Dec. 10: Opinions on the housing market, buyers paying commissions; vendor news; Saturday Spotlight: Calque

Tis the season for planning. Business trips for lenders and vendors are expected to drop in 2023 given tighter purse strings, but it is good to know that the Department of Homeland Security announced that the Real ID driver’s license requirement to board an aircraft in the U.S. (an enhanced identification card intended to better vet travelers, and also con them out of $80 every couple of years) will be delayed another two years. That means that starting May 7, 2025, to board a plane you’ll need one, rather than the original plan of May 2023. What about business conditions impacting this same group of lenders and vendors… is there a way to capitalize on these? The Fed is expected to keep peak rates for longer, dashing hopes for 2023 cuts. And then we have a heightened risk of a ‘severe’ U.S. housing downturn in 2023 per Fitch Ratings. (I’ll be happy to disagree.) Lastly, CoreLogic calculates that home equity gains are down sharply from the second quarter. (Homeowners posted average annual equity gains of $34,300 in the third quarter, half the year-over-year increase recorded in the second quarter.) But let’s jump into today’s commentary.

Saturday Spotlight: Calque



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).


Launched in 2021, Calque partners with established lenders to empower homeowners to use the equity in their current home to buy their next home. The Trade-In Mortgage™ from Calque is an innovative mortgage product that simplifies and streamlines the home-buying process, allowing homeowners to submit non-contingent offers as good as cash on a new property, buy and move into their new home before they sell their existing one, and make repairs and stage their original home for sale after they have moved out.

Tell us about what type of volunteer work employees are encouraged to engage in, or charities your company supports, and why.  


Calque engages with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to offer counseling assistance to potential customers of its affiliated lenders to support low-to-moderate income homeowners. Engaging with potential borrowers who may benefit from this product through a coordinated effort with HUD furthers Calque’s mission to educate consumers about their homeownership options so they can strengthen their overall financial picture.


What does your company do to help elevate your employees’ growth? Describe any mentoring programs, outside classes or training, in-house training. How does the company help people develop?


Calque sponsors Continuing Education for all employees to foster and support their expanding knowledge of mortgage lending and real estate technology. The company also launched an internship program this summer, giving finance undergraduates interested in pursuing careers in the space an opportunity to learn more about the industry. The internship program aligns with the company’s mission to draw more innovation to the field of home lending in order to help chip away at barriers to homeownership.

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. 


Calque strives to create a flat hierarchy where communication is encouraged, and to promote comradery, we host company off-sites on a quarterly basis where employees engage face-to-face in both business and social activities. As a startup seeking to reimagine home lending through innovation, Calque is aware that creativity and free-thinking are crucial to the company’s continued evolution. From the very beginning, we have taken steps to create a culture that nurtures our talent so that every team member feels like a crucial part of the company and an active participant in its mission.

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


We provide “top-to-bottom, end-to-end” support that includes technology, marketing, compliance, customer engagement, Realtor outreach and lender support. As we’ve seen in recent events, there is a lack of communication from innovative lenders to consumers. As part of this effort, we are launching an education/resources section on our website to help consumers understand the home-buying process.


We are also very proud of our cost structure, which we believe to be exceptionally transparent and efficient. Most of our competitors’ processes involve selling the home an extra time and often costs as much as 3% to 5% once hidden fees like leasing costs are included. With our product, no such hidden fees or extra steps exist – what you see is what you get.


Fun fact about Calque?


The word ‘Calque’ traces its roots back to Latin and means “loan translation.”


Is there anything else you’d like to share along these lines?  


The Calque solution allows any homebuyer to close on their new home before they sell their existing home. Unlike programs that appear similar, Calque doesn’t act as a real estate agent for either the buyer or seller, and thus has no involvement in nor conflict of interest when it comes to pricing the home for purchase or sale.


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

Real estate commissions… what if buyers must pony up?


