August New Home Purchase Apps Increase Year Over Year

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) Builder Application Survey (BAS) data for August 2019 shows mortgage applications for new home purchases increased 33 percent compared to a year ago. Compared to July 2019, applications decreased by 0.2 percent. This change does not include any adjustment for typical seasonal patterns.

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MBA estimates new single-family home sales were running at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 785,000 units in August 2019, based on data from the BAS. The new home sales estimate is derived using mortgage application information from the BAS, as well as assumptions regarding market coverage and other factors.

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“New home purchase activity was robust in August, as both mortgage applications and estimated home sales increased from a year ago,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Recent increases in new residential housing permits and housing starts, lower mortgage rates, and a still-strong job market all bode well for the new home sales outlook.” 

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The seasonally adjusted estimate for August is an increase of 4.1 percent from the July pace of 754,000 units. On an unadjusted basis, MBA estimates that there were 61,000 new home sales in August 2019, a decrease of 3.2 percent from 63,000 new home sales in July.

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By product type, conventional loans composed 69.3 percent of loan applications, FHA loans composed 18.1 percent, RHS/USDA loans composed 0.8 percent and VA loans composed 11.8 percent. The average loan size of new homes increased from $325,457 in July to $332,497 in August.

MBA’s Builder Application Survey tracks application volume from mortgage subsidiaries of home builders across the country. Utilizing this data, as well as data from other sources, MBA is able to provide an early estimate of new home sales volumes at the national, state, and metro level. This data also provides information regarding the types of loans used by new home buyers. Official new home sales estimates are conducted by the Census Bureau on a monthly basis. In that data, new home sales are recorded at contract signing, which is typically coincident with the mortgage application.

Companies Integrate To Streamline And Improve The Closing Process

Vantage Point Title (Vantage Point) has integrated the Collaboration Center solution from Mortgage Cadence, an Accenture (NYSE: ACN) company, to automate the exchange of information throughout the real-estate closing process for all Mortgage Cadence clients. 

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The Mortgage Cadence Collaboration Center helps to solve two critical issues within the closing process: the pervasive disconnect between lenders and title/settlement companies, and an industry-wide need for increased automation.

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Connecting all parties in the transaction — mortgage lenders, title and settlement agents, real estate professionals and others — the platform automates processes, facilitates the exchange of documents and data, and provides real-time messaging, all within a secure environment that all parties can trust. And by reducing the number of touch points required for each loan, the platform helps to shorten the time-to-close and drive down the cost-to-close — which has become increasingly important for lenders, borrowers and third-party providers.

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It also functions within Vantage Point’s native title production system via API integration, eliminating the need for Vantage Point to go off platform.

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“Collaboration Center is a competitive differentiator for us and for Mortgage Cadence clients,” said Robert Jackson, CEO at Vantage Point. “By putting all the necessary information in a title transaction in one place and automatically identifying version changes, it greatly reduces the amount of manual work required from our team, increases document accuracy, and helps us get the borrower to the closing table more quickly.”

Bryan Ireton, managing director for Mortgage Cadence, Accenture, said, “The industry has long needed a solution that securely connects, automates and simplifies the closing process. We’re pleased that Vantage Point recognized this need and chose to invest in our comprehensive solution.” 

And The 2019 Winners Are …

Sales, marketing and public relations executives are blazing a trail that is determining the biggest winners in financial services. On the sales side, research from the University of Pennsylvania shows that more than 50% of buyers still seek advice when making a purchase. As a result, educated and engaged sales associates who can meet buyers’ needs—especially who have knowledge about a specific product—ring up sales that on average bring in 69% more money. Similarly on the marketing side, a savvy business owner realizes that in order to grow, they need to make more people aware of their product or service. This means engaging with a marketing professional to help promote the business, bring in new clientele, and ensure that current customers are aware of all the products and services. Lastly, everyone wants to become the go-to organization in your field, right? For that to happen, you need to build your credibility and bring your expertise and knowledge into the limelight. That’s exactly what public relations executives bring to the table.

These executives work tirelessly to ensure their company/client is a true leader, but they themselves don’t always get recognized. That ends today. PROGRESS in Lending is recognizing the Top 20 Sales, Marketing and Public Relations Executives that are making the biggest impact.  Our winners in alphabetical order are:

Linda Aparo

National Director of Sales & Business Development

reQuire Real Estate Solutions, a Covius Solution

As National Director of Sales & Business Development at reQuire Real Estate Solutions, a Covius Solution, Linda is responsible for overseeing reQuire’s national sales and product development. Linda is a seasoned executive with a passion for developing new and inventive ways to make the industry more understandable and compliant. Linda has an outstanding record of success in identifying business opportunities, developing strategies and implementing actions to boost business performance.  

As the head of sales for reQuire over the past 5 years, Linda has played a crucial role in the growth and development of the company and its product suite. Since she has joined the company, reQuire has grown to be one the leading providers of lien releases nationwide and is used by more than a thousand leading title companies. 

Some of Linda’s recent accomplishments include:

>>The successful development and rollout of reQuire’s Release Tracking Plus product, that ensures more compliance around releases. Since its launch, the company has seen a steady increase of customers choosing the solution over their legacy release tracking system and are now using release tracking plus.

>>Development of reQuire’s Title Retrieval Program which is designed for lenders that are unable to resell loans on the secondary market due to outstanding trailing documents, one being the title insurance policy. The program obtains the outstanding title policies so they can be resold on the secondary market. 

Over the past 12 months, Linda has been working with the American Land Title Association (ALTA), educating their members on the impacts of lien defects. Today, about 15-20% of all payoffs have either a missing release or a defective release, and this is not a new problem. In 2005, ALTA reported that more than a third of all residential real estate transactions had title problems. For years, there has been a debate between lenders and the title industry as to whose responsibility it is to assure that a release is recorded on the land records. Linda, in conjunction with ALTA, has developed a playbook for the entire lending community to educate the industry and consumers on the lifecycle of a loan.

Craig Austin

SVP, Sales & Business Development


As senior vice president of sales and business development at ClosingCorp, Craig Austin is responsible for leading the sales organization, developing customer acquisition strategies, and building and maintaining relationships with leading loan origination systems, point-of-sale solutions, and industry settlement service portals.

Craig has played a pivotal role in helping ClosingCorp become the nation’s leading third-party fee provider. Since he joined the company in late 2016, ClosingCorp’s client base has increased 60 percent and the company’s volume has increased nearly 80 percent. Today, 19 of the top 25 lenders nationwide as well as 9 of the top 10 wholesale lenders use ClosingCorp technology.

Throughout the past year, Craig has closed more than a dozen high-impact deals with large lenders, including Freedom Mortgage Corporation, Movement Mortgage, Plaza Home Mortgage, Stearns Lending, Fifth Third, Union Bank and loanDepot. Those deals have resulted not only in 1.5 million purchase transactions going through ClosingCorp’s fee platform last year, but also increased efficiency and productivity for the entire mortgage ecosystem. By delivering a solution with accurate, real-time fee data, Craig helps lender partners streamline the loan estimate and closing disclosure generation process and confidently originate compliant loans. 

Prior to joining ClosingCorp, Craig was vice president of sales at RealEC® Technologies a division of Black Knight Financial Services, a provider of web-based technology solutions designed to support lenders’ loan quality programs, minimize loan repurchase risk and drive efficiencies in the mortgage transaction process. During his six-year tenure at RealEC, the company achieved its highest sales and client retention rate.

