Friday, February 17, 2012

Clarity AMC chooses cloud-based appraisal management software

ValuLink, Dallas, a provider of appraisal management software solutions for banks, lenders and appraisal management companies (AMCs), was selected by Clarity Appraisal Management Company to be its appraisal management software platform. Clarity AMC is a Nashville, TN-based AMC doing business in 29 states.

“We chose ValuLink for its ability to change the way we do business through its automation,” said Jason Bennett, co-owner of Clarity Appraisal Management. “The software platform has already made us much more productive, letting us do more business with the same amount of employees. Now if we grow by 5,000 additional orders, we will not have to add another person. We expect that kind of growth at our company this year."

Clarity AMC required a customized software platform built for its own business processes to automate all of its manual tasks. This will allow Clarity AMC to expand its appraisal ordering client base without adding additional employees and expenses.

“ValuLink is a true business partner,” Bennett added. “They came in to our offices and we explained what features we needed and they put it together for us. The system through automation does all the things we used to do manually. ValuLink’s customer service is second to none, too. They followed up quickly and thoroughly to every inquiry we made.”

ValuLink delivers a fully functional portal to a new client on the first day of doing business, which enabled Clarity to speed up its migration process to the new platform. The software platform is integrated with major loan origination systems, allowing lenders and banks to seamlessly and quickly order appraisals as mortgages are originated.

ValuLink’s appraisal management platform includes intuitive features for vendor enrollment, appraisal order placement and storage, no set-up costs, and full accounting features. The platform includes a UAD Preview engine for client compliance with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s new appraisal dataset and full Uniform Collateral Data Profile (UCDP) connectivity.

The ValuLink platform makes it easy for Clarity’s clients to place orders and access appraisal reports, logging in only once to enter the system instead of three or four times under Clarity’s old appraisal management software. Plus, ValuLink equips Clarity AMC with a mobile smart phone application that lets appraisers accept or decline an order while in the field. Today when every minute counts in the industry, the mobile app increases productivity and speeds up the appraisal process from start to finish.

Scott Schneider, executive vice president of ValuLink, said, “Clarity AMC relies on accurate, compliant, and timely reports to keep their crucial high growth clients happy. As AMCs expand into more states and state registration fees take a larger bite out of profits, they need next generation technology that increases efficiency and accuracy while simultaneously helping them maintain profitability. The ValuLink platform is helping Clarity AMC better serve its existing clients and grow its business by simplifying process management with a design that is easy to use for the AMC, their customers and appraisers.”

Good software to manage the collateral valuation process is essential, especially in this environment where one bad appraisal can lead to a buyback request for the lender. But any appraiser will tell you that adding 5,000 new orders without increasing personnel at the AMC is probably not realistic.

One of the value propositions that AMCs bring (aside from the fact that their salespeople got to the bank first and now control the business) is that their people provide a second and vital layer of quality control to the collateral valuation process. This can be very valuable to lenders, but probably requires humans to perform.

While much can be automated, we should remember our run-in with Automated Underwriting Systems and how our blind reliance on them led us to the brink and then on over. We must remember that while automation is power, only people can be trusted to control it. To steal a line from John Boorman's Merlyn: "For it is the doom of men that they should forget."

Thursday, February 16, 2012

IMARC Taps Binkley for Product Design

IMARC, Santa Ana, Calif., a firm that provides mortgage quality assurance and loan data verification nationally, announced that it has hired Lisa R. Binkley, a 25-year mortgage industry veteran, as senior director of product design and business development.

Binkley’s responsibilities will include product development and marketing associated with quality control, due diligence, and data verification. She will also lead strategic partnerships in product development across the mortgage industry.

Binkley joins IMARC from Equifax, where she was director of product solutions. She has also held senior executive roles in verification and quality control at Rapid Reporting Verification Company and Homecomings Financial, a division of General Motors.

“Lisa brings to IMARC more than 25 years of experience in the quality assurance and audit space,” said Bob Simpson, president and CEO of IMARC, who made the announcement. “She will be leading our efforts to expand IMARC’s data verification services to meet the needs of a new regulatory environment.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

LOS Vendor Partners with Building Permit Database Provider

Byte Software, part of CBC Companies, Columbus, Ohio and BuildFax, a division of BUILDERadius, have announced a partnership that will make BuildFax's Building Permit Database available to users of the Byte's BytePro Loan Origination System (LOS). The companies say giving lenders access to this data will improve loan quality by giving them the ability to quickly verify property improvements.

