A Great Website Levels The Playing Field

Many borrowers start the mortgage process online today, searching for local companies or the lowest rate from national lenders. Lenders of all sizes can take advantage of this by offering a great website that delivers a professional image and by providing the same online convenience as their largest competitors.

Today’s advanced technology puts the same powerful website tools in every lenders’ hands. This levels the playing field and allows lenders of all sizes to remain competitive. This is critically important as lenders are challenged to fill their origination pipeline in today’s demanding market conditions.

Let’s face it, borrowers prefer to apply online from their own computer (work or home), at a time that is most convenient for them (5:00 AM maybe 11:30 PM) times that traditional branches are not open. This alleviates the need to drive to a loan officer’s office or having to fax/mail a host of prequalification documents.

In addition to providing powerful online tools, as well as simple and elegant design, great mortgage websites provide lenders of all sizes with the ability to utilize the online channel to generate leads from borrowers that may not otherwise have applied with their mortgage company. This is done by implementing easy-to-use search engine optimization. So, as potential borrowers search for rates and mortgage lenders in their area, your website is now one of the top options giving you access to more potential borrowers.

Another common complaint amongst potential borrowers is the lack of communication from the lender regarding status updates and more specifically where the borrower stands in the lending process. These issues are often magnified when working with larger lenders, so consistently keeping the borrower and third parties in the loop throughout the lending process by utilizing your websites powerful communication abilities helps you stand apart from the competition.

Along with a great web experience for your potential borrowers, great websites deliver integration with your back office systems (LOS) which helps increase the profitability of each loan by saving you time and significantly reducing errors. These websites provide more integration options so your systems all work together instead of working in their own silos. This helps you identify new prospects and sales opportunities that may not have previously been identified.

Further, not only has the competition for new borrowers intensified, so has it for recruiting top loan officers to your organization. Great websites help recruit new branches and loan officers by providing them with the same powerful online tools as corporate and delivered by leading lenders but now with their own individual look and feel.

Online loan applications and lead generation will increase as lenders look to find more profitable ways to originate. Great websites level the playing field for lenders of all sizes.

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The Next Compliance Tsunami

In the four years since Dodd-Frank went into effect, lenders have faced one compliance wave after another. Qualified Mortgage/Ability to Repay, Originator Compensation, Appraisal Practices – the list goes on.

But it’s not over yet. On August 1, 2015, integrated disclosure reform will sweep the industry and overhaul processes that we have just finally become accustomed to.

Toppling the disclosure and good faith estimate (GFE) reform of 2010, next year, the CFPB has finalized plans to implement integrated disclosures under the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and Real Estate Settlement Procedure Act (RESPA), commonly referred to as the RESPA-TILA rule. As industry professionals, we acknowledge that the rule should provide borrowers with a clearer, more detailed explanation of the financial implications of their mortgage. Prior to its inception, the document was tested in a large study involving more than 850 consumers nationwide, and reception was favorable from lenders and consumer groups alike.

But the reforms involve more than just a new disclosure document. The rules behind RESPA and TILA mean that lenders will have to strengthen business processes to stay ahead of the curve and maybe to even stay in business. What is seemingly a simple outward-facing document for borrowers will actually encompass several moving parts, and it’s important that the industry stays informed on what this means.

A Comprehensive Overview on Change

As the new disclosure rules loom, some lenders question if their processes and infrastructure are up to speed to accommodate the changes occurring right before their eyes. Identifying and understanding the modifications that will affect operational, technological, service and training verticals of our businesses are important and must be thoughtfully considered.

It’s tempting for lenders to put off something that is a year away and focus on more immediate concerns. QuestSoft’s annual compliance survey over the years shows that lenders usually push off longer-term compliance needs simply to comply with pressing rules – but is it worth the risk? Creating internal procedures to deliver disclosures and loan documents as early as possible can help vendors develop a competitive advantage.

We now know that RESPA-TILA reform will deliver a variety of moving parts in regard to the way we advance processes and deliver products, and it’s essential to evaluate your current vendors and systems to see what changes might be needed. Lenders must work with any vendor that touches on documents or compliance to ensure the systems are ready for testing no later than the spring of 2015.

