Four kick apps from mortgage vendors

by Contributor09 Jul 2018

by Scott Roller

These days, it is easy to get lost in the sea of really cool mobile apps hitting the market.  While nobody will ever think of everything, they sure seem to be getting close.  Some mobile apps are really functional in our daily lives, like these:

  • Monitoring health and fitness – Counting calories, steps we walk every day, and more
  • Online banking with remote check capture
  • Keeping us connected and organized while away from our office
  • Maps, navigation and directions

And others, well – maybe not so functional, but quite intriguing, if not downright strange.  Some examples of these “what were they thinking” apps include:

  • Calculate how high in the air you can throw your mobile phone, compared to friends
  • Let you milk a virtual cow
  • Use sound frequencies to blow out air from your phone’s speakers, apparently some strong enough to blow out a candle
  • Let you pop virtual pimples, multiple varieties of them too – in case you miss the good ol’ days when you could produce your own

Now, the dubious task of trying to transition here from whiteheads and blackheads – So, let’s go with green (money).  Fortunately, mortgage and credit union industry vendors are launching very useful mobile apps to attract clients and drive higher revenues.  The approach is simple:  Put mobile solutions in the hands of key stakeholders in a transaction and add significant value to them.  Such solutions generally target better speed, quality, cost and communication.

Additional benefits of these mobile solutions often include the very core characteristics of mobile devices, including GPS geo-location, time and date stamp, digital photos, instant messaging and enablement of real-time activity, in general. 

Below is a brief overview of four apps marketed by some vendors across the country that support the mortgage and credit union ecosystems. (in alphabetical order)

From Mortgage Information Services, Inc. (Cleveland, OH)

Our Summary:
An ingenious mobile solution to replace “fax backs” of lender-required critical docs from the closing table.  Your loans can be quality control (QC) inspected by a remote expert while still at the closing table.  Identify errors before leaving the closing, allowing signing agents to fix the errors on the spot. 

No matter how much you educate, train and prepare your signing agents conducting loan closings, repetitive errors still occur.  In some cases, the consequences are minor, but, sometimes these post-closing errors can be epic, causing need for the entire closing to be conducted again, from scratch.  Nobody is happy here, especially the borrowers.

Lenders – CheetahDocs is available on all of your loan closings, including those where closing attorneys are engaged.  Mortgage Information Services (MIS) can identify which few lender docs are critical, by loan type (e.g. jumbo, reverse, HELOC, etc.) or any other characteristic, and build specific workflows and QC checklists to be used immediately after the closing – from the driveway, so to speak.  Before the signing agent leaves the closing, the critical docs are reviewed for accuracy and completion.  Lenders – how would you like your monthly scorecards to consistently reflect near-zero closing table errors? 

Key Advantages – CheetahDocs:

  • Closings are no longer a “black hole,” and you have your own sort of air traffic control tower.  Monitor closings as they happen, from the signing agent being on-time, to start and completion of the closing, as well as preventing potential critical errors.
  • Push real-time special instructions to the signing agent at the start of the closing (e.g. need of photo ID, use blue ink only, Mr. Smith does not hear well, etc.)
  • Completely secure and encrypted, even more secure than the traditional fax back. (Not to mention, why is the fax machine still part of the process?)
  • Should help improve lender and borrower satisfaction levels.
  • Post-close lender loan files not caught in limbo; Errors prevented, successful closings, with files going straight to Servicing for loan boarding.
  • It is free to lenders using MIS as their title company.

From Accurate Group (Independence, OH)

Our Summary: 
They combine crowdsourcing with technology to offer interior and exterior property-condition reports, suggesting improvements to speed and quality.  The app offers property inspectors inside the network some unique mobile tools for creating and delivering accurate property-condition reports.

Crowdsourcing –
is a sourcing model in which individuals or organizations obtain goods and services. These services include ideas and finances, from a large, relatively open and often rapidly-evolving group of internet users; it divides work between participants to achieve a cumulative result.

