Industry Briefs

Black Knight: 4.75 Million Homeowners in COVID-19-Related Forbearance Plans; Nearly Half Made April Mortgage Payments

Black Knight, Jacksonville, Fla., said its McDash Flash Forbearance Tracker, as of May 19, reported 4.75 million homeowners – or 9.0% of all mortgages – have entered into COVID-19 mortgage forbearance plans. Active forbearance volumes increased by just 93,000 over the past week, a more than 70% decline from the 325,000 from the first week of May.

The report said the rate of increase has now declined by 93% from the first week of April when the number of active forbearance plans increased by nearly 1.4 million in a single week. It said of the 4.25 million homeowners in forbearance at the end of April, nearly half made April’s payment, while 54% did not.

“The fact that only 54% of borrowers in forbearance actually missed their payments helps explain the disparity between April’s delinquency and forbearance rates,” said Black Knight CEO Anthony Jabbour. “However, just 21% of borrowers in forbearance have made their May payments, which could lead to another sharp increase in the national delinquency rate for May if those payments are not received before the end of the month.” 

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Launch Homeowner/Renter Education Support

Fannie Mae, Washington, D.C., and Freddie Mac, McLean, Va., announced initiatives aimed at working with homeowners and renters with tools and resources during the coronavirus pandemic.

Fannie Mae launched “Here to Help,” an education effort to connect U.S. homeowners and renters with tools and resources to navigate the available options if they experience a financial hardship due to COVID-19. The “Here to Help” online portal at www.knowyouroptions.com features informative videos, fact sheets, mortgage loan and apartment rental lookup tools and other resources to equip homeowners and renters with the information they need to successfully navigate their options. The portal also provides mortgage servicers and lenders with tools to better assist their customers.

Freddie Mac announced a number of online resources available to help homeowners and renters navigate the relief and support the company has made available in the face of COVID-19. Specifically, the company recently relaunched MyHome by Freddie Mac, a consumer education website that provides a comprehensive guide to owning, renting and getting help in multiple languages. The Freddie Mac Blog also provides updated information to help consumers navigate their housing needs during the pandemic.

To assist the industry at large, Freddie Mac launched #HelpStartsHere, a campaign that offers clear, direct access to important resources for borrowers and servicers who need options in the current environment. It includes an interactive experience to help homeowners assess their options related to COVID-19, a homeowner checklist —both also available in Spanish— and resources for servicers to help their borrowers. In addition, homeowners can access Freddie Mac’s Loan Look-Up Tool to quickly find out if the company owns their loan and understand the mortgage relief options available to them.

For renters, Freddie Mac recently launched a new Rental Property Look-Up Tool that allows renters to find out if they live in a property that is backed by the company, which will allow them to better determine if they are protected by the eviction moratorium called for by the CARES Act. For renters who are struggling to pay their rent, the company has also launched a renter helpline where HUD-certified housing counselors provide free counseling.

FHFA: U.S. House Prices Rise 1.7 Percent in First Quarter; Up 5.7 Percent from Last Year

U.S. house prices rose in the first quarter, up 1.7 percent, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index. House prices rose 5.7 percent from a year ago. FHFA’s seasonally adjusted monthly index for March was up 0.1 percent from February.

“Home price growth in the first quarter outpaced annual growth from the same period a year ago as falling interest rates and shrinking inventories for sale led prices higher just prior to the crisis. Prices in the Mountain Division, encompassing the top four states by growth, grew by 8 percent on a year over year basis,” said Lynn Fisher, Deputy Director of the Division of Research and Statistics at FHFA. “Because of the lag between contract signing and sale closing when our data are recorded, we judge the first quarter’s housing statistics were relatively unaffected by the COVID-19 outbreak.  However, we are unable to account for any modifications or cancellations of sales later in March.”

The report said house prices have risen for 35 consecutive quarters since September 2011. House prices rose in 48 states and the District of Columbia over the past year, and in all 100 largest metro areas.

Of the nine census divisions, the Mountain division experienced the strongest four-quarter appreciation, posting an 8.0 percent gain and a 2.5 percent increase in the first quarter.  Annual house price appreciation was weakest in the West South Central division, where prices rose by 4.3 percent over the past year.