Joe Bowerbank


Profundity Communications, Inc.

Joe Bowerbank possesses an extensive background in marketing communications, public relations and branding with a unique blend of experience working for multiple mortgage technology providers at an in-house marketing capacity and also as an outside consultant.He has a passion for helping launch technology companies, expand existing organizations, take new products to market, and create positive industry-wide awareness for enterprise-class fintech software solutions.
In the last year, Bowerbank has assisted in successfully rolling out and growing the mortgage industry’s first single-source LOS and POS digital mortgage solution with OpenClose; DocMagic’s end-to-end, fully paperless eClosing platform; MCT’s browser-based capital markets and digital loan trading software, Global DMS’ next-generation commercial valuation management system, and Quandis’ cloud-based default management technology services.  

Joe has more than 20 years of marketing, communications, branding, and strategy experience in the financial services and technology sectors helping grow organizations and build market share.  He is a company building marketing professional who understands what it takes to catapult companies to the next level and quickly increase revenue.

Joe established Profundity Communications, Inc. to utilize his experience and skill sets to help clients achieve above-and-beyond results.  He has successfully operated at an in-house marketing capacity where he managed functions such as marketing strategy, communications plans, go-to-market launches, public relations, branding, digital marketing, advertising, trade shows and events, corporate identity, websites, collateral, budgeting, competitive analysis, and essentially most facets of marketing.

Bob Brandt

VP of Marketing & Strategic Alliances

Optimal Blue

Bob Brandt has been fundamental in bridging the gap between sales, marketing, and strategic alliances at Optimal Blue.  With more than 20 years of experience leading successful, high-performing sales and marketing teams in the financial services industry, Bob has observed many of the pain points that lenders have experienced in the past.  He believes that a lack of collaboration and integration between mortgage technology vendors has historically held the industry back, leaving lenders in a difficult position as they tried to unsuccessfully maneuver and connect different components of their mortgage technology stack.  Bob’s leadership and experience brought a unique perspective to Optimal Blue, where he recognized the opportunity to leverage Optimal Blue, its content, and advanced technology to bring the modern mortgage tech stack together in an entirely new way.

Over the last two years, Bob has led the effort to establish a successful partner ecosystem that is based on real-time connections with the industry’s leading mortgage technology providers.  Today, more than 50 best-of-breed vendors are heavily integrated with Optimal Blue and millions of transactions are conducted across the platform through an advanced set of APIs.  Vendors from all disciplines of the mortgage loan process are participating today – from lead aggregation, realtor and MLS, CRM and marketing, consumer direct, point-of-sale, mobile, and beyond.

Dona DeZube

Director of Communications Strategy

Planet Home Lending

With three decades of experience in the mortgage industry, Dona gained tremendous knowledge and know-how as a communications specialist. During her career, she has helped some of the best-known industry, government, and trade association players strategically brand themselves through thought leadership communications. 

As Director of Communications Strategy for Planet Home Lending, she parlays that industry expertise and insight into company branding efforts. Over the past year, her valuable counsel raised personal and corporate brand recognition for Planet Home Lending and its leadership team. Dona’s strategies generated countless bylined articles, award nominations, and earned media quotes on trade and consumer websites and in publications. Her social media and website strategies supporting sales, recruiting, and corporate messaging led to significant increases in engagement and traffic.

Sam Garcia

Mortgage Media Specialist

During the year since he transitioned from a mortgage news publisher to a public relations professional, Sam Garcia has deepened his relationships with an extensive network of financial and real estate journalists, editors and producers — enabling his clients to reach a variety of news outlets. He was personally responsible for generating coverage for his clients that resulted in more than 40 articles during a recent month (not for public reporting please). His success with media outreach on behalf of mortgage firms and service providers often exceeds that of his peers. With the knowledge gained in his two decades as an editor and publisher, Sam has helped clients deliver compelling stories that capture the interest of the editorial community.

The typical company Sam works with is a successful business with brilliant leaders who are often connected with an emerging process or technology. He doesn’t see that profile changing much even as real estate finance ebbs and flows. However, given current bond market volatility amid an ongoing trade war, a period with lower mortgage rates could see a greater number of companies self actualize. In addition, any reforms to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could create opportunities for a new sector of players to engage in raising their profiles.

Rick Grant


Gallardo Grant Corp. d/b/a RGA Public Relations

Rick developed the LinkedIn for Leaders program this year, through which he works with industry thought leaders to increase their visibility on the world’s no. 1 social media platform for business, LinkedIn. The program helps busy executives develop their most important stories, create an editorial calendar so they can be developed, posted and promoted effectively, and then works with the client’s marketing department to help create content that mirrors and extends the thought leadership coming down from the c-suite.

Rick believes firmly that sales, marketing and public relations are beginning to merge into a single set of disciplines. In response, companies are changing the way they manage these departments, with some large companies actually doing away with the Chief Marketing Officer position (if you can imagine that). This means that external support teams, whether they are advertising agencies, marketing or PR firms are being asked to create content that will work well for the company wherever it is used. PR firms are writing more marketing copy and marketing firms are relying heavily on content that was once only found in the PR or company’s advertising. We may be approaching a time when companies just hire a Communications Czar who has managers for the various disciplines but that handles the development of all key company stories from one centralized office

Michael Hammond

Founder & President

NexLevel Advisors

Before NexLevel Advisors, Hammond’s sole focus was applying his sales, marketing, and PR expertise to the one company for whom he was working. Now, he applies all of those lessons learned to the benefit of many tech companies that are looking to gain awareness and grow their companies. So while he might not be the person in the headlines getting the credit for driving growth for that one company, he receives much greater satisfaction knowing that he has added significant value to a host of mortgage providers. Hammond truly believes that has a much greater impact on the mortgage industry as a whole.

He helps these technology providers bring their innovative solutions to market by moving audiences, generating leads, driving sales and igniting brand stories.

By working with numerous providers he has the benefit of identifying trends earlier on, providing best practices, and strategies so that these companies can more successfully bring innovation to the housing market.

Hammond has helped numerous companies bring innovation to market within the housing market helping drive growth, increases in market share, position for capital infusion, or acquisition.  

“Michael Hammond is a results-driven professional executive who excels at making organizations stand out in the crowd. His vast knowledge, experience, and expertise to propel companies forward in all facets of the mortgage banking industry are unparalleled. I highly recommend any entity that is looking to make its mark in the industry both externally and internally for gained efficiencies of scale to engage Michael. The results are amazing.”  Kathleen Mantych Sr. Director, AsurityDocs, Asurity Technologies

Laila Khan

Marketing and Communications Lead

Guidance Residential, LLC

Over the past 12 months, Guidance Residential has been focused on one thing: improving the customer journey. Every initiative, every project, and every decision had to align with that goal. To better understand the customer journey and the value that Guidance Residential offers, it’s important to have an intrinsic comprehension of the customer engagement experience, complete understanding of our product suite and how we can server our customers, full awareness of our niche audience and diverse client base, and knowledge of our process from the operational to customer insight. 

Prior to May 2018, Laila Khan was the Preprocessing Lead and transitioned into an Account Manager. She was entrenched in day-to-day customer interactions and developed a deep understanding of the customer journey. In May 2018, Laila was selected by the company’s leadership to transition to the Marketing and Communications Lead role, given her roots in the community and the expertise she had amassed as an integral part of the Operations team.

