Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Agire: Counting on mortgage technology

Robin Cook-Auerbach, a former executive with New Century Mortgage in Irvine, CA, hopes to leverage mortgage technology to succeed in her new venture, according to a story that appeared in ALTA Technology News.

Agire Mortgage Corporation, a firm Cook-Auerbach formed last October and launched last month, will be a paperless mortgage lender using an SOA-based technology platform.

"Our technology enables us to address the industry-wide need for a renewed focus on the customer and uniquely positions us for success," Cook-Auerbach told ALTA Tech News. "Our online Broker Portal and Automated Underwriting System deliver fast and accurate information while keeping the Broker and our internal sales force updated with real-time statuses. These systems and processes allow us to deliver the quality mortgage products the market has long been seeking, that investors can have confidence in and at a lower cost to produce."

She did not divulge where the technology had been developed.

Agire is not the first firm to tout technology as a competitive advantage. Unfortunately, neither is it the first firm to leverage an SOA-based technology platform to operate its lending business. It takes more to run a good lending operation than technology, which I'm sure Mrs. Cook-Auerbach knows. She has surrounded herself with some key executives, including Tony Vigna, SVP, CIO; Ron Harrison, EVP, National Sales; and Doug Speaker, SVP, Vendor Relations.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Zaio: Acquires Kirchmeyer's companies

Zaio Corporation (TSX-V: ZAO), a company working to develop a site-verified database of photos, valuations and property information, has announced that its Scottsdale, Arizona, subsidiary Zaio Inc. plans to acquire Kirchmeyer & Associates and Real Info Inc., both based in Buffalo, New York.

Kirchmeyer & Associates is the largest appraisal firm in New York State offering appraisal services throughout the United States and Real Info has a proven track record as one of the most comprehensive business-to-business real estate information and automated valuation providers in the industry today.

Jim Kirchmeyer, the founder of both of these businesses, has been a long-time participant in the real estate valuation business. He wrote the book on part of it when he published AVM 101. He is currently the chairman of REIPA's Collateral Valuation and Technology Committee (CATC).

Zaio will pay $3.0 million in cash and common shares valued at $2.5 million at closing. There is also a bonus of sorts that will be paid based on the profitability of the businesses during the 12 months following the sale.

Kirchmeyer has not divulged his future plans, but since he has a stake in the performance of the firm over the next year and he will take stock as part of his consideration in the deal, I suspect he will continue to run his companies at least for the short term.

Zaio has been criticized by the appraisal industry for its attempts to secure their property information and resell it. Dave Biggers, founder and owner of a la mode, told attendees of his company's recent annual convention that he does not endorse the company, even though it was an exhibitor at the event.

Zaio also exhibited at the 2007 Predictive Methods Conference hosted by Veros Software earlier this month. I recorded a podcast with company executives at that show that will appear on the PMC 2007 website.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

PMC: A great show for thinkers

In the afterglow of the 7th annual Predictive Methods Conference, which was held in Dana Point, Calif. last week, I have to say that this is a consistently great show. Yes, I get paid to write some stories about what goes on at the event, but I get paid to write stories about a lot of industry conferences and I know a great show from a waste of time.

Attendees of this year's conference experienced far more than one of the most luxurious resorts in the region (perhaps the country, the St. Regis Monarch Beach), they also participated in sessions featuring some of the most advanced analytical thinkers in the industry. You can see all of the speakers on the conference website. Many of their presentations are due to show up there and I'm producing a series of podcasts recorded on site that will also likely make their way to that website.

While the sessions were excellent, much of the work done at this show--and it is much more of a working conference than many industry events--was done in the corridors and out on the verandas. The session speakers set the stage and then people got together and hashed out details in small groups. Except for the boot camps, of course. Those detailed educations sessions have really set PMC apart.

I was very impressed with the way the show came off, especially in light of the fact that this was the first year Veros Software hosted the entire event on its own. There were a number of great sponsors and the exhibit hall in the back of the main session room seemed to work out well, but the Veros team did all the heavy lifting to make this event the success it was. I'm already looking forward to next year.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Clareity: Recapping a trade show

I met Gregg Larson a few years back when I was serving as editor of Real Estate Technology Insight, now Real Estate Technology News. He's a high-powered consultant for the real estate industry and a very clear thinker.

But don't take my word for it. Read his recap of the National Association of Realtor's mid-year meeting. I don't write about the real estate sales side of the business as much now as I did back then, but I always find Gregg's commentary interesting and informative. When I have a question about the inner workings of his part of the business, he's one of the first people I call.

As we continue on through this part of the cycle, loan originators are reaching out to real estate agents in an effort to mend fences and build foundations. Knowing what's going on at these meetings can only help in that process.