Qualia Launches Connect Video Chat

Qualia, San Francisco, launched Connect Video Chat, making contactless home closings possible for potential homebuyers. Connect Video Chat can be used for remote ink-signed notarizations during home closings in accordance with state emergency mandates and requirements, as well as RIN guidelines established by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The platform enables title companies to securely launch video conferences with their partners and clients, including real estate agents, lenders, homebuyers and sellers. This real-time two-way audio video technology can also facilitate recording an ink-based signature, and has long-term video storage functionality either on Qualia with the rest of a client’s closing documents or on a title and escrow company’s own internal servers.

Wipro Gallagher Solutions Launches NetOxygen Loan Origination Solution Version 7.0

Wipro Gallagher Solutions, Franklin, Tenn., launched NetOxygen v7.0, the latest version of its NetOxygen loan origination platform.

NetOxygen v7.0 is designed to simplify every touchpoint in the loan process. It meets new standards and regulatory compliance and features User Interface improvements to elevate both the lender and borrower experience. Key features include enhanced user experience; automatic document recognition service; increased transparency/communication between lenders and borrowers; refresh and redesign of strategic integrations; and updates that support Uniform Residential Loan Application compliance:

Calyx Introduces Zenly Cloud-Based Loan Origination Platform

Calyx, Dallas, announced a new, cloud-based origination platform, Zenly, that can be purchased and operational in 15 minutes.

Zenly is a cloud-based system that handles all steps needed to complete a full mortgage application and deliver it, with accompanying documentation, to a wholesale lender. Zenly also includes seamless loan submission to Fannie Mae’s Desktop Originator. Through DO, sponsored mortgage brokers have access to the automated underwriting system, Desktop Underwriter.

Using Zenly’s built-in, mobile-friendly borrower point-of-sale, an originator can import loan application data, pull credit and automatically collect and verify borrower assets. The system enhances the borrower experience with a fast, interview-style loan application, mobile document upload capability and a borrower dashboard to see loan progress. The Administrator role has real-time visibility to manage multiple users.

Embrace Home Loans Partners with Ameriprise Financial

Embrace Home Loans, Middletown, R.I., announced a partnership with Ameriprise Financial that will provide Ameriprise’s wealth management advisors and clients with mortgage financing and services. 

Under the partnership, which piloted in March with a select group of advisors, Embrace Home Loans has made its products and services available to Ameriprise’s clients, and supports their advisors in overall financial planning. The companies have collaborated in creating customized resources for both clients and advisors, designed to mirror the customer service standards each organization has become known for.

ARMCO Launches QC NOW Web Series to Support QC Professionals

ACES Risk Management, Denver, launched QC NOW, a web series covering current regulatory and operational changes related to quality control, compliance and risk for independent mortgage lenders, banks and credit unions.

The series launches on May 28, at 11:00 a.m. PT with “QC Operations in the New World – A Look Into the COVID-19 Era,” hosted by ARMCO President and Chief Operating Officer Phil McCall. The webinar will cover what has changed for lenders since the start of the pandemic, the immediate and overall effects of these changes and how qc professionals can prepare for what is still to come.

Tavant Launches FinDecision for Ellie Mae Digital Lending Platform

Tavant, Santa Clara, Calif, launched its FinDecision product for the Ellie Mae Digital Lending Platform, Encompass. FinDecision provides an automated, single-click approach to achieving loan fungibility and operational best execution across agency Automated Underwriting Systems, as well as private investors.

FinDecision is a component of Tavant’s AI-powered digital lending suite of products, VΞLOX, designed to improve loan quality, while enhancing the overall borrower experience. FinDecision uses machine learning and process automation to submit loan data with a single click to automated underwriting systems, enabling lenders to see the full view of operational benefits available to their borrowers.

Fitch: Forbearance Programs Will Camouflage Weakening Bank Asset Quality

Fitch Ratings, New York, said asset quality for U.S. banks is expected to deteriorate significantly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but it could take some time for the true impact to show on bank financial statements.

Fitch said the ultimate increase in nonperforming loans and credit losses from the recession will be difficult to determine due to forbearance programs and measures taken by lawmakers and bank regulators to support credit availability. Fitch noted reporting standards for banks have been relaxed under the CARES Act, which means that impaired loans and troubled debt restructures could be understated in the near term. Fitch expects that recognition of impaired loans to be delayed for several quarters, potentially into 2021, depending on the duration of forbearance programs.

“The sheer scale of coronavirus relief measures poses reputational risks for banks if mishandled or implementation is poor,” said Michael Shepherd, Director at Fitch Ratings. “Disaster relief and forbearance programs are not a new phenomenon, but the breadth and scale/volume of coronavirus-related loan modifications create operational challenges for banks and could result in customers being negatively affected, tarnishing bank reputations.”

