Wednesday, August 31, 2005

PARTNER TECH: Will Technology erode Real Estate Commissions?

It was bound to happen sometime...

In my opinion, the Holy Grail for Real Estate Agents and Realtors is the commission rate. Used to be that few buyers or sellers ever seemed to question the industry standard 6% rate. However, Donald Bruce, writes about how that margin has slimmed in recent years. Things may get worse.

Today's Wall Street Journal has an article on page B4 about IAC/InteractiveCorp (LendingTree, AskJeeves, Expedia, etc.), branching out to develop real estate brokerage offices. Just as LendingTree has changed the landscape of lending, it is possible your Home Selling and Home Buying partners may be facing a similar erosion by IAC's activities. And, if you'll recall, it's not the impact of losing loans to LendingTree, its more about creating a new paradigm of expectations for the consumer. The image of all the bankers battling it out in the living room for a consumer's business is one that may transfer to the Real Estate world.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

DISASTER: For some, life has changed

For most of us, today, our lives go on as usual. We'll focus on picking up our Starbucks drink, complain about traffic, groan about a boss who doesn't seem to "get it," experience frustration over the ants who found yet another way into our home, and the "normalness" of life will take on it's usual familiarity. Tonight, we'll watch the news and surf the sites as we "survey" the damage of Katrina with a deadened sense of awe, and, for most of us, we'll go to sleep and let the news story fade over the next few weeks.

For the people impacted by Hurricane Katrina, life takes on another meaning altogether. Now, I'm not going down the path that says you should feel bad about your life or guilty for not being impacted. But I am going down the path to encourage you to take a couple of minutes to internalize what has happened and experience compassion for your fellow American. Infifite Monkey's has a great, short, essay about what life is like after a flood is a must read, and will assist in gaining the perspective necessary for empathy to develop in your heart' please then think about what you will do to participate in helping.

I'm no expert on relief agencies. So, I'll echo Hugh Hewitt and recommend giving to immediate relief agencies like Samaritan's Purse. It will be a haul to put the cities and lives back together, so keep your eye out for possible agencies to give to that will focus on the longer term picture as this will be a massive effort taking years.

Monday, August 29, 2005

YOUR DESKTOP: Should you really care about Windows Vista?


If you haven't already, shortly you'll begin hearing a lot about a new version of Microsoft Windows, Vista. Due out in 2006 (maybe), it is the next evolution of Microsoft's operating system. Unless you are a techie and derive income from being a techie, our you are a geek and "need" to know, then I'd just wait a couple of years. If you really need to know something, eWeek has a whole bunch of links to info, reviews, and other notes 'bout Vista. Otherwise, keep you head down and keep originating. There isn't anything about Vista that can't wait until the next refi boom.

If you have a SmartPhone that is Windows based and use ActiveSync, there is a new update to 3.8 on the Microsoft Website.

Friday, August 26, 2005

SERIOUSLY: ADD, Tech Brain and the Originator

Is your brain driven to distraction, causing your income to fraction, and your job to lose a sense of satisfaction?

Lance Ulanoff of PCMag.com has a great article about distractibility. Somewhat prophetic, somewhat tongue and cheek, and certainly relevant, its a topic that's been eating at my brain for a some while. As with all things important to us, we typically select out information that validates our experience. However, something tells me that Lance has opened up a topic that will become "hotter" in the very near future. Here's a quick taste:

"The next generation of consumers, those coming into prime consumption age over the next 10 to 25 years (they're "tweens" to young adults now) have the attention span of your average housefly after a rendezvous with a moldy peach. Whatever is dangled in front of their faces next is what they're into and into using at the moment. "

I've noticed this, er, tendency in myself. I think that's why I like blogging. You have the opportunity to focus on a million things. But on a more serious note, I believe Lance has a great point and his article raises a question Mortgage Originators are going to need to grapple with. Since the number of real estate transactions where the home buyer found their home on the internet has almost doubled from 8% to 15% since 2001 (source: Wall Street Journal, Wed Aug 24th), and the number of messages bombarding the average consumer is out of control (source: my own experience) I've personally found that my clients have developed an impatience for the details of Mortgage Lending.

Just yesterday, a client couldn't figure out why I needed to ask them about their assets - not that she didn't have any, she just wanted the loan, and she wanted the loan quickly and asked, "Why do we need to go through all this, I have good credit and I've got a lot to do." In my mind I smiled, wondering how she had the patience to accumulate $100k in here retirement. Additionally, I've found that the analysis I do for clients is becoming less appreciated, not because it is less valuable, but because their attention span and willingness to sort through details seems maxed out.

Another way I see the LO impacted by technology is the constant multi-tasking that finds its way into our daily work. The cell phone beeps, it's a call from a client I've been trying to reach on a $500,000 purchase, then Outlook does it's chime thing, and it's an urgent note from my processor and then my office phone rings (no caller id), and since I'm the only one in the office I have to pick it up. I put my cell on hold, and while I'm on the phone I'm typing an email, proud that I can do so much in so little time. Then as I'm finishing my bi-modal communication efforts, the fax machine hums delivering the HUD for the closing in 20 minutes (the HUD is supposed to be here 48 hours before the closing). Quickly I pick the cell back up while walking with the fax for review, and then let the client know I'll call back because an urgent email just came in from my processor telling me to ignore the HUD, the numbers are wrong, and... well, you get the point. Whew, I need a weekend.

