organizations are racing to differentiate when it comes to the customer experience – and this is especially true in mortgage lending. Truth be told, there is no golden ticket or a single tactic to improve the experience. It takes a balanced and thoughtful approach with careful consideration for what consumers really want.

Finding this approach is vital in today’s “Amazon” world. Every organization is competing to deliver the experience consumers expect, which is being shaped by Amazon, Netflix and the likes. While these companies may do well when it comes to a superior digital experience, they may not be ideal models for financial services organizations, including mortgage lenders. They lack the localization and personalization that consumers increasingly want.

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In fact, according to a recent Fannie Mae survey of both lenders and borrowers, as lenders continue to “digitize,” borrowers still expect a human touch. As part of the survey, participants were asked about the future role of person-to-person (P2P) communication (via phone or in-person channels). Nearly half of lenders said that P2P communication will be equally important as it is today, while nearly 40 percent expect it to be less important. In contrast, nearly all (90 percent) recent mortgage borrowers indicated that they would like to use P2P channels in the future when communicating with their lenders.

But organizations cannot focus solely on a local presence and forget about great technology and superior digital experiences either. There must be a balanced approach.

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At Gateway, we have heavily invested time and resources to find that right approach, achieving what we call the “Gateway Experience,” a service-intensive partnership between the homebuyer, real estate agent and the loan officer. Our goal is to earn customers’ business every day, for their entire life. This experience balances local mortgage professionals with superior technology and digital experiences, while also offering a wide array of products. This, along with being compliant and focusing on growing in the right areas, has allowed us to succeed and become one of the largest and fastest-growing privately held mortgage companies in the nation.

Keeping it Local

Creating a great experience starts with finding the right mortgage professionals – and the right professionals are local ones. Buying a home is a huge investment, and the process can be overwhelming. This is the largest, and most important, financial transaction that most people make in their lifetime. You’re also talking about people’s finances. It gets very personal, and borrowers want to work with a person they feel connected to and comfortable with.

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For us at Gateway, we look for individuals that have a strong commitment to their community and share our values: to strengthen families and communities through homeownership. This core purpose has become a passion. Our loan officers work with the people in their community in a trusted way. They’re able to help them determine how much they can afford, explain their loan options, tell them how best to prepare for their mortgage application and then walk them through the process.

Through this unique connection, borrowers can take comfort knowing their mortgage needs are handled by a local professional who offers best-in-class services. They are there, by their side, in their community, enriching the home buying experience.

Powerful Technology

Investing in the right team with local expertise is the first part of creating a great experience, but that team needs to be equipped with powerful technology. Having the right technology helps make the process easy. In an era that is heavily driven by digital experiences from the likes of Netflix, Facebook, Amazon and others, mortgage lenders must keep pace. Consumers expect to be able to easily upload documents or even apply for a loan with the click of a button.

By generation, 75 percent of millennials have used an online application process for all or part of their last mortgage, according to Ellie Mae’s 2018 Borrower Insights Survey. About 55 percent of Gen Xers also leveraged an online application for all or part of their most recent mortgage, as did 43 percent of baby boomers. Still, these consumers also expect to have the option to call a person or meet with someone if they have questions, and more often, to start the process.

Gateway places a significant emphasis on powerful technology to facilitate superior digital experiences. In fact, we recently launched LinkStep, our new web-based digital mortgage experience that dramatically simplifies the home buying process. LinkStep is designed to enhance the Gateway Experience, and we will continue to pursue new technologies to improve the overall customer experience.

Smart Solutions

Finally, the third part of a great experience is having the right products. A great team of local professionals and superior technology are only as good as the products and services they offer. It is critical that mortgage lenders have a dynamic offering to compete with larger financial institutions and alternative lenders. By offering smart solutions that meet nearly any mortgage need, along with great rates and technology that powers it all, mortgage lenders can ensure they have a product that fits nearly any borrower.