Key Advantages – GroundWorks:

  • Embedded with GPS technology to identify property locations, use of the device’s digital camera and some unique sketch tools to document property details.
  • In real time, property inspectors can capture applicable property specifications to instantly build the property report.
  • Accurate Group advises that the app offers mortgage lenders and servicers, banks and credit unions faster turnaround on property inspection by maximizing local expertise within their pre-screened network.

From WFG National Title Company (Portland, OR)

Our Summary: 
WFG must have spent years getting “voice of the customer” feedback on title, settlement and closing transactions, because MyHome is incredibly comprehensive, well-designed and adds a ton of value to every stakeholder.  While not really a downloadable app, this URL based tool is still accessible anywhere there is internet service.  Every single party to the closing transaction can quickly and easily view status, key events needing to happen (and when), and the app is loaded with some educational tips throughout the entire experience.  MyHome is all about transparency and education – “here’s what we did, here’s what happens next.”  And as you will see below, WFG has an innovative method of “staying sticky” with the stakeholders, especially borrowers.  Superb job WFG!

WFG’s chief marketing officer, Justin Tucker, said, “We like to call it the dominoification of the closing process.  Consumers have grown accustom to ordering an Uber to their feet or tracking a pizza online to their doorstep.  So why is buying a home such a different experience? Expectations of services providers are changing rapidly which means the expectations of ourselves must change rapidly as well.”

Key Advantages – MyHome:

  • All stakeholders have visibility and easy access to those driving the process – people and contact information.  It even includes a personal introduction video from the escrow officer.
  • It’s all about context, timelines, key events and even gives access to all relevant documents.
  • Has embedded borrower satisfaction surveys to capture critical feedback.
  • Innovation in Action!  Every 90 days after the closing, WFG emails an AVM to borrowers, packed with rich and relevant data.  It also includes contact information from multiple key stakeholders that were party to the original closing transaction (e.g. realtor, lender, escrow officer), gently and professionally suggesting that the borrower “come back to us” for the next real estate transaction.
  • Since launching, inbound call volume has been way down, allowing support staff to be reassigned to more valuable activity.
  • Soon to be made available to WFG’s title agents via white label model.

Valuation Express
From United States Appraisals (Overland Park, KS)

Our Summary: 
This innovative appraisal management company (AMC) is using artificial intelligence (AI) in their mission to deliver substantial speed and efficiency gains on all their appraisal orders.  Their app is very Uber-like, where they can physically view nearby appraisers currently in specified target areas, and deliver appraisal orders directly to them. 

The up-front scheduling process for the appraisal has typically been a source of delay across the industry, getting more challenging every day fewer people are choosing the appraiser career path.  Innovations like Valuation Express help to close those gaps, as they are analyzing over 2,000 specific data points such as geographic and real estate data, as well as appraiser trends and other critical data.

“Valuation Express is a revolutionary product in the mortgage industry,” said James Webster, Chief Technology Officer at United States Appraisals. “We are analyzing trends with artificial intelligence and machine learning to eliminate inefficiencies and reduce turnaround times.”

Key Advantages – Valuation Express:

  • The AMC no longer has to “order and wait.” Now they can “order and watch.”
  • Helping to solve poor responsiveness and visibility into the appraisal process.
  • This AMC claims this proactive approach has resulted in a 49% increase in orders scheduled within 24 hours.  This is tremendous, especially within just week of initial roll-out.
  • Valuation Express is deployed on all orders with United States Appraisals.

Overall Summary – Vendor Innovation
So, there you have it – a very small but robust sampling of what some vendors are doing to help differentiate their service offerings.  The common threads among them seem to be listening to feedback, evaluating persistent pain points, and then methodically building mobile solutions that deliver better value to their clients.

Scott Roller is co-founder of Vendor Surf LLC and founder of 3W Partners LLC, with each company dedicated to revolutionizing the sourcing of vendors in the mortgage and credit ecosystems.  


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