I'd like to hear from anyone out there in the mortgage blog-0-sphere who has experienced the same. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

PREVIEW: Google your desktop!

Windows might just get easy to use... with a little help from the folks at Google.
Google wants your desktop. Google has recently released Google Desktop 2, a sidebar that sits on your desktop to help your search files, audio/video clips, applications, websites; in other words EVERYTHING ON AND OFF YOUR DESKTOP! In addition, the application "notices" what information (web pages, email, files, news) is important to you by how frequently you access it, and then either makes those items float to the top of the sidebar list, or, in the case of the News Sidebar, actually anticipates what information you would most likely be interested in and makes it available.

Check out this article by Walter Mossber on the Wall Street Journal's website about Google Desktop 2 and Google Communicator. Google is a great search engine; they keep it simple, straight forward and easy. If you are like me, you really dislike the Windows Explorer interface. Though I've not used it, Google's product sounds like a must to increase your productivity by following the same model that has made Google such a winner. You can download the product FREE, from Google. CAVEAT - Keep in mind this product is still in Beta, which means, it is probably as stable as a Microsoft product on it's final release ;-)

If I understand the features correctly, then I can see a huge increase in productivity as you work with certain clients or lenders. The information that you are working on can be right at your fingertips rather than having to navigate several applications (windows explorer, internet explorer, my documents folder, microsoft word, etc.). And, as you might be waiting for an email, you don't have to switch to your email client to see if the email you are waiting for has come in; the email will appear at the top of the email tab.

Look for a review from yours truly some time in the future.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

RESOURCES: Free is good!

A few FREE Tools I ran across today...

Whoever said that "Nothing in life is free," must have said it before these free resources became available.

Broker Universe has some excellent freebies developed by others in the industry who chose to share their expertise and knowledge. I thought the stacking order checklist was kind of a cool idea... imagine surprising your processor with a stacked file... hmm.

Need some inspiration and ideas? Top Producer Strategies is a site filled with proven strategies of superstars and top performers. Make sure you check out the Archives.

If you are Mortgage Coach user, then you probably already know about the Resource Center on the website. If you want to become a Mortgage Planner instead of remaining an LO, then even if you don't Mortgage Coach, you'll benefit from the ideas and approaches. The Index Analyzer is a free tool that you can use to help illustrate the history of ARM products with your clients.

If I were to ask you to explain to your borrower what goes into the APR, I bet you'd be stumped. The folks at The Compliance Group have a cool chart

Monday, August 22, 2005

COMING SOON: How to beat the high cost of Telecommunications!


Stay in touch for less! Look for an upcoming Product Briefing about cost effective telecommunications solutions for mortgage professionals. Advances in technology are making it more affordable for the solo originator/smaller company to give their clients the service levels offered by systems that used to be reserved only for deep pockets.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

NEW TOOL: Can a cell phone be a USP (Unique Selling Proposition)?


We've all had that, "Man, I wish I'd thought of that" moment. Well this happens quite regularly to me, and it happened again today.

Cell Story is a new product and new company (July 2005) that allows a user to create a "Story" (a story can be a brochure, a series of photo's documenting a situation, etc.) using just their Cell Phone.

Picture this; A realtor has an out of town client and just happens to drive by the ideal house. Rather than wait to get home, the Realtor calls the listing agent, gets the code to the Lock Box, goes in the house and proceeds to create a custom brochure using her Cell Phone that, by the time she's back in the car, is now available on a personal web page for her client. That's the sort of thing I'm imaging this software will be used for.

Now, for those of you who work the FSBO market as Loan Originators. This product could allow you to very quickly visit the owner's house, follow a templated series of prompts (take a picture of the bathroom, now the living room, etc.), create a brochure using your own Cell Phone and secure the client's interest in working with you. NOTE 8/22 - According to Ron Quintero of FinanceThisHome.com, in 37 states there are strict regulations about marketing property if you are not a real estate agent. So, while this is a logical application of this product, it is not without some caveats. As always, do your homework.

I'm sure that uses for this service will explode quickly as long as Cell Story delivers and expands to other phone manufactures. Cellstory currently runs only on the Nokia Series 60 phones.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Mortgage Coach Mini-Review

There are several tools that help you too explain/show loan options. I'm going to focus on the one I use, Mortgage Coach.

The Mortgage Coach is a tool central to how many LO's do business. Why it's called Mortgage Coach, I don't know. Where did the "Coach" come from? I digress. I use this tool almost every day and on almost every loan. With a claim to 20,000 users, it is the dominant application in the industry. Mortgage Coach allows you to show clients the Total Cost of a loan, what it means to Rent vs. Own, why they should Reposition Their Equity, and with it's close cousin, how to get out of debt quickly with the Debt Consolidation Analysis. And there is a rudimentary marketing tool in the RateWatch module that allows you to market to a client to illustrate their current loan against the loan products and rates on the market today.

