Daily Mortgage News & Commentary

Aug. 28: Tech & vendor news; Letters on MLO compliance, appraiser comp, advice for newbies; Saturday Spotlight: Symmetry Lending

“I woke up this morning determined to drink less, eat right, and exercise. But that was two hours ago, when I was younger and full of hope.” There are some clever people out there. Perhaps Kmart has some of them disposing of its assets. In 2005, retailer Kmart had 2,085 locations. Today, it’s got 17. The last time a new Kmart opened was 2002! The store didn’t adapt and didn’t expand out into the suburbs quick enough, and as a result it has left an indelible mark on the commercial real estate markets. The average Kmart was 84,000 square feet, and some 230 million square feet of commercial real estate just from deceased Kmarts alone has flooded the market. While the preference is to lease it to another large retailer, Kmarts have become bowling alleys, megachurches, pharmaceutical laboratories, call centers, and pot farms. Things are always changing out there, and residential lending is no exception.

Saturday Company Spotlight:  Symmetry Lending provides dedicated focus on delivering many solutions to every loan originator’s toolkit, by way of the Symmetry HELOC.

 

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).

 

Symmetry was founded in 2018 with a leadership team that brings decades of specialized HELOC expertise. This focus is driven by a deep understanding of how a Piggyback or Stand-Alone HELOC can bring unique solutions to borrowers, loan officers, and their real estate agent referral sources. As a perfect complement to these solutions, Symmetry commits to a unique and industry-leading experience of Service, Speed, and Simplicity.

 

Just 3 years since launch of the company, Symmetry has grown to more than 225 team members that have contributed to nearly $4 billion in HELOC originations. Symmetry’s team of Area Managers is dedicated to providing education and support to mortgage origination professionals regarding the benefits of structuring their agency or jumbo 1st mortgage with a Symmetry HELOC, or by simply retaining control of their customer base by using the Symmetry HELOC as a stand-alone transaction.

Tell us how your company maintains its culture in the office, or in a work-from-home environment if applicable. 

 

Like many others in the industry, Symmetry transitioned to a remote working environment in March 2020. The team has more than doubled since then, testing the will and dedication of our leaders, who exceeded all expectations by onboarding and training over 100 new team members. Our culture of passion and care enabled these leaders to accomplish all of this without slipping on our commitment to ServiceSpeed, and Simplicity.

 

Since inception, our company has prioritized a solutions-oriented experience that is so much more than an assembly line of HELOCs. Every submission is treated with the understanding that it is the most important file on somebody’s desk, whether that be the loan officer, real estate agent, or of course the borrower. As such, every submission deserves the highest priority of care and attention to detail.

 

What things you are most proud of that don’t have to do with sales? 

 

Symmetry is so proud, and thankful, for the many friends, colleagues, and partners that have supported us with the launch and growth of this special company. While “perfect” is hardly a word that is often associated with the mortgage industry, Symmetry embraces a “pursuit of perfection” effort that keeps us focused on over delivering for our mortgage origination and capital markets partners. With a mindset that “businesses don’t make decisions, people do”, our entire team takes great pride in our collective and individual reputations and relationships, internally and externally.

 

In this video, Symmetry’s leadership team takes a moment to express gratitude to our team members, our customers, and our partners.

 

Fun fact about Symmetry Lending

 

Prior to Symmetry’s existence, most of its leadership team established a close working relationship with each other through various loan origination, servicing, and capital markets transactions across multiple asset classes in multiple organizations.

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

MLO compliance

Yesterday the Commentary noted an investigation of MLOs receiving credit for continuing education but not actually taking the class. I was the recipient of a note from Steven Lovejoy, Esq., with Maryland’s Shumaker Williams. “Rob: Several years ago I handled 10 cases in Washington State in which the Department went after individual MLOs who participated in a scheme at a well-known mid-sized lender where the compliance unit took the education courses for the MLOs. Fines and threatened suspensions of license were on the table. So MLOs would be well advised to voluntarily get the credits and correct this problem.”

