Industry Briefs May 3, 2021

CFPB Takes Action Against Reverse Mortgage Lender for Deceptive Advertising

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau took action against Nationwide Equities Corp. for sending deceptive loan advertisements to hundreds of thousands of older borrowers.

The Bureau found that advertisements from Nationwide Equities misled consumers about how much money they could receive from a reverse mortgage, the fees and costs associated with the products and the consequences of nonpayment. The advertisements violated the Mortgage Acts and Practices Advertising Rule (MAP Rule), the Truth in Lending Act and the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010. The CFPB ordered the company to pay a penalty, cease its illegal conduct and implement a compliance plan to affirmatively review every advertisement to ensure they do not violate federal law.

Atlas Real Estate, DivcoWest Form $1 Billion Joint Venture to Acquire, Renovate Single-Family Rental Homes

Atlas Real Estate, Denver, a full-service real estate company specializing in investment brokerage, property management and institutional acquisition, announced it entered into a joint venture partnership with San Francisco-based DivcoWest to invest $250 million of equity in single-family homes as rentals throughout the Western United States.

The JV expects to deploy $1 billion acquiring and renovating homes in high-growth states, including Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and Utah, where Atlas currently manages more than 4,200 units.

FHFA House Price Index Up 0.9 Percent in February; Up 12.2 Percent from Year Ago

The Federal Housing Finance Agency said house prices rose nationwide in February, up 0.9 percent from the previous month, according to its latest House Price Index. House prices rose 12.2 percent from February 2020 to February 2021. The previously reported 1.0 percent price change for January remained unchanged.

For the nine census divisions, seasonally adjusted monthly house price changes from January to February ranged from +0.3 percent in the Middle Atlantic division to +1.6 percent in the Mountain division.  The 12-month changes ranged from +10.5 percent in the West North Central division to +15.4 percent in the Mountain division.

LBA Ware Hosts Quarterly Webinar Series May 13

LBA Ware, Macon, Ga., announced the second installment in its free, quarterly webinar series. Featuring capital markets expert Rob Chrisman, Deal or No Deal: Growth and Exit Strategies for Today’s Mortgage Lender is designed to give lending executives and investors meaningful insight into today’s mortgage M&A market. The webinar will take place Thursday, May 13, from 1:00-2:00 p.m. ET.

Chrisman will join LBA Ware Founder and CEO Lori Brewer for a live fireside chat that will examine recent industry deals and highlight the most important factors for investors, buyers and sellers to consider in today’s market.

To register, click here.  

Redfin: Urban Single-Family Homes See Fastest Price Growth as Buyers Return to City

Redfin, Seattle, said prices of urban single-family homes are rising nearly 20% year over year—faster than any other type of home. But this year’s hot housing market doesn’t discriminate: Urban condo sales are up nearly 30% year over year, more than any other home type.

The report said prices of urban single-family homes increased nearly 20% year over year, outpacing price growth rates for every other home category, a signal that buyers are searching for spacious homes near city amenities as vaccines roll out. Online listings of homes in large metros saw a 62% year-over-year increase in pageviews, bigger than the increases for homes in small towns and rural areas, another suggestion that buyers are returning to the city.

SimpleNexus Enhances eClose Platform with RON

SimpleNexus, Lehi, Utah, announced SimpleNexus eClose now supports remote online notarization, enabling lenders to conduct fully digital eClosings.

SimpleNexus eClose brings together borrowers, lenders, settlement agents and notaries for a collaborative and efficient closing experience. Integrated eSign capabilities offer borrowers the modern convenience of signing eDocuments on any web-enabled device, including mobile phones. Intelligent workflows improve lender efficiency by automatically updating documents across all platforms and alerting lenders when actions have been completed. eClosing portal access for settlement agents more closely engages them in the process.

Sales Boomerang, Insellerate Integrate on Borrower Intelligence/Marketing Automation

Sales Boomerang, an automated borrower intelligence and retention system, expanded its integration with mortgage customer experience platform Insellerate. By combining loan opportunity alerts from Sales Boomerang with Insellerate’s automated, multi-channel marketing that spans phone, text, email, direct mail, social media and website retargeting, the technologies’ seamless API integration enhances every stage of the borrower journey to help lenders increase customer retention and convert more leads to loans.

Sales Boomerang analyzes consumer and market data in real-time to alert lenders when a prospect or past customer is ready for a new loan. Notifications allow loan officers to help borrowers apply for a loan for which they were previously not qualified. On average, lenders using Sales Boomerang improve their borrower retention by 11.66% and see a 20 to 40% average lift to loan volume. Insellerate combines customer relationship management tools with customer engagement capabilities, including built-in lead management, sales enablement and automated marketing.