To achieve a superior experience – one that combines both the digital and human element – mortgage lenders must focus on finding the right talent in their communities while also equipping those local professionals with the right technology. They cannot focus merely on one or the other. Then, by adding smart solutions with great pricing, lenders can better meet consumers’ expectations and stay ahead of the competition.

About The Author

Kevin Stitt

Kevin Stitt is the founder of Gateway Mortgage Group, LLC, a privately held, full-service mortgage company licensed in 41 states and the District of Columbia.

Lenders Should Be Aware Of This …

As a homeowner, how would you like to pay less in property taxes, or even not have to pay those taxes at all? Many homeowners and lenders are familiar with the term exemption. It’s a discount or benefit given for meeting certain requirements. Common examples are a homestead or primary residence exemption, usually a credit applied to taxes if the property being assessed is where the borrower lives. Other common exemptions are disability or disabled veteran, given to people with disabilities or who have served in the military and are now disabled. Exemptions are also usually given to people who are 65 years of age or older, or if the property is used for a special purpose, such as agriculture. Exemptions like these help people who may have trouble paying their taxes keep their properties. Exemptions also lessen the amount that a mortgage company will have to pay if it’s an escrowed account.

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The financial effect of these exemptions can be substantial. Some states will give a large credit for the exemptions. For instance, if the property is a combined Homestead and Disabled or Homestead and over 65 status, it surpasses the taxes that are assessed to the property and the borrower does not have to pay property taxes. Sometimes, like in Texas, people with certain exemptions can qualify to have their taxes deferred, so the taxes will not have to be paid taxes until they move, pass away, or try to sell the property. People in Texas also can enroll in a special installment plan. In other situations, the exemption provides a credit that lowers the total taxes that must be paid. The requirements, benefits and application process for the exemptions can vary from state to state, and often local agencies check yearly to see if the exemption still applies. An example would be checking a property with an agricultural exemption to determine the last time there was actually farming on the property). It’s always best to check with the website of each state to understand the nuances of each exemption.

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If the county discovers that a property did not qualify for the exemptions granted, a reassessment can occur. When this happens, the taxes that would have been owed if the exemption was not applied become due. As a result, the property will suddenly have delinquent taxes that lenders were not aware of and the consequences of these delinquencies can range from having extra penalties and interest added, to possible property loss depending on how the county manages delinquencies.

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It’s always beneficial for lenders to be vigilant and pay attention to what is happening with the properties on which they have issued loans. If a borrower violates a requirement for an exemption, such as not farming on land with an agricultural exemption or filing a Homestead exemption even though it’s being used as rental property or for commercial use, the lender will ultimately end up paying more or even losing the property. One way for lenders/servicers to stay on top of this information is to stay in touch with the county tax offices and assessors and pay attention to any correspondence received from them. This can be a time consuming task. If lenders do not have time to constantly monitor this information, working with a business partner that has employees trained to be experts in tax laws would be prudent. Lenders should look at keeping up with exemptions as protecting their investment and saving themselves from unwanted penalties.

About The Author

Neil Gantan

Neil Gantan is a delinquency processor at LERETA, LLC and has worked on delinquent property tax research for the last six years. He has a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration from Cal-State Long Beach and has participated in 6-Sigma projects and has a 6-Sigma Green Belt Certification.

Highest-Risk Cities for Floods, Hurricanes And Wildfires Underperformed Overall Market

ATTOM Data Solutions released its 2018 U.S. Natural Hazard Housing Risk Index, which found that median home prices in cities with the top 80th percentile for natural hazard housing risk have appreciated 40 percent on average over the last 10 years — 1.7 times the 24 percent home price appreciation in the overall U.S. housing market during the same time period.

For the report ATTOM indexed natural hazard risk in more than 3,000 counties and more than 22,000 U.S. cities based on the risk of six natural disasters: earthquakes, floods, hail, hurricane storm surge, tornadoes, and wildfires. ATTOM also analyzed housing trends in 2,616 cities and 440 counties — containing more than 53 million single family homes and condos — broken into five equal quintiles of natural hazard housing risk.