BuildFax says it provides insight into pending and completed property improvements and condition not found in tax assessor data. Further, the company maintains that this information can be highly beneficial to lenders as they work to validate loan value and more than 400 lenders already use BuildFax data in their loan approval and quality control processes. Furthermore, the companies claim that this data will allow "lenders to easily comply with emerging Uniform Appraisal Dataset (UAD) requirements."

“We are pleased to partner with BuildFax to offer our clients access to this incredibly rich dataset,” said Joe Herb, General Manager of Byte Software. “The interface will help lenders complete these essential validations quickly, enhancing underwriting and improving their customer’s experience.”

“Lenders tell us all the time that building permit data helps them validate that a value-changing improvement was done to the subject property – a major benefit in this market environment,” said Holly Tachovsky, President of BuildFax. “Now I can tell those very same lenders, Byte and BuildFax have teamed up to make it easier for lenders to access this data by integrating with BytePro. The interface enables lenders to easily validate the property improvements andconditions on every loan. As a result, lenders can confidently say ‘yes’ to more loans, more often.”

Quality control and due diligence are at the top of the list for lenders in this environment. Having more information during the data verification process can only help. I'm not convinced it will make the GSE's UAD compliance any easier as that's more about the dataset and less about the information, at least for now.

The big problem is that lenders don't have enough really good underwriters and loan processors now. All they've done is crack up the big knob on the side of the automated underwriting engines until the relatively few loans that sneak through are already high quality. What will they do with acess to a permit database if they don't have someone to comb through it and hope that the homeowner actually took out a permit for the home improvement they say they made. Seems like something like this would be of more benefit to valuation professionals performing Desktop Appraisals than front line LOs and their processors.

But I will admit that, in general, more information is never a bad thing. Unless you're drowning in data, which today's lenders and servicers are. We'll watch this story for more news of the benefits this partnership is offering front line LOs and their teams.

Monday, February 13, 2012

LOS Vendor Creates Connection to Title Company

LendingQB, Costa Mesa, Calif., a provider of web browser-based mortgage loan origination technology, and FirstClose Title have entered a partnership they say will allow loan officers to save borrowers up to $1,000 on closing costs.

The partnership allows LendingQB users to benefit from instant ‘cash-to-close’ quotes with real-time automated underwriting and loan pricing, the companies said. They explained that the savings were a result of the ability of FirstClose Title to compare rates from a wide range of major underwriters and transparently present the lowest price to lenders and borrowers. FirstClose Title also guarantees the accuracy of the GFE data, protecting lenders from covering additional costs resulting from poor GFE data entry.

“We actively seek out best pricing among major underwriters to deliver pure, unaltered comparative rate quotes,” said Cynthia Waterman, president and CEO of FirstClose Title. “This allows us to present quotes averaging $500 to $1,000 below competing GFE quotes, providing lenders with a ‘cash-to-close’ advantage that makes their offer more competitive and secures a relationship with a potential borrower more quickly. It is a very powerful tool that resonates very strongly with consumers, especially in today’s cost-conscious economy.”

“As a loan origination system, our goals are to increase a lender’s efficiency and maintain data integrity,” said Binh Dang, LendingQB’s managing partner. “The software integration with FirstClose actually goes beyond these goals and has a direct impact on a lender’s ability to increase revenue. It makes lenders more competitive by improving point-of-sale pricing and increasing consumer selection.”

I have been watching Dang for some time. I sat down with him at a show last year, before his company formally release LendingQB, and was impressed with his insight into the mortgage lending business. He is correct that lenders are in a heated battle the Point of Sale and better information to borrowers quicker could mean more business to nimble originators. But is there really $1,000 that can be shaved out of the GFE? And what about the quality of the partners that can afford to operate at those reduced margins? I'll be watching this closely to see how LendingQB users fare with the new partnership and hoping to hear some stories from the borrowers who benefit.