Last Saturday the Commentary published a piece from Compass Research and Trading, LLC, on the possible shift to having buyers of homes share in the real estate commission. The piece prompted Steve E. to respond with, “The most obvious result if the lawsuits separating buyer agent commissions are successful, is reduced commission percentages for both list and buyer’s agents. I seriously doubt many buyers will be paying 2.5%-3% of price for this service (as many buyer’s agents get now from the seller split), and it will not be anywhere near as much of a sales slowdown as predicted by some.

“1) Buyers Agents: In most states, buyers don’t shop buyer’s agent costs as they are paid by the sellers in the split fee arrangements between list and sales agents as everyone knows. The majority of buyers don’t care how much the sellers pay as they are not paying it directly. Once buyers start paying their agent directly, you can bet they will compare discount buyer’s agents, just like sellers can compare discount listings.

“2) List Agents: One of the sales points to avoid discounting total commission percentages agents have when listing now, is explaining to the seller that the buyer’s agent needs their ‘half’ of the commission if the sellers want their house shown. If the lawsuits are successful, this entire sales point disappears, opening the road wide to lower listing percentage commissions as they will then standalone.

“REX was rebating a large part of the buyer’s agent commissions back to the buyers, and got in trouble in some states for doing this (OR for sure) as rebating buyers was against state statute. REX filed lawsuits in many states, and won the right to rebate buyers. Yes, it will be a disruption while it plays out for a year or two. The real estate industry has survived many such disruptions on the mortgage side the last two decades, and we’ve come out of it with better outcomes for the consumer.” Thank you, Steve.

The current state of the housing market in Northern California


Loan volume from California accounts for 20-25 of the nationwide production. The area is a good barometer, despite unusually high, and possibly unsustainable, prices in some areas. Just north of San Francisco, Realtor Bob Ravasio gives us some perspective on what he’s seeing.

“We had seven incredibly strong years in the market from 2013 to 2019. After the financial market crash and ‘Great Recession’ that started in 2008 subsided, Marin housing average sale price increased dramatically for seven years. How dramatic? In 2012 the average sale price in Marin was $878,833. By 2019, average sale price was $1,398,523. That is a 59% increase in just seven years. If you owned a home in Marin during that time period and just maintained it, you theoretically got a 59% return on your investment. Not bad, right?

“As 2020 started we thought we were due for a slowdown, and the year started that way. Coronavirus was declared a pandemic in March 2020, and it brought real estate to a halt. We could barely show houses, let alone sell them. Then the totally unexpected happened: as people were able to start moving around again, demand for homes spiked. Remote work took off, so some workers could live anywhere. And people were very worried about congestion, and demand for smaller, less crowded places grew.

“That pretty much defines Marin County, with small towns and open space. And demand exploded. Multiple offers everywhere, lack of inventory, and highly stressed buyers were the norm. Low interest rates added fuel to the already burning fire. And prices exploded as well. Average sale price in 2021 was $1,768,993, so instead of prices leveling off after 2019, the average sale price actually increased another 26% in just two years.”

“That means from 2012, coming out of the recession, to last year, average sale price in Marin County increased 101%! Yes, average sale price doubled in nine years! So an average sale price for October of $1.84MM is pretty good.

“We have had a lot of things pushing price upwards, and it has moved significantly. So, what to do now? There are some theories on how this will go. First and most importantly, this is very different. In 2008 there were a lot of homes with no down payment loans, and when the market went south, they had to sell and became short sales. There was also a large stock market downturn and recession. The combination was absolutely brutal, and average sale price declined 25%!

“Right now there is a threat of recession, but still unclear as to when or how bad. The main driver of the market slowdown is interest rates, which are higher than they have been in years, making mortgages very expensive. Buyers simply can’t afford what they used to, and that is starting to affect home prices. It will continue to do so until rates at a minimum, level off.

“We’re telling our selling clients to be patient. Homes are still selling and will continue to sell. Life goes on as people get married, have more children, retire, and continue to do the things that make them want to buy and sell houses. Selling a house is taking longer, and requires more patience and negotiating, but they will sell!