But the reform is more than just a new set of documents. Lenders must also prepare for the quality control and compliance issues behind the disclosures. The same is true with closing costs. Lenders are restricted in how much actual closing costs can vary from the initial estimate. Significant changes require another disclosure and a reset of the 72hour waiting period.

Additionally, RESPA-TILA changes look very inviting to consumers, yet to complete the forms, lenders must track and include more than 2,000 data combinations that are located within the new documents. Planning ahead is important, as there will now be a three-day requirement for all loan document disclosures (both purchase and refinance) and a new seven day advanced notice for all material changes to the Loan Estimate.  Being caught under disclosure delays will directly affect closings, relator relations and the very ability of a homebuyer to move in and maybe ever own a home if the rate locks and deal falls through because of your mistakes.

What’s the impact of this? Take for example a simple Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM). This product will require careful calculation of all the correct terms and possible adjustments. If the lender makes a mistake and has to re-disclose the terms, there is a new 72-hour waiting period to close, potentially impacting lock rates or closing costs. There is a real possibility that legal action may be brought if your operations are not efficient or operating properly.

Pre-Funding Compliance Testing Saves Headaches

How can lenders ensure compliance with RESPA-TILA, as well as the hundreds of other regulations already on the books? Lenders can protect themselves from a post-funding audit and expensive cure by ensuring pre-funding compliance. The process of correcting compliance issues before the closing table will enable originators to close loans confidently and accurately – bypassing audit setbacks. If an audit is unavoidable, the originator can comply with auditors’ requests knowing that their loans were efficiently streamlined to guarantee compliance and accuracy.

With today’s regulations, corrections cannot be made post-closing on compliance and disclosure issues. Pre-closing corrections, working in tandem with third party verifications, result in a manageable origination process, and are also easy to adopt and implement.   The value of post-closing compliance is greatly diminishing in this new regulatory environment.  We are definitely not operating in the same world as five or ten years ago.

Truth be told, the industry is changing and we need to keep up. However, some may claim that the regulations are too harsh. Is the lending community being spread so thin with their time that they are unable to efficiently revise their business processes? Are the demands placed by regulators so high that restructuring is simply not worth compliance prevention?

‘The regulatory game’ is one that requires consistency and lender obligation. Lenders must comply with changes and inform borrowers, or they will be out of the game – permanently. The good news is that there’s still time to prepare for the next wave. Before the end of the year, it is a good idea to consider updating your LOS partners and testing environments.  Get a firm grip of timeframes for RESPA/TILA implementation from your vendors.  Establish your education and testing plans.  And finally, use this requirement as a competitive advantage by strategically establishing the three day rule in your operations. This way, when August 1, 2015 comes along, to your realtors and borrowers, it will be just another day in the life of a great mortgage company.

As disclosure reform continues to have an effect on our industry, we can leverage the change to get a firm grasp on the influx of upcoming regulations and prepare to strengthen compliance automation to decrease the risk of failure.

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The (High) Cost Of Mortgage Lending

There are many ways to answer the question, “What does it cost to close a mortgage loan in 2014?”

The quick answer is, “A lot more than it once did.” Those of us who lent in the 90s through the early 2000s watched the cost of closing a mortgage drop for high performance lenders. They were among the first to take advantage of the Internet, employed technology at every possible turn and empowered their teams far beyond the traditional silos of processing, underwriting, funding and closing. Their innovative experiments delivered many positive benefits. Borrowers originated their own loans for the first time using the World Wide Web. Paper, plus the processes it required, slowly disappeared, giving way to (sometimes) fully electronic processing. Individual team members were able to handle increasing amounts of loans. Costs decreased.

Physics being what it is, what goes down doesn’t often go back up. However, physics knows little about costs, which have a tendency to rise, defying not only gravity, but the desire of business operators everywhere. Costs have indeed risen. A June 10, 2014 article published by the Mortgage Bankers Association had this to say:

“Total loan production expenses – commissions, compensation, occupancy, equipment, and other production expenses and corporate allocations – increased to $8,025 per loan in the first quarter, up from $6,959 in the fourth quarter of 2013. First quarter 2014 production expenses were the highest recorded in any quarter since the Performance Report was created in the third quarter of 2008…Productivity was 1.7 loans originated per production employee per month in the first quarter, down from 2 loans in the fourth quarter of 2013.”