Adwerx, Total Expert Integrate

Adwerx, a provider of automated, hyperlocal and personalized digital advertising, is now integrated with Total Expert, a customer experience platform purpose-built for banks and lenders. The integration enables loan officers to automate data entry processes and run targeted digital advertising campaigns to their preferred audiences.

The collaboration further empowers mortgage lenders and loan officers to easily access a single customer view and then act based on customer data. The integration allows for seamless entry of the loan officer’s contact list from Total Expert into Adwerx for use with its popular custom audience advertising. The integration is available for all Adwerx Enterprise and Total Expert joint customers.

STRATMOR Group Identifies Challenges Keeping Servicers Awake at Night  

Mortgage companies that began to retain servicing or increased their servicing portfolios in 2020 are now faced with several areas of ongoing incremental risk, according to the April Insights Report from mortgage advisory firm STRATMOR Group, Greenwood Village, Colo.  

In his article, “What’s Keeping Mortgage Servicers Awake at Night?” STRATMOR Principal Seth Sprague writes that many lenders that had retained servicing last year did so because it looked like the best decision at the time. It’s vital that companies understand the quality of the loans going into their servicing portfolio before they opt to retain the servicing, Sprague writes.

Companies that retained servicing in the hopes of selling MSRs at a later date may also learn a difficult lesson, according to Sprague, as fair market values determined by an independent valuation firm could be materially different than cash received from an actual bulk sale. This means sales “may take more effort than initially thought. More importantly, not all servicing may have a buyer, and certain products could be excluded from a sale.”

The April issue can be found here.

Hale Mahaolu Chooses IndiSoft’s RxOffice For Housing Counseling Services

Hale Mahaolu, a private non-profit corporation located in Kahului, Hawaii, selected IndiSoft’s HUD-certified client management system, RxOffice, to support its entire inventory of HUD-approved housing and financial counseling services. IndiSoft LLC, Columbia, Md., is a global provider of technology for the residential mortgage banking industry.

Hale Mahaolu’s programs offer individualized in-person and group counseling services on a variety of topics including first-time homebuyer education, pre-purchase and post-purchase non-delinquency counseling, mortgage delinquency/default counseling, rental counseling, student financial life skills coaching, and educational workshops in fraud and scam prevention. Fully integrated into the RxOffice platform at the case level is the ability to schedule and conduct virtual conferences with clients to allow the session to be part of the case record and audit trail. This obviates the necessity to work outside the system with other virtual meeting platforms.

Adwerk Announces New Partnerships

Adwerx announced the latest brokerage firm to join the Adwerx Enterprise Automated Advertising Platform: Realty Executives Exceptional Realtors.

By implementing the Adwerx Enterprise Automated Advertising Platform, Realty Executives Exceptional Realtors is better equipped to attract, develop and support its real estate professionals.

RedKey Realty Leaders also implemented the Adwerx Enterprise Automated Advertising Platform, including automated online ads for new listings, the use of website retargeting and access to Streaming TV services.

Digital ads for new listings launch when a property is publicly listed – and during the all-important first week that a home hits the market and receives the most attention. They appear on popular websites such as ESPN and the New York Times and social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram. The Adwerx Enterprise Automated Advertising Platform further boosts awareness of the agents themselves through impactful brand radius and retargeting technology. These campaigns elevate the agent’s profile by optimizing visibility and keeping them top-of-mind with potential clients by ensuring brand ads featuring the agent’s photo and contact information reach potential buyers and sellers within a geographic area of the agent’s choosing, as well as with any prospect who visits an agent’s website.

Adwerx also launched online listing and retargeting advertisements for Stanton Company Realtors, providing its agents with the ability to build their brands and market their properties to consumers who are spending time online.

With this new service, digital ads for new listings launch when a property is publicly listed, and appear on popular websites including CNN and ESPN, as well as local news outlets and social media sites. These advertisements contain a listing photo, agent contact details, brokerage branding, and a link to the listing, and are easily customizable. By combining these ads with traditional marketing efforts, agents are able to reinforce their local brand and maximize the visibility of each listing.

HUD to Resume Public Multifamily Housing Inspections in June

HUD said it will substantially increase housing inspections, beginning June 1.

Thirteen months ago, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in line with public health guidance, HUD took steps to protect HUD-assisted households and the people who provide that assistance from exposure to COVID-19. Among those steps was suspension of most in-person housing inspections by the Real Estate Assessment Center last year along with waivers that enabled Public Housing Authorities and Multifamily housing owners and managers to reduce activities that could contribute to COVID-19 transmission.

In consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and in alignment with HUD’s prioritization of the overall health and well-being of HUD-assisted households, PHAs, multifamily housing owners and property managers were informed on Friday that HUD has developed detailed protocols guiding all aspects of the inspection process.