Over the past 12 months, Laila Khan has been able to identify, and successfully implement strategic areas of improvement with regards to the company’s previous lack of brand awareness, within and outside its niche market. Her efforts have increased the company’s social media presence, successfully connected the organization with B2B industry leaders, dramatically improved the customer journey, and coordinated all efforts to get Guidance Residential recognized.

Riffat Lakhani

Vice President, Marketing

Guidance Residential, LLC

In order to provide outstanding communication to customers—the kind that makes them feel informed and treasured, and the kind that makes them seek out further engagement—you have to care about them, understand them and provide solutions to address their pain points. That is where Riffat Lakhani and her team come in and that’s how they’ve increased online leads an astonishing 33% YOY from 2018 to 2019, and 86% since Riffat’s leadership of the marketing department. Riffat is Vice President of Marketing at Guidance Residential, a specialty home financing organization that prides itself on providing top-notch service to a previously under-served segment of the market – those who need interest-free financing for faith-related reasons.

Riffat’s small but nimble team supports a growing nationwide sales team of more than 75 sales professionals while caring for customers in a more direct capacity online as well. 

Purchasing a home is a complicated process; add on top of that faith-based nuances and you are bound to lose even savvy homebuyers. Riffat’s team educates customers about our program and the home financing process through every avenue available – chat, text, email, webinars, social media, apps, and video. 

But producing material is not enough. According to Marketo, on average, 50% of leads in any system are not yet ready to buy. And almost 80% of new leads never become sales because of lack of lead nurturing (Marketing Sherpa). This past year, Riffat developed the strategy to nurture leads through an automated nurturing system that allows customers to receive timely and relevant information specific to their needs. The emails address issues that are preventing prospective homeowners from moving forward and guide them through the steps toward achieving their dream. 
The ultimate effect is a customer experience that stands out even among industry leaders. And the proof is in the numbers: Under Riffat’s leadership this past year, Guidance Residential increased its online leads by 33%.

Charlyne H. McWilliams

Account Supervisor/Regional Sales Director

William Mills Agency

Charlyne’s in depth knowledge of key industry issues and many of the game changing trends has made her the go-to source for mortgage and fintech information at the William Mills Agency. With more than 20 years of public relations experience on top of her 10-year career in business journalism, Charlyne is able to offer her multiple clients the counsel they need to successfully garner positive exposure for their company and their brand. 

She has worked with more than 50 agency clients touching all aspects of the industry. Herstrong communications skills enable her to bring innovative strategies for success to her clients. In the last year, she spearheaded a very effective campaign to help LERETA share the news of its new relationship with Black Knight. In addition to that campaign, she has successfully placed many feature articles (some of which she ghost wrote) in leading industry publications. She has crafted nominations that have resulted in several awards for her clients as well. She has become a trusted source and reliable counsel to all of her clients. 

Raj Menon

Chief Marketing Officer


Raj Menon is the Chief Marketing Officer for Tavant, a Silicon Valley-based provider of AI-powered digital lending technologies. In this position Menon leads the company’s efforts and innovation in marketing, branding and building alliances. He is known for developing world-class marketing teams that transform how a company showcases its offering and positions to the global market.

Menon has been instrumental in ensuring success through his comprehensive and big picture thinking in his work in the financial services, technology and corporate services industries. Prior to joining Tavant, Menon worked at Cognizant for nearly 14 years where he successfully increased sales, expanded marketing efforts and further streamlined operations for North America-based clients.

Most recently, Menon was charged with leading the Lending unit at Cognizant, which became an industry-leading practice under his vision and leadership. Additionally, Menon has worked at Tata AID as the Head of Information Technology and TCS in various leadership positions. He leverages his experience to implement complex business solutions and is skilled at advising organizations piloting transformation strategies or creating business and technology goals. 

Sara Nakae

Director of Marketing


Sara has over 15 years of experience in FinTech serving the financial services sector in realtor and agency marketing for banks and credit unions, and extensive experience in the mortgage industry working with banks, credit unions and mortgage companies to deliver award winning technology solutions and services. She has been a keynote presenter at leading industry events and conferences discussing FinTech and its impact on lenders businesses.  Sara has deep industry knowledge in the financial digital space.

Most recently she has worked on the development and launch of new Equity IQ Solution. EquityIQ is the first and only home equity lead generation tool and application management system fully integrated with industry leading LOS’s. The solution drives existing and new borrowers to lenders customized application pages; automatically identifies borrowers available home equity and estimated monthly payments; reduces internal resources by decreasing the time to review and filter qualified applicants; and is a lead generation tool, as EquityIQ will instantly submit all borrower information directly into leading LOS platforms.

Sara also worked on the development and launch of their new platform, FirstClose ONE, as well as the product, SMART Select. These tools help lenders accelerate turn times and save money by using suitability logic to create efficiencies in the mortgage lending process.

Darcy Patch

VP Marketing, Enterprise Solutions

WEST, a Williston Financial Group company

Over a career spanning more than 20 years, Darcy Patch has led the marketing and communications efforts and implemented strategic marketing plans on behalf of many of the real estate industry’s largest and most innovative companies. But it is probably her efforts over the past 12 months that have earned Darcy recognition as one of the most dynamic, multi-talented and results-driven marketers working in the mortgage industry today.

For most of the past year, Darcy served as vice president of marketing for national technology and valuation services provider Veros Real Estate Solutions. There, she was responsible for building awareness and recognition of the Veros brand, generating new leads and upsell opportunities with existing clients and providing proactive, ongoing support for the company’s sales and product development teams. 

When she joined Veros in January 2018, however, Darcy had a very limited marketing budget—so her first instinct was to build exposure for the company by leveraging its existing products and data. For example, one of her first projects was increasing awareness of Veros’ quarterly market reports, VeroFORECASTs, which included projections about future home price appreciation and depreciation levels by individual market. These reports were being distributed yet not actively promoted, but Darcy quickly expanded their distribution by sharing them personally with industry reporters, as well as with local media in the markets covered by the reports.

In June of this year, Darcy joined WEST, a Williston Financial Group company, where she leads the marketing and communications strategies for WFG’s Enterprise Solutions group. She oversees marketing and publicity campaigns for WFG Lender Services, ValuTrust, WESTvm and DecisionPoint, as well as other enterprise solutions offerings. Today, Darcy is hard at work doing many of the same things she did throughout her career and more, increasing awareness of both WFG Enterprise Solutions and fellow Williston Financial Group company WEST as companies dedicated to improving real estate transactions and providing a better experience for Realtors, brokers, title companies, mortgage lenders and, above all, the consumers they serve. 

Currently, Darcy is helping WFG’s Enterprise Solutions group refine its branding message, implement internal and external communications plans, and helping to create a media engagement strategy that includes regularly contributed content and thought leadership articles. She’s also formalizing WEST’s online and social media strategy to get everyone in the organization on the same page. 

Brian Rieger

Principal & Founder

True Impact Communications

A number of the businesses approaching Brian and True Impact through the years to support them in their marketing were small-cap and mid-cap businesses with limited marketing resources and experience. Most were simply seeking to grow by “getting the message out there.” In many cases, the clients had good products and promising forecasts but limited marketing budgets. The trademark True Impact strategy involves an integrated approach, combining budget-friendly PR and social media messaging with home-grown but effective content marketing. Brian has always insisted upon authenticity and simplicity in messaging, which has resulted in high impact results (especially increased revenue and brand awareness) on shortened timelines.

Brian and True Impact were among the first marketing/PR firms in the mortgage industry to encourage clients to use content marketing to tell their stories. In combination with traditional public relations and direct marketing efforts, multiple True Impact clients used blogs, podcasts, webinars and video to share their messaging, while supporting it through social media, marketing and PR channels.