High performance lenders fared better. In an ongoing study we are conducting, we have found the average cost of closing a mortgage to be $3,185. Productivity, the single most important mortgage lending metric, was 4.4 closed loans per employee per month. While lending costs may have risen during the first quarter and productivity may have slipped, it is safe to say high performance lenders generally remain ahead of the overall industry.

Managing the Cost

High performance lenders have high productivity in common. The number of loans closed per employee per month is the single largest determinant of every lender’s cost to close because labor is the largest component of the metric. Lenders achieve higher productivity three ways:

Focus. Do a few things and do them well. A lender we met with recently drove this point home repeatedly. The mortgage industry, like every other industry, offers many opportunities to wander. Wandering is expensive. Pick a niche, focus intently, lend efficiently.

Process. Making mortgage loans is a manufacturing operation. Efficiency and quality depend on rigorous adherence to well-defined processes. High performance lenders rigidly define these processes and watch them closely.

Technology. Comprehensive lending technologies that guide loans through the entire mortgage cycle from origination to delivery are essential in the battle for productivity. Another of the positive lessons from the early 2000s: leveraging automation pays off demonstrably in dollars and cents.

The Cost/Benefit Analysis

An early mentor taught us that it is possible — easy, in fact — to cost-account your way out of any business. He told a funny story about a small business owner who did exactly that. He saved a lot of money until he wasn’t making any at all. Mortgage lending still makes sense, even at today’s costs, when you consider how much income a mortgage loan produces. The net present value of the net interest cash flows during the first five years of a mortgage loan’s thirty year life is about $5,000, still a good ROI when stacked up against a $3,185 closing cost. Not so great, however, when the cost is over $8,000. Focus on productivity, drive lending costs down, make more loans and make them profitably.

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Covering Your Assets

Consolidated Analytics, as an AMC, has observed and participated in the dynamic changes that the industry has undergone as a grand focus on regulations and compliance has become pivotal in day-to-day operations.

One of the main issues we’ve seen many lenders encounter during the past few years are the negative consequences of choosing a vendor partner that doesn’t truly understand the importance of balancing the costs of compliancy and benefits of production. Most recently, lending institutions have found a great need to focus their efforts on vendor oversight. A thorough evaluation of third-party relationships that are considered to be mission-critical to a business should be conducted periodically. Historically, this aspect of daily operations has played a smaller role as lending institutions are overburdened with keeping up with the already overwhelming level of regulations. Nevertheless, lenders who maintain a level of flexibility are experiencing the least impact in production as they adjust operations in order to implement compliance procedures to meet the regulatory requirements; all while taking care to keep emphasis on production.

With each new regulation the margin for error becomes narrower, and the industry is compelled to provide an effective balance between quantity in production and quality in product and service. The key component to remaining compliant in the ever-changing regulatory arena largely depends on the tools a lending institution possesses. One such tool for success is the technology infrastructure that is implemented into the operations of a lending institution. Flexibility is key. Modern technology that delivers appropriate screening of vendor performance allows the lender to uphold compliancy with regulatory agencies while providing the vendor valuable feedback and a platform to deliver compliant reports and products. In essence, a certain level of transparency begets accountability, and relationships blossom into successful partnerships.

At Consolidated Analytics, we treasure our partnerships. We recognize, embrace, and support the necessary technology needed to develop those partnerships and make them thrive. Being integrated with technology like Mercury Network allows us the opportunity to deliver our suite of products at top-level service to all of our clients. We understand the importance of risk management and due diligence that lenders must consider with their third-party relationships; therefore, we maintain the same level of flexibility in our operations, as well, in order to adjust procedures according to our clients’ needs and requirements. Operating with the right technology infrastructure provides an innovative platform to receive valuable feedback, positive and constructive, in order to help lenders meet that demand of quantity and quality, every time.