First American: Record Equity Levels Likely to Spur Homeowners to Sell

First American Financial Corp., Santa Ana, Calif., released its monthly Real House Price Index, showing real house prices increased 1.6 percent between January and February. Real house prices declined 1.3 percent between February 2020 and February 2021. Consumer house-buying power increased 0.1 percent between January and February and increased 15.6 percent year over year.

The report said median household income has increased 6.4 percent since February 2020 and 77.0 percent since January 2000. Real house prices are 25 percent less expensive than in January 2000.

FHA Issues Temporary Partial Wavier of Appraisal Requirements in Changing Markets

The Federal Housing Administration issued a Temporary Partial Waiver to parts of the Single-Family Housing Policy Handbook 4000.1, Section II.D.4.c.iii.(F)(2): FHA Appraisal Requirements in Changing Markets – Required Analysis and Reporting. This partial waiver addresses difficulty in changing markets with increasing property values and a shortage of housing supply.

To address this, FHA is issuing this temporary partial waiver of the Handbook 4000.1 requirement in Section II.D.4.c.iii.(F)(2) that the appraiser must include, analyze and report a minimum of two active listings or pending sales on the appraisal grid. This temporary partial waiver of established policy will help ensure the continued availability of affordable housing in these markets.

The waiver can be found here.  

SmartSearch Launches TripleCheck

Financial crime and ID fraud protection expert SmartSearch U.S., Lehi, Utah, launched a digital platform to combat money laundering in regulated sectors such as financial services.

By combining three verification processes into one tool, SmartSearch provides ongoing monitoring against sanctions and PEP in the U.S. SmartSearch is a provider of anti-money-laundering software. Its anti-money-laundering verification platform conducts individual and business searches, both for the UK and international markets with automatic worldwide sanction and PEP screening.

First American Docutech Joins NAMMBA

The National Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers of America announced First American Docutech, a provider of document, eSign, eClose and print fulfillment technology, joined the association as a Gold sponsor.

Through this sponsorship, NAMMBA members will benefit from access to digital mortgage and compliance insights as well as an understanding of the platforms that First American Docutech provides. First American Docutech employees will have access to NAMMBA memberships for the first year, as well as access to focused training, new hire programs and leadership development.

Planet Home Lending Partners with National Forest Foundation for Third Year

Planet Home Lending LLC, Meriden, Conn., partnered with the National Forest Foundation, the nonprofit partner of the U.S. Forest Service, for a third year and will fund the planting of 100,000 trees in 2021.

As part of the Planet with a Purpose program, Planet Home Lending will participate in NFF’s 50 Million for Our Forests, a tree-planting campaign dedicated to planting 50 million trees in America’s National Forests. This partnership will fund post-fire planting, reestablish forest cover and improve watershed health.

Credit Plus Integrates with Cirrus

Credit Plus, Salisbury, Md., integrated with Cirrus, a provider of cloud-based document management software. The integration gives lenders opportunities to engage with consumers in a manner that doesn’t put their credit scores at risk yet builds trust and moves the deal forward.

The integration allows mortgage and commercial lenders the ability to pull Credit Plus’ Pre-Qualification Plus, a one to three bureau soft credit pull, that doesn’t impact an applicant’s credit score. The new functionality is now available in Cirrus’ platform, further ensuring organized and efficient transactions for lenders to improve their overall accuracy, workload and response times.

RedfinNow Brings Cash Home Offers to Boston

RedfinNow announced its launch in the Boston metro area. RedfinNow gives homeowners a new way to sell through Redfin, the technology-powered real estate brokerage. Sellers can request a cash offer directly from Redfin and sell without the hassle of fixing up their homes or dealing with open houses and private showings.

RedfinNow is available to consumers in 23 markets in nine states and the District of Columbia. Redfin also offers Concierge listing service for Boston-area sellers who want help getting their home ready to go on the market.

Black Knight First Look: National Mortgage Delinquency Rate Plunges Nearly a Full Percentage Point in March

Black Knight, Jacksonville, Fla., released its First Look Mortgage Monitor, reporting the national delinquency rate fell to 5.02% from 6.00% in February – a 16.4% decline – driven by a combination of economic and calendar-related tailwinds.

The report said over the past 20 years, delinquencies have fallen by nearly 10% on average in March due to tax return and other seasonal funds being used by homeowners to pay down past-due mortgage debt. The decline was stronger than usual due to both January and February ending on Sunday – which tends to dampen performance and lead to following-month gains – as well as broader economic improvements.

Despite March’s strong performance, some 1.9 million mortgage-holders – including those in active forbearance – are at least 90 days past due on payments. Black Knight reported 1.5 million more such serious delinquencies than at the onset of the pandemic, nearly five times pre-pandemic levels.

