Aug. 26: Down payment plans; fraud report; Better’s stock sputter; vendor news; Saturday Spotlight: Service First Mortgage

“What did Snow White say when she came out of the photo booth? Someday my prints will come.” Older people remember Fotomats in parking lots, begun in 1965 but which had pretty much vanished by 1990 due to competitions from minilabs in drug stores and other retail outlets. Where am I going with this? It is always good to know what your competitors are doing. UWM and Rocket rolled out down payment programs. CrossCountry Mortgage (CCM) launched a new program helping first-time homebuyers cover down payment costs up to $4,000. (CCM is ready to support borrowers with education around a variety of innovative solutions.) Now Zillow has launched a new program to help people in Arizona who want to buy homes “but are being squeezed out of the market by a surge in interest rates. Zillow Home Loans is offering mortgages with a 1 percent down payment option for eligible homebuyers looking to own property in Arizona, and will contribute an additional 2 percent at closing. What else is going on out there? Let’s take a gander.

Saturday Spotlight Service First Mortgage


“Passionate about enriching the communities we serve.”

In 3-5 sentences, describe your company (when was it founded and why, what it does, where, recent growth and plans for near-term future growth).


Since 1997, Service First Mortgage has been focused on empowering loan officers to succeed, fostering smart financial habits for our customers, and building stronger communities through meaningful lending.


Trust and transparency are the foundations of our continued growth and success as evidenced by the addition of multiple new branches in the last 60 days. We are proud of creating an environment of openness that’s present at every level of our organization, ensuring that every employee feels empowered and heard.


Since its inception, Service First Mortgage has constantly focused on purchase business, which has served the company well. Even during difficult market conditions, Service First continues to be profitable due to forward thinking leadership, exceptional operational support, and strong relationships with the real estate agents and builders.


Describe any mentoring programs, outside classes or training, in-house training 


Our growth stories are abundant, and we recognize the importance of achieving personal and professional goals. Service First Mortgage’s team is comprised of individuals with tenures of 10+ and 25+ years and is a testament to our commitment to nurturing talent through our dynamic coaching culture. We provide Accountability Workshops, Mastermind sessions, job shadowing, and one-on-one coaching ensuring success and growth for every team member.


How does the company help people develop?

To help our Loan Officers succeed and take their business to the next level, they benefit from unique product offerings, high visibility reporting tools, a customizable CRM, a builder partner portal, a personalized mobile app and much more. Most importantly, the sales team has the

support of exceptional individuals dedicated to teamwork and success.

Things you are most proud of that don’t have to do with sales.   


Our operations staff has a wealth of knowledge and a team full of subject matter experts that take a collaborative approach to supporting loan officers. Leveraging technology to enhance process efficiency, they work seamlessly alongside loan officers to provide timely solutions to challenges constantly going above and beyond to promote success and an exceptional customer experience.


Service First Mortgages’ marketing team surpasses conventional boundaries by acting as an internal creative agency where imaginative ideas converge with strategic execution. By fostering an environment that thrives on creativity, we reshape the landscape of mortgage marketing, consistently delivering fresh and compelling strategies that capture attention and engage audiences.

Tell us how your company maintains its culture in a work-from-home environment, or how you plan on bringing employees back into the office, if applicable. 


Setting a new technology standard for the mortgage industry, Service First Mortgage stands at the forefront of technological innovation consistently embracing cutting-edge solutions that help our team to succeed and grow. Our DNA is rooted in adaptability, and that has empowered us to thrive during difficult market conditions while working from home, the office or in a hybrid setup.

Tell us about what type of volunteer work employees are encouraged to engage in, or charities your company supports, and why. What does your company do to help elevate your employees’ growth? 


Service First is a firm believer in supporting the communities we serve. Thanks to the efforts of our Company Culture Committee, our employees drive our charitable efforts that give back and uplift those in need. We have had the privilege to provide backpacks and school supplies to students, raise awareness and funds to support vulnerable youth, help provide families with meals for Thanksgiving, and so much more.


We understand that great cultures don’t just happen. They are cultivated through integrity, innovation, collaboration, accountability, empowerment, passion, and reliability. We actively recruit and hire energetic, positive, and productive ‘we’ people to ensure we are prepared to understand our loan officers’ needs and provide an exceptional customer experience.

(For more information on having your firm’s extracurricular activities, employee growth, and your charitable side featured, contact Chrisman LLC’s Anjelica Nixt.)