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Look For Opportunity In The CFPB HMDA Plans

Mortgage lenders were seemingly dealt another regulatory blow in July with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) proposal to require significantly more data in the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA). Some of the additional data points that will be required include loan pricing and underwriting details; applicant age, credit score and debt-to-income ratio; and property value. While HMDA changes have been on the horizon since the dawn of the Dodd-Frank Act, the plans released by the CFPB exceed the requirements lenders were expecting.

The comment period, which closes October 22, is sure to draw lots of negative input. Industry groups have already decried the additional work it will take to provide extra data. With fragmented, legacy systems housing required data and documents, the centralization necessary to easily retrieve and report all of this newly required data just isn’t there. Lenders are lagging behind the technology curve and the CFPB’s proposal is essentially forcing them to focus on new technology solutions.

It’s baffling to think that in this technology-driven world, electronic documents are touted as innovative. We have mobile apps for everything, but the mortgage application processes are still very much paper-driven and manual. As long as this prevails, lenders will continue to suffer damaging inefficiencies in all areas, but especially when it comes to regulatory compliance. Do you think one day the CFPB will decide they want less data? Or that trust will be re-instilled in the lending process and regulations will be lessened? Neither scenario is likely. In fact, it’s more likely that we’ll see the development of stricter regulations and heightened data requirements.

Instead of lamenting the difficulty of collecting and aggregating this extra data, lenders should be using this as the push they need to fix what’s broken—at the macro level. There will, of course, be short-term pain involved in a move away from paper-based processes to a centralized data and document management solution. However, that pain will be far outweighed by the long-term benefits. With less need for human involvement in manual, labor-intensive tasks like document retrieval and data entry, we can see increased efficiency and greater accuracy, all contributing to a reduction in costs over the long run.

With newly streamlined operations, traditional lenders can hope to compete with the influx of new peer-to-peer lending platforms that boast a lending process that’s simple, efficient and transparent. Further, they can focus on what matters the most—serving current customers and acquiring new business. And the quicker they jump on board the technology bandwagon, the greater the competitive advantage they can realize.

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Elizabeth Warren’s Media Phobia

Earlier this summer, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank offered a somewhat unusual portrait of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Milbank, who is among the most respected journalists covering Washington, was tracking the growing chatter in liberal political circles about the possibility of having Warren run for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

“I wanted to write about the Warren presidential hoopla, so I mentioned to her spokeswoman, Lacey Rose, that I’d buttonhole the senator after the subcommittee meeting,” Milbank wrote. “‘We don’t do hallway interviews,’ Rose replied. She said she would ‘see about’ a phone interview but six hours later reported that she ‘couldn’t make this work … This, I learned, is typical. Congressional reporters say that Warren is unusual among senators in her refusal to take questions. She is invariably guarded by staff as she walks about the Capitol, and the few interviews she has done have generally been on defined topics (such as her book), where the risk of unanticipated questions is low.”

Oddly, Milbank saw nothing peculiar in Warren’s irritation with questions from the press.

“Such reticence is certainly not a fault,” he continued. “But it is the behavior of a lawmaker who plans to keep her head down and to do her job as a legislator – not somebody who is contemplating the glare of the national spotlight. She has plunged into policy and is doing whatever she can to shield herself from unscripted moments.”

Uh, hello? Warren has been in the “glare of the national spotlight” for the past few years – mostly at the expense of the mortgage banking industry. Through an endless series of speeches, blog posts and a now-infamous viral video that suggested business owners are selfish boors that don’t contribute to the maintenance of the infrastructure, Warren has made herself a darling of the left-of-center crowd and elevated herself from the Harvard campus to the U.S. Senate – all with the help of the media, both the mainstream and trade editions.

Strangely, the mainstream media has kept a curious hands-off approach to Warren, rarely probing the basic inanities of her anti-business tirades. Even the sons of fun at the Wall Street Journal and the other Rupert Murdoch media outlets don’t seem to have their right-wing feathers ruffled whenever Warren is at the microphone.