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“While combined natural disaster risk has not seemed to hobble home price appreciation over the past decade, the story is much different for some individual hazard risks — namely flood, hurricane storm surge and wildfire risk,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions. “Home price appreciation in the overall U.S. housing market was double the rate of appreciation in cities with the highest flood risk and triple the rate of appreciation in cities with the highest hurricane storm surge risk over the past 10 years. The broader market has also outperformed appreciation in cities with the highest wildfire risk during the last decade, although the gap is much narrower.”

Foreclosure rates elevated in highest-risk flood cities

Foreclosure rates were lower in cities in the top 80th percentile for natural hazard housing risk, and this was true for all individual natural hazard risk types except for flood risk. In cities in the top 80th percentile for flood risk, active foreclosures represented 0.61 percent of all properties, well above the foreclosure rate of 0.38 percent across all risk categories.

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“Weather is the largest external swing factor in U.S. economics and accounts for over $550 billion per year in lost revenue and up to 76,000 lost jobs,” said Mark Gibbas, president and CEO at WeatherSource, a technology company that provides global weather and climate data along with advanced analytics. “Weather can have an enormous impact on homeowners and the housing market.  When big weather events such as hurricanes, tornados and hail hit, many homeowners suffer financial hardship from various sources such as lost wages and losses due to inadequate insurance. And while the impact on homeowners can be severe, hurricanes like Harvey can change the landscape of the housing market region wide, including shifts in the number of available homes and shifts in home values.”

Cities with the highest flood risk also posted seriously underwater rates (loan-to-value ratio of 125 percent or higher) above the overall market average — 8.9 percent of all homes with a mortgage compared to 8.5 percent nationwide. Tornado risk was the only other individual natural hazard risk factor with seriously underwater rates above the market average in the highest risk cities — 10.0 percent of all homes with a mortgage.

Buyers paid a premium for homes in highest-risk cities in 2018

The report also shows that homebuyers so far in 2018 paid an average 1.0 percent premium above estimated market value for homes in cities with the highest natural disaster risk while homes in cities with the lowest natural disaster risk sold at an average 3.7 percent discount below estimated market value.

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The exception to this trend was in cities with the highest flood risk, where homes sold at an average 2.4 percent discount below estimated market value, cities with the highest tornado risk (2.2 percent discount below estimated market value), and cities with the highest hurricane storm surge risk (1.4 percent discount below estimated market value).

Counties and cities with highest natural hazard risk index

Among the 2,616 cities analyzed in the report with sufficient housing trend data, those with the top 20 highest natural hazard housing risk indexes were all located in the following metropolitan statistical areas: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; San Diego, California; Clearlake, California; San Jose, California; Madera, California; Riverside-San Bernardino, California, Bakersfield, California; Houston, Texas, Santa Cruz, California; and Huntsville, Alabama.

Among the 440 counties analyzed in the report with sufficient housing trend data, those with the highest natural hazard housing risk indexes were Oklahoma County, Oklahoma (Oklahoma City); Monroe County, Florida (Key West); Santa Cruz County, California (Santa Cruz); Santa Clara County, California (San Jose); and Marin County, California (San Francisco).

Among those same 440 counties, those with the lowest natural hazard housing risk indexes were Milwaukee County, Wisconsin (Milwaukee); Muskegon County, Michigan (Muskegon); Cuyahoga County, Ohio (Cleveland); Kenosha County, Wisconsin (Chicago metro); and Monroe County, New York (Rochester).

Index Methodology

For its fifth annual Natural Hazard Housing Risk Index, ATTOM Data Solutions indexed more than 3,000 U.S. counties and more than 22,000 U.S. cities based on risk of six natural disasters: earthquakes, floods, hail, hurricane storm surge, tornadoes and wildfires. ATTOM also analyzed home sales and price trends in 440 counties and 2,616 cities with sufficient property data.