Fraud report: don’t ever let down your guard


In this environment of slim margins, one or two bad wire losses can wipe out a company’s profits for the year. Secure Insight, the leading provider of technology solutions to prevent wire fraud and mortgage closing fraud, surveyed 48,356 nationwide settlement professionals over the period August 1, 2023, through August 18, 2023. The survey asked whether attorneys, escrow officers and title agents had experienced wire fraud incidents in the past 12 months, had been a witness to fraud in a transaction (involving other parties), carried cyber insurance coverage, and conducted cyber fraud training.

“A summary of the responses reflects very interesting statistics. Twenty percent (20%) of the survey respondents had themselves been victims of wire fraud and attempted cyber fraud to intercept bank proceeds in the past 12 months, placing an estimated $560 Million dollars of lender funds at risk. Thirty-one percent (31%) of respondents stated that they had witnessed fraud in a transaction where another party was victimized, frequently the seller or a real estate agent. Although only twenty-four percent (24%) of settlement agents were asked by lenders to provide evidence of cyber insurance coverage, seventy-two percent (72%) have purchased and carry coverage in the event of a loss. Most encouraging, the survey found that a full ninety-one percent (91%) of settlement agents conduct formal cyber fraud detection and prevention training for their employees.”

Andrew Liput, SI CEO, wrote, “This survey reflects the significant dangers lurking in the mortgage industry with respect to the privacy of financial communications, the exposure of electronic funds transfers to potential man-in-the-middle hacking efforts, and the risk to lenders of losing all or a portion of their proceeds during the closing of a residential mortgage transaction. While the increase in cyber coverage is a positive step in offsetting losses, it is not risk management and only shifts the risk of loss to insurers who are rapidly increasing premiums and deductibles or no longer covering these risks.” (For more information, please visit or contact Amanda Padd.)

FundingShield’s CEO, Ike Suri, joined industry experts from Fidelity National Financial, American Pacific Mortgage, Winnow & LENDARCH on the “Cyber Security, Fraud and You”, panel at the Mortgage Innovators conference hosted by the California Mortgage Bankers Association. The panel participants shared industry leader insights on managing cybersecurity, fraud risk and actions to take to better protect organizations and clients. The video is available to view.

Better’s rocky stock start


Meanwhile, shares in Better, the company whose CEO fired 900 workers by Zoom in 2021, plummeted more than 95 percent on Thursday as investors weren’t “wild” about the online mortgage lender. Better went public via a “blank-check company merger.” SoftBank-backed Better completed its combination with special purpose acquisition company Aurora Acquisition Corp on Thursday, a deal that was first announced in 2021 but delayed amid regulatory scrutiny and layoffs. The share price was stable on Friday.

Vendors and third-party providers


A measure of any conference attendance has been nicknamed the “LTV” ratio, which measures lenders to vendors. They need each other. Let’s play some catch up and take a random look at who’s doing what besides making up company names and capitalizing letters in the middle of names.

The ability to easily customize and control LOS workflow is vital to an efficient lending operation. PowerLender LOS provides software tools that precisely control all steps of the loan process, automatically detect and alleviate bottlenecks, improve throughput and lower costs. And they’re all customizable without programming. PowerLender workflow lets lenders mimic their specific origination, underwriting, processing, and closing process.

CubiCasa, the global reaching real estate software company, announced the launch of its 3D product set, which empowers more immersive property marketing assets to be produced from the same five-minute smartphone floor plan scan that users are accustomed to. The new 3D floor plans and video renderings provide greater detail and color, mirroring the reality of the property with respect to flooring materials and color, walls, appliances, furniture, and more. The products will be rolled out via invite to CubiCasa’s users over the coming weeks. Prices for these new premium add-on products start as low as $35, with bundling discounts available. Discounts provided in CubiCasa’s MLS Partnership Program and Preferred Photographer Program apply to the new suite of 3D products.

MISMO®, the real estate finance industry’s standards organization, announced that the Private Label Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities (PL RMBS) Specification has reached “Candidate Recommendation” status, which means that it has been thoroughly reviewed by a wide range of organizations and industry participants and is available for use across the industry. Available is the new MISMO Engineering Guideline (MEG) 24, which outlines the MISMO architecture development and interoperability principles for XML technologies and service requirements as identified by the MISMO constituency.