Zac Scalzi

Director of Sales


Floify has long been considered a leader in mortgage technology. This honor not only comes from the dedication of the company’s leadership and staff, but also the contributions Zac Scalzi has made to support Floify’s continued domination of the mortgage tech market. Over the past 12 months, Zac and his five-person sales team is well known for supporting many of the company’s major sales initiatives, including providing prospects with hands-on introductions to Floify’s industry-leading point-of-sale platform, their redesigned digital 1003, and dozens of the solution’s third-party integrations – all in an effort to simplify and streamline the lending workflows of mortgage pros around the world.

Zac’s strengths lie in his ability to find solutions to fit nearly every lender’s unique business need. And If Zac doesn’t feel Floify’s vast solution offerings are able to be customized to meet the complex demands of a prospect, Zac is willing to help them find alternatives, even if it means directing them to a competing solution – a rare approach to customer service, especially in today’s marketplace.

Equipped with Floify’s innovations that Zac has helped to promote, lenders are better able to fight margin compression, reduce workload, originate more loans faster, and dramatically improve borrower satisfaction with the entire home loan process. Zac’s customer-first mindset has added tremendous value to Floify’s efforts, which has ultimately supported the company’s massive growth over the last year, and will continue well into the future.

Michelle Shapiro

Product Marketing Manager, Financial Risk and Management Solutions


In her first 6 months at Fiserv, Michelle was appointed a member of the LoanComplete Management Team. In her short tenure at the company (less than 1 year), she has championed LoanComplete from Fiserv to receive industry recognition including the achievement of Fiserv’s first-time recognition as –

>>“Best Digital Mortgage Product” FinTech Breakthrough 2019

>>HW Tech100 Winner 2019

>>“Top 25 Company to Work For” by MReport, 12/2018

Michelle takes great pride and enjoyment in partnering with experts and leaders across the lending landscape, sitting on the LoanComplete management team, managing product launches, and developing content and thought leadership to reflect evolving market positioning as well as leading event and campaign management.

Stephen Sprayberry

Account Supervisor

William Mills Agency

Since joining William Mills Agency in 2011, Stephen has leveraged his public relations, journalism and marketing experience into substantial PR program and client contributions for leading organizations across the mortgage industry, including Docutech, FICS and QuestSoft. In his role as Account Supervisor, Stephen’s areas of focus span from research, content writing and campaign strategy to media relations, event management, executive media training and company rebranding. 

Over the past 12 months, Stephen has led the charge on overseeing the strategy, planning and execution of valuable public relations content for his clients, including, but not limited to, news releases, case studies, articles and company press kit elements, as well as assisting with the distribution and placement of these materials within the media for key decision makers in the mortgage space. Combining his experience in the PR field with the decades of industry expertise his clients hold, Stephen was able to successfully capitalize on many of the key trends generating buzz within the mortgage industry, such as eMortgage and the continued introduction of new and revised regulatory standards. 

As a result of these efforts, many of Stephen’s clients remain at the forefront of thought leadership in the industry and have gained added momentum as they strive to further improve the way both lenders and borrowers experience the mortgage process from beginning to end. In addition, these same clients have received dozens of industry awards from key mortgage publications and associations at both an organization and individual level further emphasizing the impact of their stance within the industry as a result of the PR efforts performed by Stephen and the talented team of PR practitioners he manages.

Tom Tough

VP of National Renovation/Construction Lending Division

Plaza Home Mortgage

As Vice President of Plaza Home Mortgage’s newly formed National Renovation / Construction Lending division, Tom leads a team of six—a Lending Manager, Construction Underwriter, three Renovation/Construction Specialists and a Construction Service Specialist—and is responsible for overseeing sales, operational efficiencies and product development. 

Over the past year, Tom has been instrumental to the development and rollout of several new renovation and construction lending programs, including: 

>>One-Time Close Construction-To-Permanent loan program. Streamlining the process that approves the borrower for both a construction loan and a permanent 30-year mortgage at the outset of the project—thus avoiding two closings and having the convenience and cost savings of two loans in one. 

>>VA Renovation loan program that allows qualified borrowers to purchase a home with no down payment requirement or refinance at 90% of the after completed value and include up to $50,000 in improvements all in one loan. 

>>Freddie Mac’s CHOICERenovationSM loan program that allows homebuyers to use one loan to purchase or refinance a home and also finance the cost of renovations.

Tom joined Plaza Home Mortgage more than 15 years ago to open its first Northwest Regional Office in Portland as the Northwest Regional Vice President where he was in charge of sales and operations for the entire region. Due to the success of Renovation lending in his region, Tom was given the opportunity to develop a renovation and construction lending division to further expand upon Plaza’s existing host of renovation products. 

Tom is a mortgage industry veteran with more than 40 years of experience in mortgage lending. Tom has had the opportunity to work with a variety of product lines including hard money loans, conventional, government, Jumbo, VA, FHA, USDA and now construction  and renovation loans in both the wholesale and retail channels.

Bryan Wilson

National Sales Director

WFG Lender Services

Over the past 12 months, Bryan Wilson has leveraged a busy real estate market, his years of sales expertise and Williston Financial Group’s expanding number of innovative products and services to achieve his best sales year in his 15-year career in the mortgage industry. 

Bryan, who joined WFG nearly 10 years ago, is the national sales director for WFG Lender Services, a national settlement services company that applies its superior technology and closing processes to help lenders remove time and costs from real estate transactions. His primary role is selling title insurance for mortgages, mortgage refinancing and home equity products, leveraging a wide arsenal of title products and services provided by WFG, the nation’s sixth largest underwriter of title insurance. 

Since the beginning of 2019, Bryan has personally billed more than $1 million in revenues per month. And not only has he been wildly successful at increasing current business with existing clients, he has also helped lenders solve their biggest challenges by hooking them up with WFG’s suite of technology, appraisal and other services.

As a national representative, Bryan also goes where the business is, which amounts to a ton of traveling. He estimates he spent about 75 nights over the past year on the road, flying from California to New York to Texas, and meeting with existing and prospective clients where they do business. But it’s the kind of work he enjoys, which is evident in his performance. “I love building relationships with my clients, whether it’s in the office or going out to visit them in person and getting to know them on a personal level,” Bryan says. “I’ve found the extra effort really seems to go a long way.” 

Can You Hear Me Now?

Clearly, there is no “Womens Guide to Banking” but if there was one, it would rule the world, we already know.  

In this feature, in the year of the “movement” and the continued focus that the world has given to women, who by and large and especially in our world, have been out numbered in the rankings of jobs at senior levels & upper sales ranks for many decades, we give pause to those incredible women who independently and collectively are moving the needle & redefining the future of the real estate finance world. 

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In fact, in the past year women who lead communities, causes, companies and change are truly making impressionable moves that are leaving marks & indelible change in the mortgage finance space and they are just getting started.   And let’s be honest, they didn’t ask to be put in this time, nor did they start this movement. In fact, they have all been surviving, overcoming, fighting and protecting their precious little turf and now they finally are gaining ground.  Still it takes a brave person, man or women to find their voice, to speak their words, to be willing to be the example or gracefully take the stage, share their stories and help hundreds and thousands of other women finally find the confidence they’ve been waiting their whole lives to free.   They are doing incredibly brave work.  