Fitch said forbearance programs could artificially inflate bank earnings in the coming quarters because banks can generally continue to accrue interest on loans subject to forbearance if the borrower was current on their obligations when forbearance was granted. If the borrower is not able to repay when the forbearance period ends, banks could incur a loss that was not reported in earlier quarters.

Ohio Bankers League Partners with Promontory MortgagePath

The Ohio Bankers League endorsed Promontory MortgagePath’s mortgage fulfillment services and digital point-of-sale technology, Borrower Wallet. PMP’s tech-driven mortgage platforms are designed to help banks compete in the mortgage business more profitably, efficiently and compliantly while eliminating the fixed costs in their current mortgage model.

Promontory MortgagePath delivers a set of mortgage fulfillment platforms, enabling banks to determine their own product and loan pricing strategies while PMP provides the technology and process. Banks partnering with PMP field their own loan officers to co-pilot the application process and collaborate with their borrowers via Borrower Wallet. PMP then processes and underwrites each loan using client-provided business rules and closes in the bank’s name.

CFPB Issues Two ‘No-Action’ Letter Templates

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued two No-Action Letter Templates under its innovation policies. Mortgage servicers seeking to assist struggling borrowers to avoid foreclosure and engage in loss mitigation efforts can apply for their own NAL. The template, requested by Brace Software Inc., would enable mortgage servicers to use Brace’s online platform to implement loss-mitigation efforts for their borrowers.

The platform is an online version of the Fannie Mae Form 710, which is the loss mitigation application used by most mortgage servicers.  While the Bureau does not endorse particular products or providers, it said digitizing the loss mitigation application process has the potential to improve a process that is experiencing an increase in loss mitigation requests from consumers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bureau also approved a NAL template that insured depository institutions can use to apply for a NAL covering their small-dollar credit products. The NAL template includes protections for consumers who seek small-dollar loan products.

The Brace NAL Template can be accessed at https://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/cfpb_brace_no-action-letter.pdf.

The BPI NAL Template can be accessed at https://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/cfpb_bpi_no-action-letter.pdf..

Simplifile Adds E-recording in 55 U.S. Jurisdictions

Intercontinental Exchange Inc., Atlanta, announced 55 recording jurisdictions in the eastern and southern U.S. joined Simplifile’s e-recording network.

Simplifile, Provo, Utah, is part of ICE Mortgage Services, which applies technology and high-capacity infrastructure to make the mortgage process electronic and more efficient.

First American: Housing Overvaluation Not as Prevalent as Many Believe

First American Financial Corp., Santa Ana, Calif., said its Real House Price Index showed real house prices increased by 1.1 percent between February and March. Year over year, real houses fell by 4.7 percent.

The report said consumer house-buying power fell by 0.1 percent between February and March but increased 12.5 percent year over year. Median household income has increased by 1.9 percent since March 2019 and 59.2 percent since January 2000. First American said real house prices are 18.4 percent less expensive than in January 2000.

While unadjusted house prices are now 11.5 percent above the housing boom peak in 2006, real, house-buying power-adjusted house prices remain 42.1 percent below their 2006 housing boom peak.

First American Chief Economist Mark Fleming said only four of the 44 markets tracked were overvalued, all in California . The remaining 40 markets were not considered overvalued. The only state with a year-over-year increase in the index was Rhode Island (+0.2 percent). States with the greatest year-over-year decrease in the index were Hawaii (-9.5 percent), California (-8.7 percent), New Mexico (-8.7 percent), Illinois (-8.4 percent), and Utah (-7.8 percent).

Among metros tracked by First American, the only market with a year-over-year increase in the index was Cleveland (+0.4 percent). Markets with the greatest year-over-year decrease in the index were San Francisco (-12.0 percent), Las Vegas (-10.4 percent), Boston (-9.5 percent), San Jose, Calif. (-9.4 percent), and Baltimore (-9.4 percent).

Cherry Creek Mortgage Launches Smart Close

Cherry Creek Mortgage Co., Greenwood Village, Colo., now offers a new closing experience for its customers called Smart Close, which allows consumers to review closing documents early and sign the majority of them electronically. 

With Smart Close, borrowers receive and review closing documents electronically prior to closing day. On the day of closing, the borrower electronically signs most of the closing documents remotely, eliminating the need to sign non-notarized documents in person.