Nov. 5: Housing affordability, vendor bites, honing non-verbal management skills; Saturday Spotlight: Ribbon Home

Who you gonna believe? Yes, rates have gone up, impacting affordability. But the mainstream press has house prices plummeting in the headlines, probably so you’ll click on their story. They seem to forget the millions of individuals and families who still want to own a home. Definitely air is coming out of the market at the high end: is a 2-bedroom, 2-bath place in San Francisco really worth $2.25 million? (It does have a nice view.) But, the story is different in other parts of the nation. “Higher interest rates are pricing out many home buyers while also transforming remaining prospects into active buyers, according to the NAHB. Nearly 60% of prospective buyers had moved beyond the planning phase and become fully engaged in the buying process in the third quarter, up significantly from 49% in the second quarter. However, while many prospects are active buyers, the NAHB says 70% of active buyers in the third quarter reported having spent more than three months searching for a home.” Three of the five most affordable markets are in the Midwest. Cincinnati and ColumbusOhio; Louisville, Kentucky; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Chicago make up the top 5 most affordable metros.

Saturday Spotlight: Ribbon Home 

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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)

 

Shaival Shah, our CEO and co-founder, was inspired to start Ribbon after watching his parents, who moved to the U.S. from India with only $24, struggle to access home financing due to a FHA policy to not insure mortgages for minorities. Their local community pooled together $30,000 to buy his parents their first and only home. The community’s act of service changed the life of Shaival and his family and is the heart behind the start of Ribbon.

 

Since 2017, our team has been singularly focused on building a new homebuying and selling process—one that is transparent, streamlined, and fair. We exist to empower all types of buyers and sellers by giving their loan officers and real estate agents access to best-in-class tools and technology. With these solutions, every family is able to get the home they love, hard-working loan officers and agents see more career success, and communities become stronger.

 

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

 

Our employees are encouraged to engage in volunteering both through the company’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and through one-off opportunities. In the last year, our employees have worked with Ali Forney Center on their city beautification initiatives. We’ve also partnered with the E-VEN Project to record audiobooks in English for citizens of Los Roques, Venezuela.

 

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? 

 

All employees have free access to Bravely, an on-demand coaching resource, and a yearly educational stipend that they can access at any point.

 

We also offer two types of in-house training. The first is for managers, through a partnership with LifeLabs Learning. The second, which is an important focus for us as a minority-founded company, is DEI training/workshops that employees participate in through ReadySet.

 

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

 

Ribbon offers a hybrid schedule. Our employees are encouraged to come into the office if they’d like, but it’s more important to us that employees work however is best and most comfortable for them. Some choose to work from home all the time and Ribbon fully supports that.

 

We offer virtual events to keep employees engaged and free lunch for any remote employees every Thursday.

 

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

 

Our company is mission-driven from top to bottom. We have built a diverse team across the US that has varying degrees of homeownership knowledge. It is our job, one we take very seriously, to teach them. Not just about what the market is like now, but what the market has been in the past and the many ways it was built to perpetuate inequality.

 

All our work comes back to how we can dismantle these barriers to create a product that empowers all types of people, across the entire homebuying and selling journey.

 

Fun fact about Ribbon  

 

Sarah Walker, our Chief Product Officer, received the Finovate’s Innovator of the Year award due to her innovative leadership of the Ribbon platform and its impact on the real estate transaction process. This award is given to an individual whose innovative ideas and creations have had the greatest impact on financial technology.

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

Back to the office? Work on those nonverbal management skills!

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Companies are still feeling their way through the return to the office, or not, by employees. From Cal Associate Professor Dana Carney points out ten things every manager should know about nonverbal behavior.

“Managers influence the people they work with every day, not only through their words and decisions but also through their nonverbal behaviors. Whether they’re aware of it or not, their posture, facial expressions, and reactions can all serve to build trust and enhance working relationships when handled well. But the same nonverbal cues can also undermine trust and cause problems in the long run when handled poorly. Here are ten things to keep in mind when interacting with direct reports.

