No one can deny that the mortgage and real estate industries have been uniquely affected by COVID-19. Social distancing mandates have hindered open house formats and schedules. Meanwhile, historically low-interest rates, pent-up demand and low housing inventory created a frenzied sellers’ market with multiple offers, usually over-asking. Added to this are the increased scrutiny of how much borrowers will qualify and get approved for with tightened investor guidelines, and the need to verify continued employment to ensure a buyer maintains qualifying status through closing.
As someone who’s spent more than 15 years in the industry and worked on all sides of the transaction (as a realtor and for direct lenders), I’ve lived through the efforts to revamp and digitize the process. However, it wasn’t until recently that I purchased my first home and experienced the mortgage process as a consumer. And it was clear that, for most lenders, the pandemic has only served to shine a light on a still somewhat fragmented mortgage process and clunky consumer experience.
Here are three key components missing from a truly modernized mortgage experience:
Knowing that the industry had made moves toward a digital mortgage process, I hoped for a more streamlined and seamless flow of documents, loan deliverables and communication with the lender. However, the process I experienced was more manual than expected and disjointed at times.
Looking at a purchase transaction from end to end, there are at least nine parties involved: buyer, seller, realtors, lender, home inspectors/inspection vendors, appraiser, escrow company and notary. With all those touchpoints in play, it takes a concerted effort between all parties and no unforeseen issues for a loan to be originated faster than 30 days. Meanwhile, the opposite has been happening, with the average time to close a loan increasing to 49 days since the beginning of the pandemic, per Ellie Mae’s Origination Insights Report. Faster access to fresher data can reduce the time to originate a mortgage. This saves resource hours for the lender, which equates to savings that can ultimately be passed down to the borrower.
There are parts of the mortgage process that have been digitized, yes. However, the mortgage process still has points void of digital connectivity for it to truly be called an end-to-end digital process. The borrower is still required to track down various documents from different sources and the paperwork process still feels very “manual.” Printing, signing and scanning documents back to the lender to underwrite the loan add to the manual nature of the process. Unless the borrower always has all documents digitally organized, requirements like obtaining your W-2’s and paystubs, and continuously providing bank and brokerage statements to the lender, make for an awkward process.
Modernizing the mortgage end-to-end with the right kind of data and technology reduces the number of manual processes and translates into lower costs to produce a mortgage. Turn times are being pushed out when the opposite could be happening. A streamlined, modernized approach between the lender and consumer not only saves time and money for both parties, it ultimately enables the lender to add value by providing a better consumer experience.
Digital adoption and better digital end-to-end process are not the only keys to a better consumer experience; transparency is another integral part of modernizing the mortgage process. More transparency for the borrower starts with a true understanding of the amount for which one can qualify. This means when the loan is in underwriting, there needs to be a better understanding of the loan status and the ability to better anticipate and be proactive about loan conditions.
Additionally, the lender can profit from gaining more transparency and visibility into a borrower’s income streams and assets for a more efficient and holistic picture of their ability to pay upfront. This allows for a more streamlined process and enables the lender to close efficiently without sacrificing quality underwriting.
A multitude of factors have come into play since the beginning of the pandemic – social distancing mandates have led to breakdowns in a traditionally face-to-face process of obtaining a mortgage, highlighting areas for improvement. Can it be done faster, more seamlessly? Absolutely.
In ideal situations, mortgage originators can consistently close in 30 days or less. Creating operational efficiencies through faster, fresher data can be the key for a lender to more accurately assess a borrower’s ability to pay upfront. At the same time, a digital-first approach enhances the consumer experience so they can have a frictionless, transparent mortgage process. With technology, better data, and the right kind of innovation, there can be a truly end-to-end digital process and a more informed consumer.