Why is this? Well, I don’t see this as a case of being afraid to appear sexist – after all, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi have suffered plenty of slings and arrows in the media. More likely, the mainstream media finds financial issues dull and they would prefer not to be bored by Warren’s pedantic lecturing. And, besides, how many people outside of banking have a passionate respect for banks?

But the trade media is another story. Warren’s rise to power in advocating the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and her leap to power in the Senate was reported in a straightforward manner. But the context of her speeches and blog postings was rarely challenged – when Warren squarely blamed the mortgage industry for the 2008 crash, very few trade media writers and editors called her to task for her reckless rewriting of recent history.

As for Milbank’s assertion that Warren is “doing whatever she can to shield herself from unscripted moments” – well, that has less to do with her diligence to her senatorial duties and more to do with the fact that she is awful when forced to speak extemporaneously. In an ABC interview in April, Warren was asked about whether Hillary Clinton would be too cozy with the banking world if she was elected president. Warren responded by saying, “I’m worried a lot about power in the financial services industry and I’m worried about the fact that basically, starting in the ’80s, you know, the cops were taken off the beat in financial services. These guys were allowed to just paint a bull’s-eye on the backside of American families. They loaded up on risk. They crushed the economy. They got bailed out. What bothers me now, they still strut around Washington, they block regulations that they don’t want, they roll over agencies whenever they can.”

Of course, Warren didn’t answer the question that was put before her regarding Clinton; the fact that she rewrote history to blame the 2008 crash on Ronald Reagan is another matter. And this is why the Massachusetts senator is, as Milbank observed, “doing whatever she can to shield herself from unscripted moments.” When she deviates from her tried-and-true routine of bashing the financial world, it becomes painfully obvious that she has no idea what she is talking about.

Maybe it is time for journalists to start demanding “unscripted moments” from Warren. And there is no shortage of questions to ask her: Would she campaign for a presidential candidate that pockets a $400,000 speaking fee from a Wall Street company? Is she unconcerned over charges of racism in the personnel procedures at the CFPB? Will she openly question why the White House refuses to support the expansion of the Fair Housing Act to accommodate gays and lesbians? And can she explain why the vast majority of mortgage-related complaints filed with the CFPB have been dismissed as being without merit?

I think that journalists should be pressing Warren for some answers. After all, she is an elected official representing the American people. And those people are financing her $174,000 a year salary as a senator – and that Senate platform helped her to pocket $525,000 in the advance for her memoir “A Fighting Chance.” Yes, the self-proclaimed champion of the working class soaked up more than a half-million for a self-congratulatory book. Hmmm, perhaps there is some value to Warren’s most famous quote: “There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own!”

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Are ALTA’s Best Practices Best for the Title Industry?

As a result of the bundling, overvaluation, and selling of mortgages as an equity product that led to the real estate collapse and lending lockdown, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a bulletin in 2012 that reminded lending institutions that they would be held liable not only for their own actions, but also for the actions of their vendors.

In the title industry, this was game-changing and the industry’s governing body—the American Land Title Association (ALTA)—responded by releasing “ALTA’s Best Practices,” a framework developed to assist lenders in satisfying their responsibility to manage third-party vendors. It is the title industry’s attempt to help forthright lending institutions have one less thing to worry about as they navigate these heavily regulated waters. Initially, this seemed like a win-win. After all, the “seven pillars” that constitute the Best Practices— including mandates related to licensing, escrow, privacy and security, settlement processes, policy production, insurance coverage, and customer care— would both elevate the professionalism of the title industry and allow compliant providers an automatic “in” with lending institutions. However, as the soft deadline (August 1, 2014) for implementing these Best Practices looms, there will be five main unintended consequences, as described below.

>> Confusion: While the Best Practices are uniform, interpretations for compliance are not. Title companies are implementing in a variety of ways and lending institutions have no standard guidelines from which to vet vendors. As a result, there is confusion on both sides of the fence, and many title companies concerned that they will not be able to compete for business without a set checklist used by all lending institutions.

>> Small Title Companies Close: A small title company cannot possibly meet the demands set forth in Best Practices. In fact, Hillsboro Title Company grew just to be able to sustain this industry change. We now have two people working full-time on Best Practices compliance. The smaller shops simply won’t be able to afford to get into compliance and will be forced to close or merge with other companies.