I look around and I see so many women who are working tirelessly, for a mutual cause to fan the flames of momentum right now while a small fire is burning.  And make no mistake, behind the scenes of years and years of in the trenches work, these women have faced every imaginable obstacle, challenge and adversity.  They have individually overcome their personal quests for leadership and risen out of the crumbling old school mentality and in fact are now “Thrivers” in a new world and now they are finally sharing their stories.   They are being bold, they are captivating a world and they have grabbed the microphones and the stages and collected posses of women behind them, the power has swung in their direction and they are stronger than they have ever been.  

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Yes, when I was seated in the audience at NAMMBA on the final convention day awaiting Marcia Davies, COO MBA & Founder of mPower, speech that morning, as excited as I was to hear her speak and deliver what I already knew was going to be a resounding speech, nothing prepared me for the video she ran on pay equality.  

As I sat there, tired on my 3rdday of convention and umpteen week of travel, I wasn’t ready to allow myself to face something that for so many years had been an angering process for me personally.   In this candid movie she would show several sets of children being given balls to pick up, the boys had blue ones and the girls had pink ones. They did their jobs filling glass jars and when the very last ball was picked up, of equal amounts, they were asked to close their eyes and put their hands out for their prizes.  The boy would be handed a cup running over with prizes and the girl one half full.   They then were told to open their eyes and they both would look, innocent minds…staring back at the inequity of their efforts, the inequity of reward and interestingly the girls would try to be polite but eventually speak up and ask why, the boys would try to be cordial and defend.  It is an incredibly powerful video entitled “Child Social Experiment Looks At Gender Equality.”

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The truth is, I could not contain my emotion that day.  I sat with my eyes welling up and my nose running.  I sat there and called upon every year I ever fought for pay. How angry I had felt and how hard it was for me to squash my self-worth and inner fight so not to raise bad light to myself.   Yes, I had to fight for my pay to be even close to even my lesser counterparts a few times.  I knew I had more responsibility  and nowhere near the pay of my male equal counterparts and so I realized sitting there that exactly how wrong it was and resigned to the idea that I will never get the fair pay in my lifetime until now when I became my own business owner.  No, like so many others, I will never be made right the wrongs done to me there. 

I realized sitting there that Marcia was doing far more than I ever imagined.  Yes, she was doing “it”.  She had let the proverbial cat right out of the bag and there would be no putting it back in.   As I collected my composure, I would recall being thrilled to hear her speak my name to the audience, in fact the seats were lined with post cards highlighting my webinar coming on the topic of Safety.  I felt so happy to realize I had finally found my own people and I would be recognized for my talents, rewarded in fact and I would be heard. 

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Yes, women are now no longer acting or speaking like they use to.  They are now addressing long silenced issues that have plagued them.  They are now finding their voices.  I will also point out that the difference between this generation of female leaders is they are at the right place, at the right time and they are the right women to truly make an impact.  The women below who have contributed to this article their words of wisdom to up and coming females truly are making a difference in a world that needs a difference to permanently be made and many of them were not given the same mentorship from female leaders or an out stretched hand like they are doing at incredible heights.   But that will now change forever starting with these women and so many more women who are now changing that evolution.  We applaud them for their work.

Advice for up and coming women professionals in the mortgage finance & real estate space. 

Marcia Davies, COO of the MBA & Founder of mPower, 

“I encourage women who want to advance in their careers to take a risk. It can be a big risk or small one.  By doing so, you move out of your comfort zone and expand your experience. Opportunities will follow.”

Marcia is right.  You must get out of your comfort zone.  I took this advice a year ago when I leaped into coaching recognizing a need and a void for female leadership coaches.  It was far scarier a first step than I ever imagined it would be.  But man, I am liberated.  What first step do you need to take to come out?  I believe that your greatest existence lay on the other side of that first step.

Marcia will go down in history as having created the largest movement in our business with her incredible, polished, poignant, timely and welcomed society of female professionals through mPower.  She has brought celebrities to her stages, elevated women and made moves that no other women have made by truly being the beacon that first shined it’s light calling upon all women who have been searching for leadership in ways never before seen by the likes of Marcia.  She has helped liberate a generation. 

Laura Brandao, President of AFR 

“Be true to yourself and follow your instincts”

I’ve watched Laura on stage this past year in many different places, all over the country, coast to coast and she has left people in aww in her wake.  Seriously, I have seen her speak and she literally will leave men and women inspired in her raw and authentic speaking, her keen knowledge of this industry and a clear and incredible passion & love for our business.  She is the real deal, earned every bit of her leadership spot in the senior rankings and is exactly the kind of woman I look up to, like so many women AND men.   She is right, you must forge forward following your instincts.   They will take you the distance.

Ginger Bell, Edumarketer & Industry Influencer, Speaker

“Be generous with your laughter, considerate with your reprimands, thoughtful with your praise and passionate about your work.  People will forget the work you’ve done but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

I have had the chance to see Ginger speak on many national platforms, including Gary Vaynerchuk Agent 2021 in January and she is the real deal voice of our future.  She has revolutionized our industry by creating a list of events that the entire industry follows, and she is on the edge of state-of-the-art social media and marketing techniques sought after by the elite.   Her word is a good one and she so poignantly speaks as an expert leading professional where this industry is going.  Listen up!

Chelsea Pietz, Social Media Coach, Podcaster & Industry Influencer

One of the most important pieces of advice I can share with anyone in today’s marketplace is to become very clear about your personal brand. Today’s consumer as well as your company will demand that your personal brand serve the needs of the end user. Start by defining your ‘UVP’ or Unique Value Proposition with this simple formula: I do what + for whom = that results in. Then, share it everywhere”

Chelsea is also a sought-after speaker and voice on many stages including Vaynerchuk Agent 2021 & Housing Wire ‘Engage’ recently to name only a couple.  Chelsea is on point, well-spoken and results driven.  She does not mince words and when she speaks, she comes from a place of pure experience but in areas we seek knowledge and need real advice, in this new world we find ourselves in.  So now more than ever people like Chelsea stand to help us all position ourselves for a future we only hoped to imagine long ago.   She will tell you, that time has come. 

Desiree Patno, CEO NAWRB, Industry Leading Executive

“Get ready for change. Industries, logistics, and our personal and professional lives are evolving faster than ever. While it is easy to be distracted by this, it is important for women leaders to focus on the fundamental problems that are inhibiting greater inclusion and social impact. 

We need to prioritize connecting with like-minded people in the industry, collaborate and share our resources, and act on these relationships to help create opportunities for future generations with a gender lens perspective.  “

Desiree has made a mark forever in the communities of women in the “real estate ecosystem” in so many fundamental ways.  By removing the silos and connecting industry leaders within their companies and departments, departments within agencies and providing a platform of professional development to know the rules of the game. And bygiving women a voice.  By giving women a place, a sense of community.  Through her recognition, women have been elevated & have receive awards that are incredible and long over-due.  She has brought reward to their incredible roles that quite frankly has not been doled out for most of these women’s careers.  No, most of these women have worked tirelessly without the accolades and especially at the heights of the executives she awards. That in and of itself is incredible. Desiree work, in a chartable and community sense has filled a void that existed prior to the inception of NAWRB. Her contributions are historical and will make a difference and leave an impression for generations of female professionals coming up!  

Jennifer Du Plessis, CEO of Jen Du Plessis LLC, Coach, Speaker, Podcaster, Industry Influencer

The shift from Success in business, after breaking through so many glass ceilings; to Significance in life, is personal for every women. 

Some of us want a quieter life to seek our life’s purpose, give back and make an impact in a more subtle manor; while others continue the pursuit of significance by joining Boards or changing lanes to solopreneural activities such as consulting. 
Either way, today’s woman is not finished yet! She is yearning for greater fulfillment after so many years of grinding to reach her own expectations for success, all the while   raising her family. It’s her time now to reach for the impactful fulfillment she so desires. You haven’t seen anything yet— watch her “roar!”

Jen is so right.  There are women coming out of every direction showing up in ways we have never seen. They are seeking their dreams and goals in ways that may vary but clearly represents a shift in success as she states to “Significance” in life and THAT is personal for every woman.   I think Jen makes a truly valuable point.  It is up to each of us to decide what that means and to know that whatever that fulfillment is, it’s about personal happiness first and by owning that, true happiness can be found independently.  

I have watched Jen for years, met her on the back side of Caesars palace stage in Atlantic City NJ about to walk on to speak, she was mesmerizing and every time since I have been equally as impressed.  She is so sharp, so experienced, so pointed in her ability to give professionals directions that truly make an impact and she has changed the lives of so many people it’s beyond measure.  She is still doing incredible work and I truly admire her, her family and her entire life as an example of what all of us hopes and aspires to have. Love, Happiness, Success & Legacy. 

Kristin Messerli, Chief Editor Mortgage Women Magazine, Founder Cultural Outreach

“My advice for women in 2019 is to find more ways to voice your perspective and bring leadership to your networks. There are many platforms today (publications, company meetings/events, social media, conferences, etc.) that need women’s leadership and are making it easier than ever to speak up. So, I encourage you to move beyond fear and share your message.”

Kristin Messerli may be the youngest of the women featured in this article, but she is a mega game changer with stature well past her tender age and represents power and leadership of incredible magnitudes.  She has turned her magazine, the first ever all woman dedicated monthly feature into an incredible success.  Her work in the trenches of our field with Cultural Outreach have been incredible.  She has used her own voice to free the voices of many others, fought personal public battles in doing so and arose the victor, shining a light on discriminations, liberations and helped thousands of women find their way.  Her work as a professional, a journalist, an editor and a thought leader is undeniably some of the most talented amongst her age group.   A leader amongst us all with the power to live long past her generations of women who she will one day succeed.   She is amongst us, young but powerful and in many ways showing us that we are heard, that we matter and that she won’t let the up and comers let go of our momentum.  

All of these women are incredible, I reflect on how fortunate I am in this past year to get so many incredible women in my network support and I could not feel more at home than I do today writing this article.  I joke to everyone that I have felt like Ray Ramone character in Ice Age 2 when he sees the other wooly mammoth for the first time and realizes he is not alone.   Yeah.  I feel like that.  No longer alone.   

There is power in this community and I would argue respect. Women are making a powerful difference. They are giving courage to more women to seek promotions, to seek more platforms to speak on and to seek more vital roles.  Due to the women like those I have quoted here in this article as a small sample of the incredible list of women leaders I am surrounded by, I can tell you that doors have swung open and other doors have closed, fires have been started and other fires extinguished.  Love has been spread, encouragement increased, confidence corralled, and voices heard.  

Yes, the truth is, this article doesn’t highlight the work these women do in banking or the collective work they’ve done in the trenches for decades as mortgage professionals, it simply tells you through their words what women should continue to do, their best advice and I believe the secret to catapulting the girls in banking over the proverbial hill to heights we have yet to see! 

Can you hear us now? 

About The Author

AI Implementation: Where Do We Go From Here?

The previous two articles published have attempted to raise awareness of what Artificial Intelligence (AI) is and isn’t as well as the associated risks and opportunities.    This third article describes how the implementation of these technologies can change the way we operate and how, from an operational perspective, using the tools and the benefits can expand business and reduce costs. 

Fluctuating and Growing

One fact that we have to acknowledge is that AI is in flux and will most likely continue that way for some time.  For example, a recent article I read claimed that RPA (robotic process automation) is dead. It doesn’t mean that this type of AI is no longer useful, but that when the individual types of AI such as expert systems, robotic automation for individual processes as well as the disintegration of siloed processes and programs is addressed, it will result in a comprehensive integrated program that utilizes the appropriate method for the task at hand.

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Another area that has come to the forefront of AI is what is known as IoT or the Internet of Things. In this instance, data on the internet can be incorporated into databases as needed, to complete tasks through the use of AI.  A step further in this approach is what is known as AIoT or artificial intelligence data of things.  In other words, if by using the internet to create data, that data then becomes available for others to use in their AI efforts we have effectively created an internet of AI “things”.   

Of course, this is not going to be the final product or program for the use of AI.  As we know from just listening to the news or reading articles on the technology, the future uses of AI are seen as unlimited. 


Today the mortgage industry is trailing behind other industries in the use of AI in their workflow. While there are numerous reasons for this, one of the most basic is that organizations continue to run processes exactly as they were run 40 years ago.  There have been multitudes of new technology products that can be purchased and added to make the process cleaner with fewer errors, but the fundamental changes necessary to realize the intrinsic benefits of many have not been made.  

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Way back in 1979, loan applications were taken by Loan Officers and handed off to Processors, who put together the documentation that supported the application, including required regulatory disclosures, and handed it off to an Underwriter to evaluate for acceptability.  If approved the loan was handed off to a Closer, who made sure the title was acceptable and prepared the documents and funding.  Once the loan was closed, it was sent to Post-Closing, where it was reviewed, corrections made, documents sorted, MI filed, and the loan was then delivered to an investor. The technological support we have today was non-existent and management dealt with only people and processes. 

This linear process is still in place today although we now have multiple systems in these siloed functions to manage the data that was previously on paper. The process also has more documents and more people working on these tasks.  Despite these individual and in some cases co-joined systems, the process is still dependent on having people in place to connect the data and documentation.  Add to this the maintenance of system upkeep, the struggle to ensure the continuity of the data and process as well as the implementation of on-going updated systems and requirements and we get a view of the process  that can best be described as organized chaos and makes it near impossible to streamline the costs or effectively provide “quality” customer service.  

As a result of these Operational Risk issues (people, process & technology), the cost of producing a loan has now surged to around $8800, much of which involves manual reviews and rework.  Why?  A recent survey of the industry found that on average 62.5% or $5500 of the total $8800 is for personnel costs.  Another 11% or $1,000 covers general expenses and approximately the same amount is dedicated to secondary marketing expenses. Eight percent, or $704 is spent to support the technology used by the organization.  The remainder is spent on other various necessary expenditures.  In other words, we have not made any of the transformational transitions that have been promised by technology for years, just added more costs. This lack of vision and the resulting failure to redesign and manage effective change is definitely a roadblock to not only the use of AI, but the ability to run a profitable organization.

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Another roadblock we face is the inability to collect, comprehend and utilize data. Collectively data is the foundation of the products produced and the driver of the processes and people we employ.  The process begins with data collection and proceeds to add additional information throughout.  Yet the systems in use today do not allow us to utilize data from disparate programs to assist in the analytic process of acceptable loans and associated profitability. As I noted in an earlier article, in addition to each individual company’s data, the industry does not share any data.  This results in the inability to utilize comprehensive industry data to develop artificial intelligence.  While Fannie Mae frequently utilizes its data to develop “tools” for lenders, in reality it is only a very small piece of the total data set that could/should be used. Having a tool biased by the use of a segregated population of loans does not provide legitimate results to the total populations.  

Organizational culture can be a roadblock to success.  The culture of an organization actually holds back any company from improving their processes as management and staff adopt a “we have always done it this way” attitude. In fact, a survey of 590 G2000 leaders by HFS Research found that 51% of the highest performing enterprises see their cultures as holding them back in their technological transformation process.  From an Operational Risk perspective, the redesign of processes and corresponding people skills significantly lags technology implementation in organizations.  The only way to address this roadblock is by radically rethinking existing process which will ultimately drive the greatest benefits to the company.  The three pillars of operational performance (people, process, technology) no matter what form the tasks take are fundamental to the ability of the company to produce what has been promised. 

Mortgage Lending Redesign

A true transition of the lending process begins with understanding what AI technology can do. Once this awareness has taken place, a strong change management team needs to be identified and concepts, no matter how “off the wall” they seem, need to be identified.  This envisioning process must include not only how the process will be designed, but the necessary skill sets as well.  

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One of the most frequent questions asked when an AI discussion is held, is “Will I lose my job?” This fear of losing a job is one of the most pervasive concerns by the staff of all industries.  While skill sets will change, most individuals will continue to work in the same profession.  In other words, the tasks will change, but people will work. Recent studies have begun to reorganize common types of tasks performed and reorganized them into potential skill set requirements. 

One example is found in the book by Paul Daugherty and H. James Wilson entitled Human + Machine, Reimagining Work in the Age of AI, where tasks are divided into three groups. Those that involve human-only activity include leadership, creative activities and evaluative or judging skills. Those skills seen as primarily using the AI technology involve transactions, iterations, predictions and adaptations. However, there are a series of hybrid tasks that involve both human and technology efforts.  The human efforts within this hybrid set include communicating with applicants and borrowers to explain and educate them, much as we do now.  There will also be the need for individuals who train the technology.  For example, newer flexible robotic systems that work along with humans need to be trained to handle different tasks, just as we do now when machine learning is required.  There will also be those who sustain the processes and programs by incorporating the company’s risk profile, such as setting limits or allowable override decisions on profitability or legal and ethical compliance.  They do this by ensuring the quality of the data, flag errors and poor machine results, design interfaces for the AI expanded workforce.  

Within each of these groupings are a variety of tasks and corresponding skill sets, but one important factor is that the individuals fulfilling these jobs must understand the when, where and how of every action included in the lending and servicing processes.  Currently, the knowledge and skills necessary to work within the industry are siloed similar to the processes.  For example, underwriters today have a far different knowledge base than those who began working in the industry prior to automated systems.  More experienced underwriters understand why something is required, what the impact is if not and whether or not there are potential ways to address any problems.  That knowledge is quickly being lost.  In addition, because we have bifurcated the origination and servicing processes, few individuals in the production area can explain what and how servicing does and would not be able to explain why a payment was not processed.  For future work within the industry, employees must understand it all. 

Another area that is critical to lenders is regulatory issues.  In November,2018, Lael Brainard of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System presented remarks on What Are We Learning about Artificial Intelligence in Financial Services.  In these remarks, he stated that “AI… is not immune from fair lending and other consumer protection risks…”  and alerted lenders to the challenges in the areas of opacity as well as the ability to explain how the system complies with these requirements.  Since this area is so critical to lenders it is important that there are individuals with the skill sets to provide this information if requested.   

The development and maintenance of credit policy is therefore critical to lenders, and in conjunction with affordable housing initiatives, artificial intelligence, through its data sets and analytics can provide more rationalization for lending parameters.  One chief executive of a financial services company recently stated that what artificial intelligence and machine learning allows is the ability to get much broader perspectives on consumers thanks to additional data, shedding light on their creditworthiness.  

Other processes in the business appear to be ripe for implementation of AI.  Two prominent ones that come to mind are quality control and post-closing.  Using expert systems and RPA, the post-closing review processes can be developed to scrub data, identify missing documents or those that need correction and notify the individual responsible.  Of course, staff will be needed to address those loans that fall outside the parameters of the review program. 

Today quality control consists of reviewing loans to identify errors in all facets of the loan process.  Using artificial intelligence tools such as expert systems, machine learning and electronic verifications ordered and controlled by the technology, QC could be done automatically throughout the origination process n 100% of the loans. Using collected data from other reviews, a more comprehensive analysis of the workflow can be conducted, and opportunities and risks identified.  Rather than the paper intensive manual process that we employ today, executives can have results as frequently as desired while significantly reducing or eliminating many of the costs included in the $8800 that is problematic today.  

The Bottom LineWhether or not the industry surges ahead with the adaption of artificial intelligence, it is coming.  For those lenders who eagerly take on the job of redesigning their people and processes in conjunction with its implementation, the opportunity to increase business while cutting excessive costs are unlimited. 

About The Author

FirstClose’s SMART Select Delivers Title Intelligence Logic

FirstClose, a Fintech company with a technology platform that delivers best-in-class property data and intelligence to banks, credit unions, and mortgage companies nationwide, has released SMART Select for Title Search Reports and O&E Reports.

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SMART Select uses intelligence logic to automatically select the title vendor with the best service, best price, and best turn-time for each financial institution’s unique lending footprint. This exciting new technology chooses from six approved and vetted national title vendors to deliver title search reports.

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In today’s fast paced and ever-changing mortgage market, lenders are faced with rising cost to originate loans, which is impacting their bottom line. This is especially true when trying to handle vendor due diligence and select the right title vendor for your business. Many factors need to be taken into consideration, such as service levels, pricing, and turn times.

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What happens when a lender’s current title provider doesn’t meet their level of expectation in any of these areas? Do they have the time and resources to begin a new selection process or do they just settle for inferior service levels or higher prices? Lenders no longer have to settle. FirstClose SMART Select instantly eliminates lenders’ title vendor selection headaches with the introduction of SMART Select.

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“Think of SMART Select like cellular coverage,” says Corey Smith, Chief Product Officer at FirstClose, why choose only one provider when you can have the top 6 cell phone providers all under one plan, you’d have the best possible coverage everywhere you go. That’s the essence of SMART Select, it delivers the best coverage, pricing and turn-time for each customer.”

SMART Select can be enabled as a single product or as a cascade from the FirstClose Instant Property Report when coverage is limited.

· Single Order: If a user orders a SMART Select Property Report, the system will look at the county and select the best provider out of the pool.

· Instant Property Report: If the Instant Property Report has limited coverage, the system will cascade to the SMART Select technology and automatically select the best provider in that county.

Why only work with one vendor that may only be strong in certain footprints but not in others? SMART Select does the choosing for the lender. FirstClose can guarantee the best possible service based on the footprint. SMART Select will also shield lenders from rising industry costs. If a provider decides to raise rates, the pool of providers will be updated accordingly and not select the higher priced provider.

Peoples Mortgage Goes Digital

Arizona-based Peoples Mortgage selected Maxwell as their technology partner to streamline the mortgage lending process and provide a relationship-driven digital mortgage experience for the hundreds of loan officers and thousands of borrowers served by Peoples Mortgage in branch offices spanning 30 states.

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“As the status quo shifts and a seamless, digital borrower experience becomes more of a prerequisite than a preference, we knew we wanted both enterprise-grade digital mortgage technology and a true partner that could grow with us,” said Garrett Helminski SVP, Peoples Mortgage. “Maxwell, like Peoples, understands the growing importance of intuitive design and user experience for enduring success in this increasingly complex market. We evaluated 10 providers but, in the end, we knew that Maxwell would be the best digital mortgage partner to expand our ability to resonate with our loan officers, borrowers and lending partners” 

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Maxwell’s digital mortgage platform empowers mortgage lenders across the nation with a modern digital workspace that digitizes and automates the lending experience, integrating with thousands of financial institutions and leading mortgage technology providers to streamline the lending process and offer a hassle-free experience for every borrower on any device.