A risk index was created for each of the six natural hazards in each city and count with natural hazard data available. Each natural hazard index was divided into five categories of risk: Very High, High, Moderate, Low and Very Low based on a severity scale. Those six natural hazard indexes were summed to create a Total Natural Hazard Index. The maximum index for each category of risk is 60, and the maximum possible total index score is 360.

For the home sales and price trends analysis, the indexes in 735 counties and 3,441 cities were split into five equal groups (quintiles) matching the aforementioned five categories of risk.

Flood zone data is based on flood zones created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the level of risk was based on the percentage of homes in each county located in high-risk flood zones: A, A99, AE, AH, A.

Earthquake data is from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and the level of risk was based on the probability of a magnitude 5.0 earthquake in each county.

Tornado data is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and level of risk was based on the Destruction Potential Index (DPI) for each county. DPI is calculated using number of tornados, path of tornados in square miles, and intensity of tornados on the Fujita scale (FO to F5).

Wildfire data is from the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service and Fire Modeling Institute, and risk level is based on the percentage of homes in each county located in “Very High” or “High” Wildfire Hazard Potential (WHP) areas.

Hurricane storm surge data is from FEMA and the National Hurricane Center (NHC), and risk level is based on the percentage of homes located in flood zones identified as having a risk of “storm-induced waves”: V and VE.

Hail data is from NOAA and the risk level is based on the average number of hail storms per year in each county with hail that exceeds 1-inch in size over the past 15 years.

A Lesson On Leadership

The world is focused with gratitude on the incredible underwater rescue of 12 youth soccer players and their 25-year-old coach from a submerged cave in Thailand.

The lead divers who found the team were expert civilian cave divers from Great Britain, whose story is amazing on their own. But it’s also no surprise that the Thai Navy SEALs oversaw the whole operation.

The Thai Navy SEALs trace their history back 50 years, when they were established with the assistance of the precursor of the U.S. Navy SEALs. (There are also U.S. Navy SEAL-inspired units in other countries, including South Korea and the Philippines.)

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With the incredible news that all the members of the team and their coach have been rescued, Bill Murphy Jr. shares seven key, Navy SEAL-inspired tenets to keep in mind to tackle any supposedly impossible challenge in his article entitled “Want to Succeed Against Incredible Odds? 7 Things to Learn From the Navy SEALs,” Every mortgage executive can take a lesson from these tips.

1.) Refuse to believe.

This is the opposite of what you’d think, right? That believing leads to achieving?

In this case, it was about refusing to believe it was an impossible mission, as many others were saying, or even that it would be a success if even some of the boys were rescued.

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2.) Self-sacrifice.

Near the top of this list, we need to recognize that one retired Thai Navy SEAL gave his life in this effort. Everyone involved risked it happening to them, too.

Saman Kunan was 38 years old, an avid trail runner and cycler. He’s being hailed as a national hero in Thailand.

3.) Physical toughness.

We heard a lot about potential technological rescues. Would it be possible to drill down and reach the boys? Even Elon Musk showed up with a quickly built mini-submarine.

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But in the end, it came down to tough, physically fit people who made the grueling multi-hour underwater journey, over and over. I can’t help but see a connection back to the World War II frogmen, who sometimes went into battle with just swim trunks, flippers, a mask, and a knife.

4.) Mental toughness.

I’ve never been anywhere near Navy SEAL training. People who’ve been through it say that while physical toughness is important, mental toughness is far more crucial.

Admiral Bill McRaven, the Navy SEAL who commanded the operation to get Osama bin Laden, talks about how some of the toughest SEALs he knew were a group of physically small men called the Munchkin Crew, who simply “out-paddled, out-ran, and out-swam all the other boat crews.”

5.) Training, training, training.