Appraisal costs

The appraisal situation, whether it is finding new appraisers, the cost of the appraisers, the workload, or the existence of AMCs, is a hot topic at the conferences I’ve attended in recent months. In that vein, Guy Keith sent, “Rob, I find it interesting the comments on appraisal costs. When I got into the business in 1989, appraisals were between $350 and $450. That was 30+ years ago. Appraisals now in my area are $525 for conventional and $600 for FHA. Larger properties cost more of course.

“We now have AMCs who take $150 for their fee leaving the appraiser with very little money. So appraisers are making similar to what they made 30 years ago. No other part of the mortgage process has been the same, cost-wise. There are no new appraisers coming into the business because they don’t make enough money, and the amount of liability they have is off the charts compared to years past.

“So now it takes forever to get an appraisal and appraisers are charging more, which I don’t blame them for. If there were more money for appraisers then, maybe, we would have more of them and our turn times would be faster. This issue is a nationwide problem. I am licensed in 24 states and I have the same issues in every state I do loans in. But until we get more appraisers and pay them more the appraisal problem will only continue to get worse.”

Technology & vendor news

As a quick aside, since it involves technology, South Korea’s government data protection agency has hit Facebook with a 6.46 billion won ($5.5 million) fine for storing facial recognition templates of 200,000 users without appropriate consent and another 26 million won ($22,000) penalty for illegally collecting social security numbers. That’s the second-largest fine from the agency (the first was also lodged at Facebook) and came alongside a 220 million won ($188,000) fine for Netflix for collecting data on 5 million people without consent, and a slap on the wrist for Google over its data handling practices.

HALO, the Home Access Lease Opportunity, and Churchill Real Estate announced today a $450m funding facility to expand HALO’s SFR2O™ (Single-Family Rent-to-Own) platform across the U.S. The funding round includes new equity from existing HALO investors and new debt from Churchill Real Estate.

HomeLight announced the expansion of its flagship financial offerings, HomeLight Trade-In™ and HomeLight Cash Offer™, to top real estate agents, homebuyers, and sellers across Colorado. HomeLight Cash Offer enables homebuyers to make all-cash offers even if they need a mortgage. HomeLight Trade-In enables buyers to unlock liquidity from their current home to buy their new home. Both products give homebuyers and sellers the ability to make contingency-free offers while accelerating commission for top agents and helping them deliver an exceptional experience to their clients.

The Mortgage Collaborative announced that the TMC Emerging Technology Fund LP recently led a pre-Series A investment round in Home Lending Pal, Blockchain-based, AI-powered mortgage advisor. The platform assists consumers, particularly minorities and millennials, to assess their financial ability to take on a mortgage. It also guides them to take actions to improve their access to mortgage financing and select mortgage originators with whom they want to share their application information based on an AI algorithm that predicts probability to close.

In anticipation of the wave of home loans exiting forbearance and an increased need for social distancing due to the Delta variant, Evolve Mortgage Services enhanced its SMART eNotary solution to include Remote Online Notary (RON) for loan modifications. Its complete software platform supporting fully digital eMortgages integrates with servicing and analytics systems, auto populating documents with loan modification data. Documents are posted to a secure website within minutes of the borrower selecting the loan workout program. Borrowers receive a secure email notification with a link to immediately review the documents. More information about Evolve’s eModification services is available on its website.

Counterparty risk management platform producer Dytrix and national closing cost fee provider LodeStar Software Solutions partnered to provide an integration service for loan origination system users. Mortgage lenders can authenticate and qualify the title agency providing fees, via the LodeStar platform, for compatibility with lender requirements of the transaction. At the same time, Dytrix clients will have instant access to title agency rates and cost estimates, all in one location.

Asset, income and employment verification is now available on ICE Encompass and Consumer Connect. Finicity Mortgage Verification Service (MVS) is now live in ICE Encompass and Encompass Consumer Connect, in addition to SimpleNexus via direct connections. Finicity is an approved provider of asset, income and employment verifications for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. For an overview of what MVS does, download its infographic. Additionally,

sample reports illustrating what MVS provides in origination flow, are available to download.

CONVERGENCE is “bringing together all that’s needed for housing affordability. Driving collective action with lenders, other industry participants and government partners to facilitate new solutions to our nation’s rental and housing affordability challenges. Learn more about CONVERGENCE or contact the team.”