>> Big Guys Get Bigger: While the larger title companies will have the resources to implement Best Practices, they will undoubtedly have to add compliance staff and, as a result, additional closing offices to offset the cost of the new hires. In addition, with small companies needing to shut their doors, larger companies will face an unparalleled opportunity for growth by acquisition.

>> Less Competition, Less Choice: As a result of the consequences explained above, there will be a surge of mergers and acquisitions in the title industry. And, as smaller title companies disappear or become acquired by larger companies, lending institutions and consumers will see their pool of title companies from which to choose shrink drastically.

>> Higher Costs: Compliance with Best Practices requires a significant influx of funds; as the cost of doing business increases, these costs will more than likely be passed along to the consumer.

>> More Law Suits: With all of the money being spent to regulate, document, and verify—and all of the confusion surrounding the soft Best Practices compliance deadline, there will be an increase in litigation against lenders and title companies to take advantage of the wrinkles yet to be ironed out in discovery documentation.

ALTA’s Best Practices will undoubtedly raise the bar for quality and professionalism in the title industry. However, with good, there is always some bad. Many title companies will find themselves working “on the business” more than “in the business” and business development initiatives and profits may suffer. While the Best Practices protect consumers, promote quality service, and provide for ongoing employee education, the regulations are placing hefty burden on title companies across the country. The full effects of this industry game-changer will be interesting to watch.

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What Do The Mortgage Tea Leaves Say About The Future?

Certainly the industry is not booming, but it’s not crashing either. In a recent report, CoreLogic economists Sam Khater and Molly Boesel, analyzed current housing market conditions, including a surge in condo building construction in the fourth quarter of 2013. According to CoreLogic, in Q4 2013 the total number of new condo buildings reached 2,100, up 90 percent from the trough of 1,100 in Q2 2012.

Other key findings in the report included:

>> The share of housing-related spending was 17.5 percent of the gross domestic product in the second quarter.

>> Pre-foreclosure filings decreased by 12.5 percent from 83,500 to 73,100 per month nationally in June 2014 from a year ago, down 68 percent from the peak of 229,000 per month in March 2009.

>> Thirteen states reached new highs in home prices in June 2014.

CoreLogic found that in June 2014 national home prices increased by 7.5 percent year over year, and by 1 percent month over month. This marks the 28th consecutive month of year-over-year increases in the CoreLogic Home Price Index (HPI). Excluding distressed sales, home prices increased 6.9 percent from June 2013 and increased 0.9 percent from the prior month. Including distressed sales, prices were still 12.9 percent below the peak in April 2006, and excluding distressed sales, prices were down 9.0 percent from peak levels.

Including distressed sales, year-over-year home prices were up in every state but Arkansas. Michigan led the country with an 11.5-percent price increase from June 2013, followed closely by California with an 11.3-percent increase. Excluding distressed sales, all states experienced a year-over-year rise in prices, with Massachusetts (+11.2 percent) and New York (+9.8 percent) showing the largest increases.

Thirteen states reached new highs in home prices in June 2014. Despite having the third-fastest state appreciation at 11.1 percent year over year, Nevada remained at 37.3 percent below its 2006 peak level. Florida had the second-largest peak-to-current drop at 34.1 percent. Figure 1 shows the current, maximum and minimum year-over-year growth rates for the 25 states with the highest year-over-year appreciation. The figure illustrates that some of the states now growing the fastest also fell the farthest in the housing crisis.

In addition to the overall price indices, CoreLogic analyzes four individual home-price tiers. The price tiers tracked by the CoreLogic HPI are calculated relative to the mean national home price and include homes that are priced 75 percent or less below the mean (low price), between 75 and 100 percent of the mean (low-to-middle price), between 100 and 125 percent of the mean (middle-to-moderate price) and greater than 125 percent of the mean (high price).