You’ve heard about U.S. Navy SEAL training. Other countries with SEAL-inspired forces have similarly insane regimens. It all goes back to sweating on the training field to minimize bleeding on the battlefield.

It’s easier to believe things are possible when you’ve done similar things in training before.

6.) Tactical patience.

There’s a big difference between inaction and what we might call “tactical patience.” The former leads to failure, but the latter can lead to success.

The example here would be the decision not to try to wait out the monsoon season for months to get the boys out (as had been suggested), but instead to bring the boys out in small groups over a matter of days.

7.) Practice humility.

The Thai Navy SEALs were the first to try to make it into the cave, and they coordinated the rescue. But they also demonstrated something else: the humility to step back and ask for help from a group of foreign civilians, who had special skills the SEALs didn’t.

The world now knows the names John Volanthen and Rick Stanton, an IT specialist and a retired firefighter by trade, who have been described as “the best cave divers on the planet, nicknamed the “The A Team.”

As former Navy SEAL and author Leif Babin puts it: “No leader has it all figured out. You can’t rely on yourself. You’ve got to rely on other people, so you’ve got to ask for help, you’ve got to empower the team, and you’ve got to accept constructive criticism.”

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

Expanding Affordable Homeownership With Housing Counselor Support

It is not new news that market constraints affect minority homeownership. Rising interest rates, tightened eligibility requirements, higher prices and origination costs are converging to lower mortgage origination projections for 2018. These and other factors will have an inordinate effect on minorities and low-to-moderate income borrowers particularly in underserved markets and rural areas.

According to a recent analysis by Zillow, black and Hispanic renters are finding it more difficult to save for the required down payment for a home purchase. Essentially, Zillow determined that high rental rates are taking such a large bite out of income that it is materially affecting the ability for these groups to save money for a down payment on a home.

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Recent Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data show that the percentage of black applicants declined for a mortgage was at a higher-than-average rate.

Despite the lowest industry declination rate in 20 years – 9.8 percent in 2017 compared to 18.1 percent in 2007 – black applicants were turned-down to the tune of 20 percent in 2017.

Programs Abound

Despite these dismal results and pessimistic expectations, there is an abundance of affordable mortgage lending programs at the local, state and federal levels. Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) requirements provide additional stimulus for banks to participate in such programs. All of these programs require pre-purchase housing counseling and education by HUD-certified housing counselors to ensure that the applicant has a successful homeownership experience and is prepared for unanticipated life events that may disrupt the ability to pay.

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There is also an emerging trend to deploy proactive post-purchase counseling protocols for at least a year after affordable loans originate to help new homeowners when turbulence occurs.

Rather than reacting to a problem, this counseling strategy includes constant communication with the homeowner at regular intervals and continuous education about the responsibilities of homeownership. This type of assistance helps new homeowners avoid financial traps and navigate tax and insurance issues, home repair problems or homeowner association dues issues that may surprise new buyers.

Most importantly, it can help homeowners create a budget and maintain financial discipline especially, in the first year of the mortgage when all stakeholders are at the most risk.

These dynamics present a unique opportunity for lenders to embrace housing counseling and integrate the discipline into new efforts to work on a local and national basis to create best-execution models for expanding sustainable homeownership, especially in a purchase market where first-time homebuyers can play a significant role.

Fannie Mae’s HomeReady program and Freddie Mac’s Home Possible program are designed to reach low- to moderate-income (LMI) borrowers in underserved areas and feature more lenient eligibility criteria.

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For instance, under the Fannie Mae HomeReady guidelines while there is a 3 percent down payment requirement, the allowable sources are flexible including authorized down payment programs at the state and local level which will translate into zero-down from the borrower.

Both programs require proof of pre-purchase homeownership preparation. The Fannie Mae requirement may be satisfied if the borrow completes an online education course provided by Framework. However, a particular down payment assistance DPA program used for the HomeReady program may require more personalized counseling.

