The real estate market is experiencing a rapid transition, from historically low mortgage rates in the height of the pandemic triggering an outrageously hot market, to the increasing rates and cooling prices that we’re seeing today. This domino effect trickles down to every player in the real estate industry and means less mortgage refinances, fewer homebuyers, longer time on market, and ultimately, decreasing prices. In fact, mortgage applications remain at their lowest level in 25 years, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).
A transitioning market means everyone in the industry needs to pivot, which creates opportunity for innovation. Here are some of the trends that lenders can capitalize on to stay competitive and keep loan volume up.
Acting to balance the hypothetical loan scale between the falling number of refinances and purchases are home equity lines of credit (HELOCs). A report from TransUnion shows the number of HELOC originations nationwide was up 41% in Q2 of this year as compared to Q2 2021, indicating a huge opportunity for lenders to increase transactions during a transitioning real estate market.
Although the real estate industry hasn’t always been considered as particularly innovative or as early adopters of new processes, forced digitization due to the pandemic has arguably turned this around.
Being an industry where success is hinged on satisfied customers, referrals, and repeat business, it’s essential to be able to offer the quickest, easiest, and most convenient way for clients to close a transaction — especially when it comes to HELOCs, where clients want their money quickly. That’s where technology comes in.
Stimulated from pandemic necessity but now increasingly in-demand, online notarization has changed the way closings can be performed. The days of having to gather parties around a closing table to sign in-person with a notary are fading quickly. eClosing platforms now enable lenders to offer a quicker, easier, and more secure way for their clients to close from the convenience of their home. More than just a matter of time savings, eClosings can save lenders up to $444 per transaction.
Leading the way with eClosings is United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM) with their recent launch of UClose 3.0 in partnership with Notarize, unveiled by CEO Mat Ishibia at the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts conference.
“UClose 3.0 and TRAC (Title Review And Closing) are changing the way we do closings. These exclusive offerings will allow for a faster, cheaper, and more efficient experience for all parties involved,” Ishibia explained. “Brokers now have access to a more streamlined platform that will guide them through the closing process step-by-step with more transparency, smarter technology, and increased control.”
With Notarize, UWM’s UClose 3.0 is able to meet — and exceed — the expectations of brokers and their clients by reducing time per transaction and providing a superior customer experience.
“Consumer expectations have shifted to digital-first, and that’s an incredible opportunity for the lender and title industries to be at the forefront of both what consumers want and what is also most financially and operationally streamlined,” said Notarize CEO, Pat Kinsel. “eClosings are a huge leap forward for real estate and for both parties on either side of the closing table. We’re seeing the incredible ROI, both in the numbers and in consumer feedback, of those who fully embrace eClosings with online notarization. It’s providing an innovative and smooth path towards success, savings and efficiencies.”
One of the most time-consuming parts of the lending process can be pinned down to the appraisal. From ordering the appraisal, scheduling the appraisal and homeowner, to receipt— the turnaround time can be a week at best. Virtual appraisals, however, have the power to streamline and shave days (sometimes weeks) off the turnaround time.
Another tech innovation born out of pandemic necessity, virtual appraisals have become so popular that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac launched remote desktop appraisals earlier this year for certain types of loans.
Virtual appraisals, online notarizations and eClosings enable an end-to-end digital loan process. But what about post-closing? That’s where eNotes — the digital replacements for promissory notes — come in.
“Going digital with eNotes can have a demonstrable effect on loan quality and subsequently improve investor confidence," said Notarize SVP of Operations, Anshul Singh. “For example, keeping the post-closing process digital allows for technology to verify the authenticity of the eNote, as well as the ability to properly track and transfer assets. This level of certainty is critical to funding and overall valuation, especially when it comes to selling to the secondary market.”
With the blessing of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae, eNotes are becoming widely accepted and even encouraged. eNotes are more secure than their paper counterparts, removing the need to send them in the mail and risk them getting lost or into the wrong hands. They’re also immediately available and can be stored in digital vaults, which provides greater certainty of security.
In an industry that changes month-to-month, and which is affected by a multitude of external factors, it’s hard to stay ahead of the game. One unchanging factor, however, is the urgency for digitization — and the lenders who make technology an integral part of their operations will continue to stay ahead of their competition.