Wells Fargo loosens jumbo lending requirements for current customers

Wells Fargo announced updates to its non-conforming refinance products at the beginning of July. While the updates loosen the jumbo requirements for current customers, the new standard for customers without a Wells Fargo relationship increased four times the amount it originally announced back in April. 

According to a spokesperson for Wells Fargo, as of July 1, any existing Wells Fargo customer can now get a non-conforming refinance with the mega bank. Or, if they have an existing loan that they need to refinance and no other deposit accounts, they can now get a non-conforming refinance with Wells Fargo. 

This means as long as they have a home mortgage, home equity line, deposit account, brokerage account, investment account or even if they have as little as $100 in their account, they can get a jumbo refinance. 

However, those who don’t have an existing relationship with the bank will need to transfer $1 million or more in assets to a qualifying deposit, brokerage or investment account in order to apply, according to Wells Fargo.

In a call with HousingWire, Wells Fargo did add that in some circumstances there may be other mortgage loan products available to customers without an existing Wells Fargo relationship depending on a variety of factors, and even if they do not transfer funds into a qualifying deposit, brokerage or investment account.

These new jumbo requirements serve as an update to news in April that Wells Fargo would only refinance jumbo mortgages for customers with at least $250,000 or more in assets under management with the bank for 30 or more days prior to the application. This was applicable to both new and existing customers. 

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Wells Fargo names Kristy Fercho as head of Home Lending

Wells Fargo has announced Kristy Fercho will join the company as the new head of Wells Fargo Home Lending, beginning in August.

Kristy Fercho

Fercho will replace Michael DeVito, who said he plans to retire this summer after spending 23 years with the bank.

Fercho has 18 years of experience in the mortgage industry, most recently serving as the president of the mortgage division at Flagstar Bank since 2017.

“Kristy is a customer-first business leader with deep home lending experience. She has been an inspiring and vocal leader across the mortgage industry while driving transformational growth at Flagstar,” said Mike Weinbach, CEO of Consumer Lending at Wells Fargo, in a written statement. “Buying a home remains one of the most important financial decisions our customers will make in their lifetime, and Kristy is the right person to help us ensure that no one can do it better for them than Wells Fargo.”

Before Flagstar, Fercho led the strategy and business performance of single-family customers at Fannie Mae for 15 years. Fercho has also held sales, operations, and human resources roles at Baxter International before moving to Pepsico, where she was director of worldwide corporate human resources.

Currently, Fercho is the vice-chair of the board of the Mortgage Bankers Association, vice-chair of the MBA’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee, a co-chair of the Affordable Housing Council, and a member of its Residential Board of Governors, as well as on the board of City Year and the Detroit Zoological Society.

DeVito has been in the financial services industry for over 30 years, having served as the head of Wells Fargo Home Lending in January 2018 . Prior to that, he was the head of mortgage production and running mortgage servicing operations.

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California, Oregon and South Carolina continue to require in-person notarizations

In an effort to combat the economic toll of COVID-19, a wave of varying permanent and temporary legislation for remote online notarizations continues to sweep across the country.

While the SECURE Notarization Act currently sits in the introductory phase at the senate, states have taken it upon themselves to enact their own regulations and legislation of RON.

According to a recent report by Qualia, nearly half of the United States has not enacted RON legislation despite a survey by the company that remote notarizations surged 40% from April to May. Three states in particular, California, Oregon and South Carolina maintain a requirement for in-person notarizations and have yet to adopt RON regulations of any form.

While several states including Minnesota, Nevada and Ohio enacted RON legislation prior to the pandemic, states like Louisiana quickly pushed new RON orders in a reactionary method to COVID-19. In March, Louisiana’s governor amended his emergency executive order to allow the use of RON – by June he called for implementation of it no later than August 1, 2020.

For four years, the Land Title Association of Colorado pushed for RON legislation in Colorado, however, it would take less than four months from March, 2020 to June for the state to pass a bill allowing the use of temporary RON. In June, Colorado Governor Jared Polis declared the bill will effectively turn into law December 31, 2020.

Alaska also expedited RON legislation after an April bill backed the validity of electronic documents and signatures for notarizations, however, it will not be effective until January 2021.

Other states like Indiana, Iowa and Maryland were in the process of enacting RON when COVID-19 hit, advancing the process along in a bid to protect employees and homebuyers. One state in particular, Washington, passed RON legislation in April last year and was slated to go into effect Oct. 1, 2020. With stay-at-home orders being implemented across the country the governor issued a proclamation for immediate use of RON.

Whereas many states already adopted RON, others are making use of its close cousin remote ink-signed notarizations (RIN). In a RIN transaction, notarizations take place via a video platform and do not include e-Sign technology. Instead homebuyers receive closing packages via mail or email, and wet-ink sign the physical documents while a notary witnesses the events.

States like Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico and North Carolina opted for RIN transactions instead amid their emergency orders with several under certain restrictions.

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[PULSE] Irrefutable principles of high-performance mortgage and real estate practices

Note: This is part one of a five-part series. Over the next five weeks, Todd Duncan, sales entrepreneur and New York Times best-selling author, will showcase five principles for mortgage and real estate professionals to embrace for success.

What if success, massive success, all came down to one simple concept? What if I told you there is only one word you need to understand, and apply, to have all the success you’ve ever dreamed of?

Would you want to know the word? Sure, you would. Who wouldn’t? 

I’m guessing the reason you chose this business was because you saw an opportunity, felt excited and energized, and knew you could “make it,” and “make it big.” 