Fannie Mae also strongly encourages housing counseling by including it in the HomeReady guidelines: “housing counseling for prospective homebuyers effectively expands the pool of eligible homebuyers.”

Best Execution

While the competition for borrowers heats up, lenders must always look for the most cost-effective model to increase homeownership rates. However, the housing counseling component, if not managed correctly, will impose additional costs and time delays to an already costly proposition for originators.

To help make affordable lending actually “affordable,” Hope LoanPort (www.hlp.org) offers a turnkey technology platform to originators that fully integrates HUD-certified housing counselors who provide pre-purchase and post purchase counseling.

This delivery model makes it easy for originators to work with housing counselors for any borrower nationwide to meet housing counseling eligibility requirements both before and after a loan is originated. HLP reports that by implementing a post purchase counseling process for DPA loans, early payment default rates are reduced by 30 percent. An early payment default is equally as devastating for the servicer, lender, investor and insurer as it is for the homeowner.

Social Responsibility

The mortgage banking industry has always been a strong proponent of expanding the pool of eligible borrowers especially for minorities and LMI consumers in underserved markets. The addition of personalized and consistent housing counseling and education has proved to be a major tool in supporting that admirable objective.

The current mortgage finance market is fertile ground for the industry to step up its efforts to collaborate with housing counselors and leverage their abilities to meet this common goal.

About The Author

Camillo Melchiorre

Camillo Melchiorre is President at IndiSoft. Columbia, Md.-based IndiSoft, LLC develops collaborative technology solutions for the financial services industry. Its flagship products, RxOffice Compliance and RxOffice Vendor Management, enhance risk-based assessment and help companies, including servicers and sub-servicers with increased regulatory concerns. The company provides efficient, reliable and scalable solutions for companies that want to remain compliant, effectively manage workflow and maintain a competitive edge.

Enabling All Documents For eSignature For A Better Customer Experience

Electronic loan documents have come a long way in the past decade. Today, most lenders incorporate eDocs for at least part of the loan origination process, whether it be electronic disclosures, digital closing docs or other document needs. Making eDocs even more effective has been the adoption of eSign technology, which has streamlined the delivery and signing of loan documents for a more complete and convenient experience for the borrower.

One frustrating challenge that has remained, though, is the ability for lenders to easily send one-off documents, independent from the standard loan doc package, in an efficient manner that allows those documents to be attached to the core loan doc package and electronically signed by the borrower. This results in a situation where a borrower can receive and sign some of their loan docs electronically. However, the lender is then stuck sending the other independent documents physically, or including the documents in an electronic package but requiring the lender to print and sign the extra forms, scan, and return via email.

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To provide the flexibility and customization required to compete in today’s marketplace, lenders are turning to two key electronic document technologies. The first is using dynamic document generation to ensure that only the necessary documents – with the right information – are created in the first place.

The second is leveraging integrated all-in-one eSign technology for a complete process including integration with doc generation, ability to customize independent documents for signature, eDelivery, enabling the borrower to sign anywhere, anytime, from any device, built in compliance checks and electronic storage in a secure eVault.

Building Custom Doc Packages

Dynamic documents have become the standard for loan document generation over the past few years. Instead of managing through empty space in a static document template, dynamic documents utilize rules-based intelligence and calculations to automatically pull the accurate data fields from the LOS to create transaction-specific documentation.

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Lenders using dynamic document software can then use the data to electronically generate and deliver accurate docs to the borrower and investor. Dynamic document platforms that leverage two-way data pushback can also greatly reduce the lender’s susceptibility to errors caused by manually reentering data and eliminate the need to manually create new sets of documents for each transaction, enhancing quality, compliance and efficiency.

Dynamic document engines also make it possible to insert other documents a lender might require, such as disclosures of business relationships with settlement services, documents related to the transactions between realtors or change of circumstance addendums. These forms are not generated by standard loan document software, and the ability to insert them into an electronic disclosure or closing package for delivery is valuable.