ICE Mortgage Technology Launches Encompass eClose

ICE Mortgage Technology, Pleasanton, Calif., launched Encompass eClose, enabling lenders to electronically facilitate every aspect of the eClosing workflow, from ordering documents to delivering to loan investors – and all the pieces in between – without ever having to leave the Encompass loan origination system.

By leveraging a standardized platform for document delivery, recording eligibility, and settlement agent coordination, the eClose platform bridges all components, no matter the closing type – including ink, hybrid or full eClose. Additionally, ICE Mortgage Technology offers the largest ecosystem of eClosing entities in the industry allowing lenders to scale their eClose volume and create additional transparency, accountability and compliance with everyone involved.

Redfin: Luxury-Home Sales Rise 42% in First Quarter

Redfin, Seattle, said sales of luxury homes in the U.S. rose 41.6% year over year in the first quarter, far outpacing sales growth in every other segment of the housing market. By comparison, sales of affordable homes increased 7% and sales of mid-priced homes climbed 5.9%.

Redfin said sales growth has historically been similar across price tiers, but has diverged as the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated economic inequality. Affluent Americans with the flexibility to work from anywhere are taking advantage of low mortgage rates and buying up high-end houses—particularly in popular vacation destinations—which is contributing to the surge in luxury-home sales. Meanwhile, many lower-income Americans have lost their jobs and lack the means to become homeowners.

The 49 most populous U.S. metropolitan areas all experienced growth in sales of luxury homes during the first quarter. The biggest gainer was Miami, where luxury-home sales skyrocketed 101.1% from a year earlier.

“With a huge shortage of affordable homes for sale, many non-luxury homeowners are hesitant to put their properties on the market because they’re worried they’ll have trouble finding their next house,” said Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather “This isn’t as big of an issue for luxury homeowners since there’s a relative abundance of high-end homes to choose from.” 

AppraisalWorks Integrates with Ice Mortgage Technology Platform

AppraisalWorks, Cleveland, a property valuation and appraisal management technology provider, announced its AppraisalWorks platform is now available through the ICE Mortgage Technology Platform. The integration is built on the latest Partner Connect API Platform and allows lenders to order, assign, monitor and review real estate valuations, from a marketplace of AMCs and appraisers, directly through the Platform – driving quality and efficiency in the loan origination process and standardizing the vendor and borrower experience.  

The integration between AppraisalWorks and the ICE Mortgage Technology Platform allows lenders to fully leverage the platform and order appraisals and property valuations through both Encompass and Encompass LO Connect. Post-order entry, service automation within the AppraisalWorks platform drives the event workflow to eliminate need for human intervention on valuation orders. Lenders can set up approved vendor panels, customize workflows by lending channel, and configure automated assignment logic to route orders based on patented business rule logic – eliminating administrative overhead and accelerating turn times. Throughout the order process, stakeholders have permissions-based access to messaging, status updates, payment processing, and automated alerts – allowing greater transparency and improved collaboration among stakeholders. Once complete, appraisal and valuation documents are automatically delivered straight to the eFolder, populating key data elements in the Encompass system, where lenders can review the reports.

Genworth Announces Filing of Registration Statement for Proposed Initial Public Offering by its U.S. Mortgage Insurance Business

Genworth Financial Inc., Richmond, Va., announced its wholly owned subsidiary, Genworth Mortgage Holdings Inc. filed a registration statement on Form S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with the proposed initial public offering of its common stock.

J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC will serve as joint book-running managers for the proposed offering. The proposed offering will be made only by means of a prospectus.

Oregon Bankers Association Subsidiary Endorses Promontory MortgagePath’s Mortgage Fulfillment Services, Digital Mortgage Platform

Promontory MortgagePath LLC, Danbury, Conn., announced Synergy by Association Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Oregon Bankers Association officially endorsed its mortgage fulfillment services and proprietary point-of-sale technology Borrower Wallet.

By leveraging Promontory MortgagePath’s digital mortgage platform and comprehensive fulfillment services, community banks benefit from increased efficiencies and a scalable business model while offering their customers a modern digital mortgage experience.

FirstClose Acquires HomeScout

FirstClose Inc., Austin, Texas, acquired Reflect Resources, DBA Moxie Consulting, and Home Buyers Marketing 1 Inc., combining both companies to form HomeScout LLC as a wholly owned subsidiary of FirstClose Inc.

HomeScout will bring together various services to the mortgage and title industries, including purchase and portfolio business platforms, lead generation, lead qualification, agent match, monitoring and a real estate referral network, bringing marketing engagement to the forefront leveraging property data and insights.