“Things have changed dramatically in the last six months if you are buying a house in Marin. It used to be a frenzy as soon as a home went on the market. Now, things are back to normal, and actually, we are in a buyers’ market. We can’t remember the last time we were in a buyers’ market, but we certainly are now! There are 572 active listings in Marin County, and only 28% of them are in contract. That number was well over 50% six months ago!” Thank you, Bob!

Vendor and third-party updates


There are some wiz-bang developments out there for lenders to peruse. Let’s take a random look at who’s been doing what lately.


LoanCare, a top U.S. mortgage subservicer, announced it offers open-ended Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) servicing options to lenders nationwide. LoanCare can accommodate segmented, fully amortized, and interest only HELOCs and provide interim servicing as well. It also offers: Private label checkbooks for customers to access their draws, Customized monthly statements, Assistance with line of credit management, Assistance with lien monitoring, Better servicing capabilities for non-property secured lines of credit such as artwork, car, etc.

Blue Sage Solutions, LLC, developers of the Core Seller Portal and Paradatec, Inc., provider of the AI-Cloud document classification and data extraction technology, recently integrated their respective solutions improve delivery and turn times for correspondent loan sales and submissions, including automating document checks and audits. As a result, sellers can easily upload loan documents through Blue Sage’s Core Seller Portal and process them through Paradatec’s AI-Cloud extracting over 8,500 data points from over 850 documents to eliminate rekeying of data and manual indexing tasks. The documents and data are returned to the Blue Sage platform where automated workflows perform missing document checks and data audits, with intake staff notified of any data exceptions for manual review.

AppraisalWorks, has partnered with Clear Capital, the first partner to leverage Clear Capital’s Property Valuation Application Programming Interface (API), an all-in-one solution that integrates seamlessly with order management systems. AppraisalWorks’ customers will have access to new valuation products and solutions that are added to the Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) selling guides in a timely manner, such as Desktop Appraisals and Property Data Reports. AppraisalWorks and Clear Capital have received Freddie Mac verification for Property Data Reports (PDRs) in support of ACE+ PDR (automated collateral evaluation plus property data report).

With mortgage interest rates & rental prices spiking over the past few months, American consumers have more questions about homeownership than ever. The Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME) announced the launch of Brokers Are Better educational website for consumers. This cutting-edge website is a conduit for consumers to begin their pathway to homeownership dedicated to demystifying the mortgage loan process for consumers.

Sales Boomerang and Mortgage Coach have implemented an important new integration into the Mortgage Coach platform. Polly, a leading provider of innovative SaaS technology for the mortgage capital markets space. The seamless API integration feeds real-time data from Polly’s sophisticated, cloud-native Product and Pricing Engine (PPE) into Mortgage Coach Total Cost Analysis (TCA) presentations, enabling highly accurate, side-by-side home loan comparisons that give borrowers the confidence to move forward with the financial products that best meet their needs.

(Warning, I guess, Rated PG for situation.)

A blonde, city girl named Amy marries a Colorado rancher.

One morning, on his way out to check on the cows, the rancher says to Amy, “The insemination man is coming over to impregnate one of our cows, so I drove a nail into the 2×4 just above where the cow’s stall is in the barn. Please show him where the cow is when he gets here, OK?”

The rancher leaves for the fields.

After a while, the artificial insemination man arrives and knocks on the front door. “I came to inseminate the cow,” he said.

Amy takes him down to the barn. They walk along the row of cows, and when Amy sees the nail, she tells him, “This is the one right here.”

The man, assuming he is dealing with an airhead blonde, asks, “Tell me, lady, ’cause I’m dying to know. How would YOU know that this is the right cow to be bred?

“That’s simple,” she said. “By the nail that’s over its stall,” she explains very confidently.

Laughing rudely at her, the man says, “And what, pray tell, is the nail for?”

The blonde turns to walk away and says sweetly over her shoulder, “I guess it’s to hang your pants on,” she replied.

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Rob Chrisman