Figure 2 shows the levels of the four price tiers indexed to January 2011. The two lower-priced tiers have recovered the most from their trough levels (both hit bottom in March 2011), with the low-price tier recovering 40.3 percent from the trough and the low-to-middle tier recovering 33.8 percent from the trough. As of June 2014, the low-price tier increased 12.4 percent year over year, with 11.7 percent of that gain happening in 2014. The two higher-price tiers both bottomed out in February 2012, with the middle-to-moderate price tier recovering 31.0 percent from the trough and the high-price tier recovering 25.3 percent from the trough. The high-price tier fell the least, at 28 percent peak-to-trough, and is currently 9.8 percent below its peak. The low-to-middle price tier fared the worst in the housing crisis, falling 37.2 percent peak-to-trough, and is now 16 percent below peak levels.

So, while some choose to see the mortgage lending glass as being half empty, I see it as being half full.

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Of Selling Loans And Selling Dreams

As human beings, work is very important to us. We place a great amount of emphasis on what we do for a living. Now, the cynic would chalk this truth up to modern-day Capitalism. We’re so focused on work, because we’re a materialistic, status-driven culture. But that’s simply not true. The importance of work is deeply embedded in human nature.

People have been identified by their professions for as far back as we have written records. In the Bible, we are told that “Abel was a keeper of the sheep” and that “Cain was a tiller of the ground.” We know little else about them, but we do know that Abel was a shepherd and that Cain was a farmer. In the Middle Ages, Geoffrey Chaucer’s classic text The Canterbury Tales, was written as a collection of stories based around what people do for a living, containing sections such as “The Miller’s Tale,” “The Cook’s Tale,” and “The Physician’s Tale.” Think about any famous person in history and, chances are, one of the first things that will come to mind is what they did for a living. Michelangelo was an artist. Dickens was a writer. Edison was an inventor. We know people by their work.

Today, when you meet someone new, what is the first thing you ask about them. You’ll probably want to know the person’s name, but then what? If you’re like me, you’ll most likely want to know what they do for a living. It seems naturally for us to introduce ourselves in this way. “My name is Dave, and I am a consultant.” We spend nearly half of our waking hours working, most of the people we encounter in life will be encountered through our work, and — after we’re gone — most people will likely remember us in the context of what we did professionally. I think I’ve made my case — work matters.

People of all professions today approach their work with varying perspectives. Some people are ashamed of what they do, and others are proud of it. If you ask one attorney what he does for a living, he may mutter quietly under his breath that he is a lawyer — so as not to draw attention. Ask another attorney the same question, and he may loudly and confidently proclaim that he helps his clients get justice when they have nowhere else to turn. The same is true for all industries. And it is especially true in the mortgage business.

Are you proud of what you do, or are you ashamed of it? Like any profession, some people have negative associations with lenders. Some people can view the profession as exploitative — that mortgage lenders prey on the financially insecure. But, you could say the same for lawyers — that they prey on legal victims, or doctors — that they prey on the sick. You could say that about any profession — because all professions are based on people who lack something they need. As a mortgage lender, you could see yourself as an exploiter of peoples’ needs. Or, you could see yourself as giver of opportunities.

When you’re selling mortgages, you aren’t just selling loans; you’re selling dreams. You’re providing people an opportunity they would not otherwise have for owning a home. Families and entire communities are built around homes. Making home ownership possible is something worth taking pride in. There is no question that work is important to us as human beings. But, how important is your work to you. Is it just a paycheck? Or, do you see it as something greater? When you look at yourself in the mirror, are you proud of what you do? You should be. Because you truly are making the world a better place.

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A New Way To Reach Out To Borrowers

Want to create more engagement with your audience? Consider using Pinterest. The online pinning board is becoming a major sales tool for marketers.

According to the following infographic by Ripen Ecommerce, “38% of users made a purchase because they saw it on Pinterest. That was 21% in 2010.”

To grab Pinterest users’ attention, businesses should keep in mind the traits of the most popular and repinned pins.

For example, “a call-to-action pin description leads to an 80% increase in engagement,” states Ripen Ecommerce. Also, tall images are shared 67% more than short images. And lighter images are repinned 20 times more than darker images.

Moreover, marketers should include prices in their pins. Pins with a price have a 46% higher chance of being liked.

For more information about using Pinterest for e-commerce, check out the infographic: