Alas, from a technology standpoint, most of my work life has been pretty dull. The mortgage industry has been slow to adopt new technology. Bankers don’t seem to be technological innovators — and, in truth, innovating in a business that is as heavily regulated and complex as ours is difficult to do.
Loans ain’t cheap
The march of technology is inevitable and the incentive for mortgage companies to create efficiency is high. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, per loan production costs are at an all-time high of $8949 per loan (up from $5802 in 2008) ($8949!). And, believe it or not, lenders average just $237 of pre-tax profit per loan ($237!).
Efficiency = saving time and money
The biggest expense mortgage companies carry is staff. So it stands to reason that many of the first mortgage companies to adopt new technology have done so with the goal of replacing human beings… or at least diminishing their role as much as possible. Move the mortgage process online, reduce it to a series of checklists, set up a call center, and staff becomes interchangeable and cheap.
I won’t argue that a model like this can work, but where does this leave consumers?
If you have a financial life that can’t readily be reduced to a checklist or you find yourself involved in complex negotiations with a seller, a web portal and an out-of-state call center are probably not the best partner. Not to mention, a lot of home buyers prefer guidance from a knowledgeable, local professional when navigating the big, impactful financial decisions that are part of buying and financing a home.
Traditional so-called “brick and mortar” mortgage companies are better equipped to provide local, specialized service, counsel and partnership during negotiations. But most have only slowly been adopting new technologies…and often in a piecemeal way, seemingly without a clear vision for integrating new tech into old systems.
What’s a girl to do?
So where does that leave a slightly geeky, but still old-school loan officer like me?
I like to think of what I do for a living as a craft. And it’s a craft that I’ve spent 24 years honing, so I sure hope I’m one of the knowledgeable, local professionals many homebuyers seek. Wouldn’t it be cool if I had access to great technology, too?
I’m happy to report I do.
Why Guaranteed Rate?
I chose Guaranteed Rate as my new home last year for a host of reasons. High on the list is GR’s leadership in bringing cutting-edge technology to the mortgage process. We call it the Red Arrow Experience.
The Red Arrow Experience is an integrated suite of tools built with a focus on making the mortgage process as streamlined as possible — starting before our clients even apply for a loan and continuing all the way to signing. So what are these tools?
Intuitive Loan Finder
The Intuitive Loan Finder guides borrowers through a series simple questions designed to help us understand their goals and preferences and — in under 30 seconds — delivers relevant loan options, complete with today’s rates and our fees. The results can be easily adjusted via the, well, intuitive interface. No personal information is required, so it’s a quick, no-commitment way to check us out.
And although we designed the Loan Finder with consumers in mind, it is also a great way for real estate agents to keep tabs on interest rates. Check it out here or by clicking “Find the Perfect Loan for You” on my home page, www.rate.com/juleef.
Our Digital Mortgage is a step-by-step interface that starts by asking clients their goals and then offers customized loan options and interest rates. With a program selected, our clients can move forward, complete an online application, see their credit scores* from all three credit bureaus and receive a real online loan approval**. It takes just 10-15 minutes, from start to finish.
Completing these same steps without this technology used to take me and two other team members at least a full day, if not two or three. We are now able to issue same-day (sometimes even same-hour) pre-approval letters, giving our clients a critical leg-up in our competitive, low-inventory market.
TransferSafe is our secure, online document portal. After completing their Digital Mortgage, our clients receive a “to-do” list of documents necessary to complete their application. Throughout the loan process, borrowers can sign in, upload documents and receive immediate feedback from me and my team.
Over the years, the biggest complaints I’ve heard about the loan process have related to paperwork. Having one secure, centralized place for all documentation means that nothing can go missing, and those annoying requests for something already provided are a thing of the past.
Automated Asset Verification
Automated Asset Verification is a faster, safer and more accurate means of verifying assets for the loan process. Borrowers can securely share information from their bank, credit union, retirement and investment accounts. We’ve built Automated Asset Verification access into TransferSafe, eliminating the need to download, scan and upload statements.
We have two tools at our disposal to automate gathering income documentation and analyzing it — The Work Number and LoanBeam. The Work Number is a service we can use to verify income and employment for our wage-earner clients, eliminating the need to gather W-2s and pay check stubs.
Although we still need our self-employed clients to provide their income tax returns, we can now leave most of the grunt work of analyzing them to software called LoanBeam. In minutes, LoanBeam scans tax documents, extracts the necessary information, highlights any missing items and provides a tidy spreadsheet for use by us and our underwriters.
The many (many) (oh so many) hours I used to spend labor-intensively analyzing tax returns are now freed up to help clients explore loan options, answer questions and provide speedier support during critical negotiations.
Our Realtor friends have been using DocuSign for so long now that it used to come as an annoying surprise to our clients how often we required them to print, sign and scan documents. With GR, we’ve retired our stone tablets and chisels. Virtually every document in the process that requires a signature can now be DocuSigned. (Yeay!)
Red Arrow Approval Express*** allows qualified buyers to secure fully-underwritten pre-approvals within four hours of submission to underwriting. This service allows our clients compete in this low-inventory, fast-moving market and close quickly once in escrow. Qualified buyers provide their income and asset documentation (easy to do using our nifty tools) and our underwriters do the rest — providing a fully underwritten pre-approval in 4 hours or less. Closing can happen quickly and efficiently upon signing a contract.
Loan Status Monitor
If redundant requests for documentation are the number one complaint I’ve heard about the loan process, knowing what’s going on during the process is a close second. Our clients (and their Realtors) are able to check on the status of their loan 24-7 via our Loan Status Monitor. Clients access this information by logging in to their account online at www.rate.com/juleef. Agents access it by logging on to our Realtor portal, Gateless (www.gateless.com).
FlashClose**** is the latest addition to the Red Arrow Experience. With FlashClose, our clients have the opportunity to review and sign most of their closing documents ahead of closing, at their own pace, digitally. The remaining handful of documents that require an in-person signature can be completed with a quick in-and-out appointment at the title company or with a mobile notary service. Although this program may not be best for everyone, we want to make signing as convenient and efficient as possible for our busy and/or experienced clients.
Our GR Loans mobile app consolidates our Loan Finder and Digital Mortgage technologies in a mobile, user-friendly place. It’s especially handy for checking interest rates and payments while shopping. Download your own copy of our mobile app here or by searching for “GR Loans” in the App Store or Google Play.
All of this cool stuff is really fun for me… I do love playing with techy toys all day long. But aside from making me smile, the Red Arrow Experience lets us offer our clients so many good things.
A user-friendly process- Our clients enjoy a convenient, modern, user-friendly loan process.
Speed – We can close loans quickly. As a team, we are currently averaging just under 22 days from receipt of a sales agreement (triggering RESPA) to clear-to-close (21.82 to be precise). That speed gives our clients a leg up in negotiations… and secures the keys to their new home sooner.
Savings – As I write this, my team includes five people who work on loans. We are able to close more loans, faster (and with happier clients) than it took nine of us before. When you multiply that efficiency company-wide, the savings lets us offer low rates.
Service – The time that my team and I no longer spend on data entry, chasing down signatures, squinting at fuzzy scans of documents or (shudder) annoying clients with duplicate requests for documents, we can spend on things that really matter — helping our clients understand their loan options, answering questions, strategizing during negotiations and moving loans along to closing.
Take us for a spin!
As you may have gathered, I’m both excited and passionate about the tools we have at our disposal and the many benefits they allow us to offer to our clients.
If you have questions, my team and I are here to serve you and yours. Reach out whenever we can be of service and, please, send your friends and family our way. Or take us for a test drive: www.rate.com/juleef.
We look forward to hearing from you!
*If Applicant self-reports credit score as “needs improvement,” Guaranteed Rate will not run credit or provide free credit scores via the Digital Mortgage. Applicant may request credit scores by contacting Guaranteed Rate.
**“Real Approval” means an automated underwriting system approval based upon credit information supplied by applicant and subject to Guaranteed Rate’s review of loan documents. Applicant subject to credit and underwriting approval. Not all applicants will be approved for financing. Receipt of application does not represent an approval for financing or interest rate guarantee. Restrictions may apply, contact Guaranteed Rate for current rates and for more information.
***Appraisal required for eligibility and subject to conditions. Applicant subject to credit and underwriting approval. Not all applicants will be approved for financing. Receipt of application does not represent an approval for financing or interest rate guarantee. Restrictions may apply, contact Guaranteed Rate for current rates and visit www.guaranteedrate.com/restrictions for more information.
****Beware of cyber-fraud: Before wiring any funds, call the intended recipient at a number you know is valid to confirm the instructions – and be very wary of any request to change wire instructions you already received. A Guaranteed Rate employee will never
provide nor confirm wire instructions.