Building a Custom eSign Framework

Many lenders have taken the first step in using dynamic document platforms to customize their disclosure and closing packages. However, the next phase in providing borrowers with a fully digital loan experience is ensuring that all forms can be eSigned.

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Currently, most of the “extra” documents added to a package that are not specifically generated by the document software either are not mapped to eSign capabilities or the borrower is asked to use a separate system from what they have been using with the lender. This means that when the borrower receives an electronic document package, they will be able to sign some of the forms electronically but must print out the others. From there, they have to scan and email or mail the wet-signed forms back to the lender, slowing down the loan workflow.

The best loan document generation systems will offer lenders multiple options for adding external documents to an eSigned doc package. First, custom documents should be easy to add to a lender’s library in the doc generation software, so that they can be seamlessly included with all doc requests in the future. Second, external documents could be included in the initial doc generation request, along with the mapping coordinates for the electronic signatures. And finally, lenders should have the option to quickly and easily add one-off documents manually after the eSignable package has been created, editing them to add the appropriate eSigning points along with any other borrower interactions like check-boxes or text fields to be filled in.

These options provide lenders with maximum flexibility to include their custom documents within the loan doc package and make them eSignable, enabling their borrowers to complete the entire package in one seamless online experience.

As lenders move more of their loan operations into the digital world, the ability to customize all documents for eSignatures and inclusion in document packages will keep them on the leading edge of competitiveness, customer service and cost efficiencies.

About The Author

Harry Gardner

Harry Gardner is executive vice president of eStrategies for Docutech, a leading provider of compliance and documentation technology. Founded in 1991, Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Docutech offers a wide range of solutions to institutions all over the world. From document generation and imaging support to eDelivery, digital signatures and print fulfillment, Docutech sets the standard in providing market-proven technology and unrivaled client service to you, your workforce and your clients.

The Right Tools For Success

With real estate inventory low and a new wave of first-time homebuyers entering the market, home shoppers need every advantage when it comes to finding the right house as quickly – and seamlessly – as possible. The process can quickly become overwhelming. Lenders’ expertise can make the search more effective and, ultimately, successful. In turn, more and more borrowers are turning to lenders at the beginning of their home search to ensure a better experience.

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We live in an increasingly digital world. Homebuyers have come to expect the same digital experience when buying a home as they have when buying a cup of coffee through a mobile app. Fortunately, many of us in the mortgage industry are working to facilitate this experience, by providing borrowers with various digital tools, apps and online resources that are specifically geared toward the home-buying process.

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Some of these digital resources include:

Home Search Apps

Real estate and home search apps offer a convenient way for borrowers to begin their search for the perfect home. According to the National Association of Realtors, 51 percent of buyers found their home online last year and 44 percent began their home search from a computer, tablet or smartphone. Mobile apps such as HomeScout allow prospective borrowers to see real-time MLS listings, save their favorite properties, receive same-day pricing updates and other alerts, and access local agents and loan specialists.

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Mortgage Calculators

Online calculators allow borrowers to run all the numbers before they commit and see exactly how all the variables will affect their mortgage payment. From how much they can afford, to assessing interest rates and other points and fees, these tools offer users the opportunity to the find the right mortgage product. For lenders, these tools allow us to better understand a borrower’s budget and work within it to ensure they are not only getting a house they can afford, but also the right loan to facilitate debt-free homeownership.

Making sure borrowers understand the difference between the amount they can be approved for versus what is recommended for their budget is critical when it comes to their long-term financial success. Tools such as online mortgage payment calculators help ensure borrowers are on target.

Customized Mortgage Reports and Analytics

One of the best ways lenders can offer peace of mind for borrowers is with customized reports and analytical tools that compare different loan options and scenarios. These provide prospective homebuyers with a clear breakdown of the costs and benefits of each loan option. Having this information allows them to work in real-time with their lender to tweak the details and find the right program for their situation.