CoreLogic announced it has entered into an enterprise agreement with ICE Mortgage Technology™ to drive lending automation and push forward on the organizations’ collective goal of achieving a truly digital mortgage. CoreLogic will leverage Encompass Partner Connect™ across ten fundamental CoreLogic solutions to update critical data-driven processes and make these solutions available to thousands of mutual clients on the ICE Mortgage Technology™ Platform. In addition, ICE will be exposing APIs for these services, so lenders can deploy service ordering throughout any of the ICE solutions, including through Consumer Connect, TPO Connect and other systems.

Southern California’s GoDocs, a provider of web-based legal document generation solutions for commercial lending, has secured a growth investment from M33 Growth, a Boston-based venture and growth-stage investment firm. The company also announced the hiring of Steve Butler as CEO. Steve will lead the company alongside GoDocs’ founder and President, Gary Highland. GoDocs’ platform can generate compliant documents in all 50 states.

Advice

Tolerance is in the press, but we often hear about how we need to be more “equal.” In the residential lending industry, many believe that there still exists a divide that is totally unwarranted when it comes to minorities and women. Women are underrepresented at many levels. Lenders and vendors can take the lead in continuing to press for equality, and equity. (There is a difference.) “The best person for the job, regardless of race or gender.” What could be simpler?

I asked people of color and women in the industry about their early careers, and appreciate the time they spent responding. I will happily circulate more responses if you care to write, and have more already to publish. “What do you think the best advice you can give those starting out in the mortgage industry?” or “What is the boldest move you made that helped advance your career?” or “What do you wish someone would have told you about being successful in this industry?”

After a career in finance, Jan Miller has been appraising Bay Area properties since the early 1980s and runs Miller & Perotti in San Rafael, CA. “The day after graduation I had two jobs waiting for me and in the final hour, a decision had to be made: the corporate world or a government job. I was told the government job, while it paid less had more benefits, so I took the government job. I gave 110% each day, learned what I could from every person I met, and took every bit of education they made available. I soon realized I was finding my ‘niche’. I also learned very few others gave 100%. I then took my skills and went to the corporate world.

“My next job was seasonal, and I was coming in on the end of a big project. They explained all my duties and the timeline of what I would be doing during the ‘high season’, I could hire 50 to 75 additional support staff. Again, I gave 110%, met everyone I could and learned everything about the business in general. Computers were just coming into the business world and I took every class I could (remember I had 5 months with virtually nothing to do except create a plan to accomplish the job). With my newly learned computer skills I created an amazing ‘spread sheet’ that I believed would make my seasonal project easier with less support staff. As it turned out, the project was completed in half the time and I used no support staff at all. I thought I would get some ‘atta boys,’ but what I got was attitude that I was ruining the company budget by not hiring more staff! Shortly thereafter, I decided to leave and when I left, they did not what to know or understand anything about my amazing ‘spread sheet.’

“I moved to another corporate position, one where I had a great amount of people contact and realized that, as much as I like numbers and computers, I really enjoyed interacting with people. Again, I gave my usual 110% effort, shared ideas and learned every job that was around me. When the market went sideways, they kept me on longer than any other employee. They just kept moving me around to do whatever job was needed.

“When I was asked to work with a friend in a ‘one man’ shop I jumped at the chance. I had an amazing mentor and followed my own work ethic; we became an amazing success. Eventually, I went out on my own with a family member/ business partner. Now 28 years since that last move, when I look back there is not a day or a move that I would change. I wake up each morning looking forward to my job and to all the amazing people I will meet and talk to that day.

“My advice to anyone entering the business world would be to give 110% each day, start each day with a smile, learn as much as you can from every person you interact with and take every educational opportunity offered to you. It will take time to find your ‘niche’ it is not typically something you learn while in school. It takes life experience.”

What if UFOs are just billionaires from other planets?

Visit www.robchrisman.com for more information on our industry partners, access archived commentaries, or to subscribe to the Daily Mortgage News and Commentary. If you’re interested, visit my periodic blog at the STRATMOR Group web site. The current blog is, “Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse.”. The Commentary’s podcast is live and at any place you obtain your podcasts (like Apple or Spotify).

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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 designed 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 www.robchrisman.com. Copyright 2021 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.)