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“Maxwell is growing at a breakneck pace, but the trajectory of our growth is intrinsically guided by the velocity of our partnerships,” said John Paasonen, co-founder and CEO, Maxwell. “Each partnership is entirely unique. We have the rigor and flexibility to tailor the lending experience to the singular needs of their team and the borrowers they serve, and Peoples recognized how valuable that will be to empower their team and sharpen their competitive edge with borrowers.” Recently named a winner of HW’s Tech 100for the third straight year, on the heels of receiving Progress in Lending’s Innovation Award, Maxwell leverages proprietary algorithms built on its network of data providers across loans to enable lenders to accelerate the mortgage lending process from application to underwriting so loan officers can focus on the human relationship at the center of the mortgage journey. Today, hundreds of lenders across the United States use Maxwell to originate nearly $2 billion in mortgage loans each month at a closing rate 45 percent faster than the national average.

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Maxwell empowers mortgage lenders to be more connected, productive and successful by intelligently automating their workflow with homebuyers and real estate agents. The platform is used by hundreds of mortgage lenders, banks and credit unions nationwide to serve their customers. Founded in 2015, Maxwell is a member of the Mortgage Bankers Association and is proud to be built in Denver, Colorado.

Peoples Mortgage opened its doors in Arizona in 1998 with the mission of offering competitive real estate financing with unmatched service. This straightforward approach has given Peoples a solid reputation in the industry and paved the way to expand nationally. Currently Peoples is licensed to offer home financing in 35 states. They are committed to providing exceptional customer service via constant communication, offering an extensive product list with competitive pricing and an easy and efficient loan process. Through the ups and downs of the real estate industry, Peoples has maintained a solid foundation and kept responsible lending practices. Therefore, they have been able to help tens of thousands of customers in a time when many lenders could not. Today, the Peoples family has grown to over 500 elite team members in 33 branches across the county. 

July New Home Purchase Apps Increased 31.2%

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) Builder Application Survey (BAS) data for July 2019 shows mortgage applications for new home purchases increased 31.2 percent compared from a year ago. Compared to June 2019, applications increased by 11 percent. This change does not include any adjustment for typical seasonal patterns.

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“July’s strong new home sales increase on a monthly and annual basis was driven by the ongoing decline in mortgage rates, combined with steady housing demand and a still-healthy job market,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “The average loan size decreased last month, likely influenced by the increase in the first-time homebuyer share, as these buyers are likely to choose lower-priced, entry-level homes.”

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Added Kan, “MBA estimates that the pace of new home sales in July increased over 16 percent.”

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MBA estimates new single-family home sales were running at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 754,000 units in July 2019, based on data from the BAS. The new home sales estimate is derived using mortgage application information from the BAS, as well as assumptions regarding market coverage and other factors.

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The seasonally adjusted estimate for July is an increase of 16.7 percent from the June pace of 646,000 units. On an unadjusted basis, MBA estimates that there were 63,000 new home sales in July 2019, an increase of 8.6 percent from 58,000 new home sales in June.

By product type, conventional loans composed 69.1 percent of loan applications, FHA loans composed 18.1 percent, RHS/USDA loans composed 1.0 percent and VA loans composed 11.7 percent. The average loan size of new homes decreased from $329,593 in June to $325,457 in July.

OpenClose Adds VP Of Innovation

Allen Pollack, a seasoned industry veteran, has joined OpenClose in the newly created position of vice president of product innovation. Allen will assist OpenClose in continuing to expand the level of innovation invested in its customers and the industry to deliver business-altering products and processes, which align to the ever-changing digital lending landscape. 

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“JP and I are delighted that Allen has joined the OpenClose team,” said Jason Regalbuto, CEO and CTO at OpenClose. “We have competed and collaborated with Allen over the years. He has developed a reputation for innovative business and technology strategies in the fintech space. We are excited about working with him to grow and expand our product offerings and solutions into the future.”

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Allen has more than 15 years of industry experience developing and leading strategic initiatives and comes to OpenClose from Fiserv where he was responsible for multiple fintech initiatives focused on delivering omni-channel capability and personalized lending experiences, ranging from conversational AI to digital mortgage lending capabilities across online and mobile banking channels.

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Allen was a co-founder of NYLX, serving as chief technology officer where he introduced new technology models that disrupted the mortgage lending space. He later continued as chief technology officer of LoanLogics, a new RegTech company created by NYLX that continued to introduce new technology and disrupt the old way of doing business further creating solutions to support loan quality, due diligence, and multi-channel loan delivery models.  

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“OpenClose has been a long-time innovator in our space, making multiple contributions to help grow the mortgage industry and continually developing products that empower lenders to help borrowers achieve the American dream,” stated Pollack. “The company is well-positioned and strategically aligned to establish itself as one of the industry’s leading disruptors that significantly advances the lending process. I am excited to play a key role in the focus that speaks customer experience and the commitment to innovation supporting lending and the industry’s ongoing transformation.”

OpenClose recently rolled out the its digital mortgage point-of-sale (POS) solution, ConsumerAssist Digital POS, which offers an integrated solution that marries its end-to-end multi-channel LOS, product and pricing engine (PPE), and state-of-the-art POS technology. The single-source solution dramatically reduces the cost to manufacture loans, heightens the borrower experience, and simplifies managing the entire lending process.

Mortgage Applications Increase In Latest MBA Weekly Survey

Mortgage applications increased 5.3 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending August 2, 2019.

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The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 5.3 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 5 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index increased 12 percent from the previous week and was 116 percent higher than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 2 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 2 percent compared with the previous week and was 7 percent higher than the same week one year ago.

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“The Federal Reserve cut rates as expected last week, but the bigger influence on the financial markets was the beginning of a trade war with China. The result was a sharp drop in mortgage rates, which will likely draw many refinance borrowers into the market in the coming weeks,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA Senior Vice President and Chief Economist. “The 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell to its lowest level since November 2016, and the drop resulted in an almost 12 percent increase in refinance application volume, bringing the index to a reading over 2,000 – its highest over the same time period. We fully expect that refinance volume will jump even higher this week given the further drop in rates.”

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Added Fratantoni, “Lower mortgage rates did not pull more homebuyers into the market, as purchase volume slipped a bit last week, but still remains around 7 percent ahead of last year’s pace.”

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 53.9 percent of total applications from 50.5 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity remained unchanged at 4.7 percent of total applications.

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The FHA share of total applications decreased to 11.0 percent from 11.3 percent the week prior. The VA share of total applications increased to 12.8 percent from 12.6 percent the week prior. The USDA share of total applications remained unchanged from 0.6 percent the week prior.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($484,350 or less) decreased to 4.01 percent from 4.08 percent, with points increasing to 0.37 from 0.34 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $484,350) decreased to 3.96 percent from 4.04 percent, with points increasing to 0.26 from 0.22 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA decreased to 3.86 percent from 3.94 percent, with points increasing to 0.38 from 0.29 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 3.37 percent from 3.48 percent, with points increasing to 0.37 from 0.26 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs decreased to 3.36 percent from 3.52 percent, with points increasing to 0.36 from 0.31 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.