Lender Price announced Base Price Solution (BPS) for Capital Markets and Secondary Teams. A powerful new tool that provides lenders with the ability to automate the calculation of base pricing, which reduces the complexity of having to manage multiple spreadsheets to calculate pricing from market swings. In addition to greater efficiency, more accuracy, and real-time pricing updates to changing market conditions, BPS provides full transparency for regulators and auditors. The feature is specifically designed for capital markets and secondary marketing teams that want to ensure they are priced competitively while maximizing their profits.

zavvie, a software technology company modernizing real estate brokerages with customized buying and selling solutions, is expanding its Power Buying services, including Cash Offer and Buy-before-you-sell Modern Bridge, to the mortgage industry. By empowering more buyers, including first-time buyers, with the ability to pay cash for a home, zavvie helps loan officers and real estate agents close more deals. Following a successful beta launch last fall and a recent raise of over $2 million in a VC mezzanine round, zavvie’s reach in the mortgage industry now extends to nine new states, with plans to cover 14 states by the end of 2023. The program has closed over 500 transactions since the pilot program began.

DocMagic Inc., the leader in fully-compliant loan document generation and comprehensive eMortgage services announced the integration of its leading-edge Total eClose platform with Finastra’s MortgagebotLOS solution. Through this integration, Finastra MortgagebotLOS lenders gain access to DocMagic’s comprehensive suite of eClosing tools for all loans. Powered by a robust, bi-directional document flow, tracking residing within MortgagebotLOS connects instantly to DocMagic’s Total eClose. This seamless integration combines comprehensive eClosing technology with data-driven origination workflow automation that generates compliant loan documents, facilitates borrower eSignatures, and enables remote online notarizations (RON). Additionally, Total eClose empowers Finastra users to effortlessly generate eNotes, establish direct connections with the MERS eRegistry, and securely store documents in a certified eVault.

ClearValue Consulting, one of the mortgage industry’s leading providers of enterprise-class vendor management technology, announced its ability to support Fannie Mae’s new value acceptance + property data option. As a result, ClearValue can provide lenders and appraisal management companies (AMCs) with a scalable, end-to-end solution to implement Fannie Mae’s appraisal modernization efforts. ClearValue’s data collection technology is centered around its unique Sluice™ mobile application, which streamlines the collection of property data while effortlessly managing valuation orders via ClearValue’s Acuity™ vendor management system. Sluice currently facilitates property data collection for thousands of properties every month that are used for desktop appraisals, hybrid appraisals, and BPO reports. Both technologies can now be used to support Fannie Mae’s value acceptance + property data offers, paving the way for eligible cash-out and certain no cash-out refinance loans to be originated without a conventional appraisal.

A partnership has been announced that will customize the user experience for veterans, active-duty servicemembers, and their spouses who are searching for a VA-guaranteed mortgage. The partnership is between NewDay USA and Moburst, a premier full-service marketing agency. NewDay’s impressive track record of serving veterans, coupled with Moburst’s unparalleled expertise in digital marketing, is set to transform media performance and enhance the customer experience for NewDay users.

Consumers can now choose to share information directly from their employers’ payroll service through Experian Verify when applying for credit, including mortgages, auto loans and personal loans. The new feature helps consumers avoid submitting paper documentation when a lender cannot get this information in a digital or automated manner, thus accelerating the lending process. While verification of income and employment is required in mortgage lending, the practice has become more common across other types of unsecured lending. Experian Verify’s consumer-permissioned feature helps lenders obtain income and employment information quickly and easily for 85 percent of the U.S. workforce, including a broad range of consumers, including gig workers, contractors, government employees and more.

Years ago, when I was a teenager, I had a summer job at a gas station. Back in those days it wasn’t self-service, so my job was to put gasoline in cars when a customer arrived.

I always remember this one particular day when an old chap pulled in and said he wanted a fill-up. Then he got out of the car with an umbrella, opened it, and followed me around as I worked, holding it over my head to keep the sun off me. It was a bit awkward, but it was a really hot day, so I thanked him as he paid and drove away.

About a week later, he came back for a fill up. Again, he got out of the car with the parasol and opened it, but this time he just stood there watching me work in the baking heat.

I asked, “So you’re not gonna use that to keep the sun off me this time?”

He retorted, “Watch it, young man. Fuel me once, shade on you. Fuel me twice, shade on me!”

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(Market data provided in partnership with MBS Live. For free job postings and to view candidate resumes visit LenderNews. This newsletter is for sophisticated mortgage professionals only. There are no paid endorsements by me. For up-to-date mortgage news visit Mortgage News Daily. For archived commentaries, or to subscribe, go to Copyright 2023 Chrisman LLC. All rights reserved. Occasional paid job & product listings do appear. This report or any portion hereof may not be reprinted, sold, or redistributed without the written consent of Rob Chrisman.)


Rob Chrisman