“In 1960, psychologist Robert Rosenthal conducted a landmark research study on the role of expectations on performance. He discovered that when rats in a maze were treated more kindly and encouragingly by examiners, they were able to find solutions more quickly and remember them longer.

“Rosenthal was then curious to see whether an examiner’s biases could influence the performance of a group of rats at the same skill level. When examiners were told beforehand that an assigned rat was particularly bright and could solve mazes quickly, they were more inclined to treat the rat encouragingly. When examiners were told that a rat was dull and had little ability, they held low expectations and treated the rat worse. Despite there being no difference between the rats at first, the ‘maze bright’ and ‘maze dull’ rats soon began to diverge significantly in their performance. The examiners’ expectations had a direct influence on performance.

“This finding was tested again on schoolchildren. It was found that ‘bright’ students were treated differently by their teachers, performed better in school, raised their hands more often, and demonstrated an increase in IQ of 27 points after a year of study when compared to their peers. Rosenthal’s research had a profound effect on the study of psychology, popularizing the idea of the ‘self-fulfilling prophesy.’

“As Rosenthal demonstrated, unconscious behaviors can have a significant effect on others, how they feel about themselves, how they perform, and whether they feel validated and included.

Listening. Many people struggle with feeling unheard at work. It’s important for managers to truly focus on others while they are speaking: Make eye contact and be sure not to look at a computer or phone screen.

Liking and valuing others. It’s important for managers to engage with others in a way that is relatable and collaborative. One way is through synchrony: simultaneous action of two or more people at once. This could be as simple as eating lunch at the same time. Mimicry is similar. People who are close have a natural tendency to mimic: If someone moves closer to the table, another will follow suit shortly after. Finally, managers should prioritize their listening and conversational turn-taking skills.

Intelligence. As a manager you want to be able to detect intelligence in others in addition to conveying intelligence, which will increase others’ perception of how capable you are. Behaviors that convey intelligence involve engagement. When we appear engaged by what others are doing or saying, it tends to reflect our intelligence and people’s perception of our competence. Affirmative paralinguistic utterances (such as “mm-hm” and “yes”) can accordingly signal intelligence.

Power. Conveying power through nonverbal behavior is simple. The real question is whether it is appropriate to express power in a given situation. Managers should assess whether the time is right to demonstrate a more authoritative tone and then seek to use an upright, expansive posture and speak for longer. Be careful, though: long speaking time can also be associated with those who struggle with self-regulation. Have something substantive to say.

Building trust and consensus. Signaling that you trust and can be trusted by others is easy. Managers should express an open body posture and look at people while they’re speaking. To make sure everyone feels included, make eye contact with those who have not spoken yet and give them a chance to contribute.

Using the wisdom of the crowd. Making sense of others’ thoughts, feelings, and intentions can take up quite a bit of mental bandwidth. But as you practice, your judgments will improve. Additionally, it can help to distribute the burden of judgment to a small group. Asking trusted advisors and averaging their impressions of a situation or another person can help you tap the wisdom of the crowd to achieve a more accurate overall assessment.

Detecting deception in strategic and ordinary operations. Detecting deception is difficult. On average, managers are only slightly better than chance unless they have had specific training. Open and honest communication is important, so lies, even minor ones, can damage culture and productivity. When a person lies about something inconsequential, they experience little to no fear of consequence, inner conflict, or guilt. As such, the lie is not revealed through body language. However, most of the time people feel at least a little inner conflict when they say something that isn’t true. Look out for changes in baseline behavior (like shifting uncomfortably) or seemingly fake facial expressions (like fake smiles) that don’t seem to correspond to the context.

Status (respect and admiration of others). Like power, conveying status through nonverbal behavior is easy to do, but it’s important to note the difference between power and status. Power is defined as access to and control over people and resources. Status is the respect and admiration of others. The same nonverbal cues that can indicate power should be used in accordance with an individual’s management style: pick those that work best for you. There are also two specific behaviors that convey status. First, the use of deliberate, clear gestures while speaking. And second, the ability to laugh and make others laugh.