WHAT I DIG ABOUT MORTGAGE COACH
  • IT MAKES THE LO LOOK ORIGINAL Nobody else seems to use it. Despite 20,000 users, I've never had a client tell me that they've seen the same type of analysis from another LO. It truly is a USP (Unique Selling Proposition).
  • NIMBLE - It's desktop oriented and quick to use (Well, at least after it opens and pulls up the resources from the internet for the products new 6.1 home page. (I'm on a slow network).
  • DEFACTO STANDARD Most of the heavy hitters use it (Tim Braheem, Barry Habib, Steven Marshall, Jim McMahon (check out Jim's new product for helping to sell ARMs), etc.) and, so, it's easy to find materials to support it's use. Loan ToolBox has a whole section on it's use. You can sample some of these materials (under Tim Braheem) on the Mortgage Coach website.
  • OFFICIAL It looks very accounting'ish, so clients really think you are smart. I say this in jest, but it is important to look professional and the "accounting look" does imply a certain amount of credibility and authority.
  • WORKS WITH POINT You can export a 1003 out of Point to Mortgage Coach. I don't use point anymore, but I like this since a majority of LO's do use Point.
  • IT GIVES THE LO CONFIDENCE Sometimes I don't even give out my Total Cost Analysis to clients. Instead I use it as a self-check. This gives me the confidence that I'm helping my client choose the best option for their goals/needs.
  • WEBSITE IS FULL OF GREAT RESOURCES I really like the way they've expanded the website to include more resources and marketing ideas. There are reports, toolkits, conference calls, and a lot of other great content. If you haven't read Ron Quintero's three White Paper's, and are a Mortgage Coach User, I strongly recommend going through all three.
  • NEWEST EDITION HINTS AT WEB FUNCTIONALITY The current version (6.1) is setup to work with a yet to be released service, RateWatch.com. That means there is a hint that maybe this product will be more web based in the future. Wouldn't it be great to send your clients a link to a web page where they can look at a variety of analysis? Keep your fingers crossed. Also, in the Bio about David Allen, the CTO, there is mention of a secret project "Enigma."

WHAT I DON'T DIG ABOUT MORTGAGE COACH/THINGS I'D LIKE TO SEE

  • BLACK HOLE You can't get your data out of Mortgage Coach; import is supported, but export is not. This makes it difficult to highlight certain aspects of a report in a form letter or integrate the application with another program. That makes the product a bit of an island.
  • CUMBERSOME Ok, so I said it was nimble. Well, it is also cumbersome. It would build efficiency if the user were allowed to create templates of typical scenarios that are often presented. Every time I have a new client, I have to re-enter the data.
  • TOO MUCH INFORMATION The program is all about detail and doesn't really do a good job in helping you highlight/summarize what is important to the client and THEN drill down to the detail. For instance, most people just want to know how much their payments are going to be and how much they'll save. In order to show that to clients via Mortgage Coach's Total Cost Analysis, you have to go through a lengthy explanation. I'd like to see a summary report based on a client's main concern/value.
  • PRINTOUTS ARE UGLY Everything looks pretty these days. Why can't Mortgage coach update the look of the reports and printouts so they are nicer to look. Plus, the column headings at the top of the Total Cost Analysis need to be able to handle more text. If you can't simplify, at least beautify.
  • LACK OF INTERACTION WITH OTHER TOOLS Why can't I push a button and email out my Total Cost Analysis to my client without the help of vForms? It's 2005. I suspect the average LO emails 50%-75% of all correspondence
  • IT IS A TERRIBLE DATABASE You can't report on your clients or your efforts. If you mail the RateWatch report it is next to impossible to efficiently manage more than 50 clients because you can't find subsets based on certain criteria (ie-Past Client, Adopted Client, Realtor, Partner). Or, you can't sort based on them wanting to receive it via email or snail mail. If you have more than one Total Cost, Equity Repositioning or Debt Consolidation scenario for a client, you either have to create a new record or redo the record you just created. You can't create a history of what you've done each day/week/mos/year. A database is meant for reporting, sorting and finding. Mortgage Coach is terrible at all the above.

There's a lot to love and a few things to hate about Mortgage Coach. It is the pioneer in the field and continues to be the standard for the industry. There is a tremendous opportunity for the company to take the product and their 20,000 clients to the next level. The product seems to be moving in this direction. These are just a few thoughts off the top of my head. I'd love to hear about users who utilize other tools (LoanMagic for example).

ORIGINALLY POSTED 8/17, UPDATED 8/18

OTHER REVIEWS OF MORTGAGE COACH

Mary Dum for Mortgage Technology

Monday, August 15, 2005

The mission of this blog

I wish I was crystal clear on the mission for this blog. I'm sure it will evolve over time, so, taking that into consideration, here is what we're all about here; Discussing Technology and Tools that Matter to the Originator and how they serve the Client.
  • Technology for the individual and small mortgage company/team.
  • Tools, techniques, and resources that work.
  • News that impacts you and news you can use.

Welcome to the world of Matt's Tools and Technologies for LO's.