Homebuyer Educational Tools & Workshops

The home-buying process can be complex and learning face-to-face with local experts is a powerful method for borrowers to learn the ropes. And, for lenders, it can further establish that initial relationship. Whether in-person or through real-time webinars, these sessions prove invaluable for borrowers, helping them understand the processes and options. It can also, if posted online, allow them the freedom to access this information from anywhere, at their own pace.

Technology Only Goes So Far

While these tools are great resources for homebuyers, there is no substitute for the value an experienced mortgage lender can provide. Whether helping to answer questions or offering insight and advice, a knowledgeable lender can be tremendous support and the greatest tool in the process.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” product when it comes to a mortgage. Matching borrowers with the right loan can be a progressive process. As borrowers take the journey to homeownership, lenders should guide them along the way through upfront underwriting to position the borrower as a reliable buyer with more negotiating power. This helps borrowers close up to two to three weeks faster than their competition. In today’s housing market, it’s essential that lenders are able to provide this option to borrowers to help them market themselves as a trustworthy buyer during a bidding war.

Often in today’s high-speed culture, the mortgage industry can promise borrowers fast approvals and underwriting, but those same borrowers can end up feeling lost. By establishing one-on-one relationships with borrowers and educating them, lenders create trust and peace of mind in the home-buying experience.

Taking the time to understand borrowers and working to meet their needs – whether digital or otherwise – allows lenders to make sure potential homebuyers have all the tools to make the best decisions. Those choices can be the first steps towards building lasting relationships.

About The Author

Whitney Blessington

Whitney Blessington is Vice President of Marketing for Churchill Mortgage, a full-service and financially sound leader in the mortgage industry. The company provides conventional, FHA, VA and USDA residential mortgages across 45 states. For more information, visit churchillmortgage.com or follow the company on Twitter, @ChurchillMtg, LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/churchill-mortgage/ . Reach Blessington at whitney.blessington@churchillmortgage.com.

Blazing An eClosing Trail

BC Law, a provider of closing services for the mortgage and title industries, has selected Pavaso to conduct digital closings for its lender and agent clients.

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Based in Stuart, Florida, BC Law provides attorney state services such as title opinions, settlement, disbursement, and recording in several states for refinance, purchase and reverse mortgage transactions. By choosing Pavaso to provide a digital closing process for homebuyers, BC Law becomes one of the very few eClosing providers in states that require attorney settlements, which include Georgia, North and South Carolina, New York, Massachusetts and Vermont.

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“Working with Pavaso’s eClosing technology solution will provide our lender and title company partners the ability to eClose in select states which require attorney settlement partners,” said Rudy Krupka, chief marketing officer of BC Law. “Working with Pavaso, BC Law can deliver the positive eClosing borrow experience our clients have come to expect from BC Law.”

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The Pavaso Platform is the only closing solution that connects all stakeholders in one location. Lenders and title agents use Pavaso to collaborate, review closing documents and access all the tools needed to conduct digital closings, including remote online notarizations. As a result, borrowers receive much faster and more transparent transactions compared to a traditional, paper-based closing process.

Mark McElroy, president and CEO of Pavaso, noted that BC Law is known for having a high success rate of closing attorney-based settlements and is capable of conducting closings at any location, time or day of the month.

“We’re thrilled to be working with a company that is so committed to providing clients with a better closing experience,” McElroy said. “By conducting digital closings on the Pavaso Platform, BC Law will continue that commitment while ensuring more compliant, streamlined closings. We look forward to a long and successful relationship.”

About The Author

Tony Garritano

Tony Garritano is chairman and founder at PROGRESS in Lending Association. As a speaker Tony has worked hard to inform executives about how technology should be a tool used to further business objectives. For over 10 years he has worked as a journalist, researcher and speaker in the mortgage technology space. Starting this association was the next step for someone like Tony, who has dedicated his career to providing mortgage executives with the information needed to make informed technology decisions. He can be reached via e-mail at tony@progressinlending.com.