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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   March 2007

Lender Web Tools You Can Use

Examine lenders’ sites to determine if their features can benefit your relationship

When evaluating a lender with which to do business, it is beneficial for brokers to evaluate lenders’ Web sites. There are a number of features and tools that brokers should look for on these sites.

Evaluating a Web Site

Visit a lender's Web site and determine what features and tools are available

Navigate through some of the features and tools

Determine if you think the site will save or cost you time and money

Ask lenders' account executives about the site to determine if they can help if you have questions later

Examples of tools and features that can make a lender’s Web site stand out from the rest include: pipeline reports; real-time loan status; file upload and submission; a rate lock; a pricing engine; a loan-program-selection engine; cancellation requests; account management; management reporting; and important lender notices. Other beneficial tools include online document-drawing, condition submission, and file- and condition-submission tracking.

Let’s look at each of these features:

  • Pipeline reports: A pipeline report should provide a quick overview of the loans brokers have submitted to a lender. It should include basic data, such as the loan number, name, program and status. Brokers also should be able to sort the loans by any of the data that appear on the screen. This gives them the flexibility to look at the report in the way that best suits them.
  • Real-time loan status: This tool lets brokers view the status of a loan as soon as it appears in the lender’s loan-origination system (LOS). Some sites allow brokers to watch their loans move through the lender’s system. For example, a broker could click on a particular loan file and see its in status in the lender’s loan-origination process. Or while speaking with an underwriter about having conditions signed off, a broker can refresh the page and immediately see those conditions signed off in the lender’s LOS.
    The loan status should contain information about how the loan was underwritten (loan terms, conditions, etc.) so brokers can contact the lender for changes. It also should include contact information for who brokers should call with loan questions.
  • File upload and submission: A Web site’s file-upload and file-submission feature should accept the Fannie Mae Desktop Underwriter and other industry-standard files. Upon upload, the site should create a submission form that can be printed and submitted with the loan file. This tool also should allow for submission of an image file that inputs into the lender’s system.
  • Rate-lock tool: Brokers should look for a rate-lock tool that lets them add and remove fees as appropriate and that provides pricing accurately, showing all applicable loan adjustments. This should work like a manual lock, incorporating request documents, changing the prepay (if allowed) and selection of lock length.
    Advance, pre- or soft- lock is another rate-lock tool that holds the rate of a loan that is not yet in the lender’s office. Brokers should be able to enter the necessary data (either with a manual input or a file upload) to see the adjustments and available rates for the loan.
  • Pricing engine: This tool provides pricing that matches the published rate sheets. It should require a limited amount of information to be entered, and it should be specific to the loan scenario being priced. The pricing engine should also display any adjustments that apply, and brokers should be able to select any additional applicable adjustments. A good pricing engine will be more than a simple table of rates. It will also show index values, discount and rebates in dollar amounts as well as in percentages and will reflect any midday pricing changes as they happen.
  • Loan-program selection: A loan-program-selection engine or automated underwriting system should allow manual input or file upload and should require limited data. It should also let brokers import a credit report or ask pertinent credit-related questions to determine the borrower’s credit risk. 
    Product-type options should be available based on entered information. After brokers choose the types of products, they should be able to compare pricing and adjustments to determine the best option for the borrower. Some sites even allow for program selection for the first- and second-trust deed for a piggyback loan within a single transaction and let brokers print an approval or assessment to submit with the loan file. Others also allow for an advance lock from the system. Brokers should also be able to review or modify the approval or assessment until they submit it to the lender.
  • Cancellation requests: This tool allows brokers to cancel inactive files. Brokers should be able to cancel loans that have not yet been submitted, including loans with which they were working in the loan-program-selection area. Loans submitted to the lender should provide a notification to the lender’s staff so that it removes the loan from the system and from the broker’s pipeline. Once loans are canceled, they should be removed from the broker’s pipeline or noted to designate pending cancellation.
  • Account management: An account administrator within the broker’s office should be able to add or remove users via the lender’s Web site as employees join or leave the company. The administrator should also be able to request daily rate sheets or marketing materials and request to receive e-mails in HTML or text-only mode, if necessary.
  • Management reporting: The Web site should make certain data available for the broker office’s management, such as a history of loans submitted and funding, denial and cancellation ratios. The reports should be by company, as well as broken down by loan officer, to help management evaluate the performance of the company’s loan officers.
  • Lender notices: Important lender notices should be easy to view when brokers log into the Web site. Pricing specials, new programs, midday rate changes or holiday hours should be easy to find on the site’s home page.

Other tools and features that aren’t as critical but still add value to a lender’s Web site. These include:

  • Online document drawing: This can be helpful for brokers who want greater control of the loan process. Document drawing lets them enter information that is needed for loan documents (such as borrower’s name, Social Security numbers, addresses, vesting and legal description). The site should ask specific questions to determine if endorsements are needed on the loan. The site also should generate and e-mail final documents to the specified recipient. 
  • Condition submission: This lets brokers flag which condition is submitted and allows them to add a comment about it, if necessary. For instance, if they are providing two months’ bank statements instead of a verification of deposit, they could indicate it in the comments area. The site should let brokers create a cover sheet to use to submit the condition. Brokers also should be able to upload the condition and submit it directly into the system for added flexibility.
  • File- and condition-submission tracking: This tracking tool lets brokers determine if the lender received a loan file or condition they submitted. When viewing the tracking information, brokers should be able to go directly to the loan-status page to view the conditions and loan terms on the selected loan.

Not every lender’s Web site will have all these tools and features. It is important, however, to determine which tools are important to your business and to find a lender that fits your needs.

One way to do so is to take the necessary time to get to know a lender’s site. This may mean spending a little extra time in the beginning of a relationship, but it can save you considerable time and money later.


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