Avoiding resting ‘cranky’ face. Has anyone ever seemed nervous around you? Do people think you disapprove of them even when you don’t? Many of us can look judgmental or upset as we listen to others. Pay attention to your eyes: Make sure you aren’t unconsciously squinting or glaring. By placing your thumb and forefinger on your chin, others’ perceptions of your furrowed brow can be converted from a face of judgment to a face of engagement.

Avoid microaggressions. Scowls and eye rolls are obvious negative behaviors. But the absence of positive behavior is also a microaggression. Smiling, looking at, and speaking with

others all equally signal ‘I like working with you.’ Avoiding positive cues can send a negative message.

Vendors and third-party provider tidbits

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The residential lending industry continues to shift for a multitude of reasons. I received this letter from Mike Tassone, Co-Founder & COO of Own Up addressing how a lot of the negative headlines have focused on mortgage lenders and their plight in the current market, he’s seeing some trends play out in the lead gen/marketplace side as well.

 

Mike writes, “One aspect of the mortgage market’s downturn that is decimating many lenders is the drop in inbound leads for direct-to-consumer (DTC) branches. DTC lenders thrive in refinance markets: lenders leverage lead generation platforms to flood their call centers with highly qualified, high-intent leads, which yields high-profit margins for their typically lower-cost branches. But when the volume and quality of leads slow and the market shifts primarily to purchase transactions which take longer to convert, these groups struggle to cover the cost of the branch, even if they are less costly than retail branches. Recently, many of these branches have been laying off workers or shutting down.

 

“This has also put lead generation and marketplace platforms under pressure. Costs are rising because there are fewer mortgage shoppers to market to and they are forced to lower their lead fees. Like many lenders, lead generators are also laying off workers and shrinking their marketing budgets. Those that remain will be forced to operate with thinner margins or at a loss unless they are able to improve the conversion rates for their buyers.

“What we’re seeing now is one of the reasons we started Own Up which is a mortgage concierge marketplace. We tell lenders that it leverages machine learning to route leads and hits to our own call center to provide mortgage shopping advice, which allows it us to qualify and match shoppers with the appropriate lender. By offering multiple user experiences for shoppers, they we can sell different lead products, which together lead to higher conversion rates than traditional lead generators.” Thanks, Mike. (By the way, Own Up recently secured another round of financing, which included an investment from realtor.com and are using this capital to further invest in their technology and add lenders to their growing network.)

Gallus Insights released an upgraded version of its cloud-based analytics platform to help clients better navigate market shifts. The latest version of the platform includes a new Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) reporting tool and comes on the heels of $1 million in pre-seed funding. Using its cloud-based advanced analytics platform, Gallus connects directly with a mortgage company’s disparate internal systems and databases allowing users to pull insights in seconds with vivid detail at a level that does not exist in the market today on the total market, specific geographies, products and even peer lenders. The company’s technology brings data into a computable environment and delivers relevant, quantitative insights so real estate finance firms make better decisions.

LoanCare, a top U.S. mortgage subservicer, announced it offers open-ended Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) servicing options to lenders nationwide. “LoanCare has a comprehensive understanding of the special nuances involved in servicing HELOCs such as knowing what’s required to appear on monthly statements, ensuring that interest calculations are accurate, and setting up the HELOCs correctly when the loans are on-boarded. Specifically, 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, and better servicing capabilities for non-property secured lines of credit such as artwork, car, etc.”

Developed to provide mortgage lenders a more efficient process for verifying employment from directly within the loan origination system, LoanMAPS® by Take Three Technologies, LLC integrated with The Work Number® Service from Equifax. Take Three Technologies develops tools for lenders with a focus on streamlining the loan process and reducing their cost to produce. With LoanMAPS®, clients can replace their current LOS, CRM, POS, and Report Generator with one easy-to-use solution that covers all of their mortgage banking technology needs.

 

Some people have a lot of time on their hands. Some are creative. At first blush one wonders how an appraiser would handle this, but I guess with some paint it doesn’t matter.

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. Supply and Demand are Still Driving Mortgage Pricing” is the current blog. 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 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 2022 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