You might have had some ups and downs along the way. It’s a dynamic industry with ever changing markets, prices, demands, rules, ethics, compliance and challenges. And, that is a given. But high-performers know that, and they have arrived at a mindset that follows this thinking – it’s never the market that determines my success, it is how I am in that market!

Todd Duncan
Todd Duncan
Guest Author

When I was 23, newly minted with a college degree, my childhood baseball coach – who happened also to own the largest independent real estate company on the West Coast along with a mortgage company – talked me into my first career at a July 4th BBQ. No visions as a kid for this career path! Fireman, policeman, doctor, yes. But I never dreamed about selling, listing or financing property for people. I got my brokers license and started down the path.

My first mentor sat down with me shortly thereafter and he asked me, “If I could tell one word that you need to embrace that will guarantee your success, would you want to know what that word was?” I said, “Yes,” just like you did. And that one word changed everything. Principles! 

That’s it: Principles! 

He went on, “That is the only word you ever need to know to succeed.” I grabbed it and never looked back.

Early on this became the guiding force in my life and it was the difference maker that allowed me to be involved in nearly 6,000 transactions in 10 years. I ate this word up and, in that pursuit, I stumbled across the work of Harrington Emerson. He is the author of The Twelve Principles of Efficiency which he wrote in 1913.

According to him, this is how you change your game…

“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” — Harrington Emerson

Over the next five weeks, I will showcase the five principles I have embraced, taught and coached thousands of mortgage and real estate professionals to embrace in order to crush it in business and life.

Principle No. 1: Everything Can Be Improved

As first glance, I can say you might be taking too long to get your results. And, if you are not measuring the things that matter most, you can’t begin to improve those things. I learned that this principle will produce three specific business results; more money, in less time, with less stress. There is no “silver bullet” to success, but one truth is you can only improve what you measure.

A real estate agent named Jim told me recently that when he finally understood this principle his business went from $8 million in sales to $40 million in sales in three years. A mortgage professional we coach went from 118 transactions to 184 transactions a year in less than 12-months and she shortened her workweek to 28-hours. 

There are two key points to this principle:

1.  If you want to make more money, you need to spend more time on what makes you money, the most money, per minute. 

According to Indeed.com, the average real estate agent in America is making $18.49 an hour and the average loan originator in America is making $37.52 an hour. 

So, the truth is, the hours you work are nowhere as important as the work you do during those hours. What makes you the most money is meeting with, connecting with, and converting prospects to customers to clients, and then keep them for life. The better you get at that, the easier, faster and more permanent those results are. That’s it. 

We measure hourly rate every two weeks with our coaching clients. It is not uncommon for them to go from $50 dollars an hour to over $500 an hour in under six months. They measure everything; how many hours with clients, showings and presentations. They look at how many hours they spend on interruptions, email and low-income tasks.

 It starts with the “x-ray” of where time is going and then, over time, how to reverse those trends by applying focus, skill mastery and delegation of the lowest income time robbers. 

There is a crazy mindset to this, bordering on obsession with all top performers, and it sounds like this, “Why take 40 years to do what I could do in 10 years? Why take a week to do what I could do in a day? Why take a day to do what I could do in an hour? Why take an hour with a client when I could do a better job and cut that in half and see twice as many people. Why talk to 10 prospects to get one deal when I could do a better job with one prospect and get 10 referrals/deals? Why show 10 properties, when I could show two to three? Why take three hours to do one open house when I can do three open houses, an hour each, and triple exposure and create a buying frenzy?” 

Are you getting this principle?

2. There is no limit to how much money you can make per hour, which is the most important metric you measure. (While producing extraordinary customer experiences.)

If everything can be improved – and it can – what is preventing you from earning in an hour what you usually make in a day? The answer is your head – and the belief that you can. Thomas Dreier said, “The life each of us lives is the life within the limits of our own thinking. To have life more abundant, we must think in limitless terms of abundance.”

Mindset is everything! Everyone has an income gap. The gap is large if the mind is small and if the skills are poor. Not so much, when belief is high. And once you move to increasing revenue “per minute”, you never want to go back. If you’re making a dollar an hour, and you embrace the first teaching point, once you are at ten dollars an hour, going back to a dollar an hour is not going to happen…unless you stop measuring and improving.

We teach that the better you get at business, the better business gets for you. What’s required? Spend the most time on the fewest things that produce the greatest revenue for your time. 

When I was 13, I went with my dad to one of his hospitals. He was a radiologist and when he showed me the x-ray room where a technician was taking x-rays, I asked him, “Dad, why don’t you take the x-rays?” He said, “Because I get paid to read them.” That impacted me and I never forgot that.

So, the prescriptive idea here is do what you get paid to do. Do as much of it as you can, efficiently and profitably. Don’t do things that fall outside of your core talent areas, or things that others can do better and less expensively than it will cost you to do it. And be vigilant and courageous because when you don’t follow this principle, you will work too hard, too long and when you are trading time for money, and you can’t get more time, the only thing that makes reasonable sense is make more money for the time you put in. 

One of our clients sent me this recently, “I have bought 101 rental properties in the last five years, live off 25% of my income, and have no debts other than my mortgages, plus I take 20 weeks of vacation per year, thanks to you.”

That’s what happens when you embrace Principle No.1: Everything can be improved.

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New York City apartment vacancy rates reach record highs

Apartment vacancies have reached record-high levels as more people want to migrate to rural areas and larger living spaces.

According to a new report from Douglas Elliman, Manhattan, New York, has now reached its highest vacancy rate in nearly 14 years of being tracked – 3.67%.

“The state mandate that prevented real estate brokers to physically show property was removed before the last week of the month, not enough time to have a material influence on market conditions for the month,” the report stated.

Manhattan has also seen the lowest number of June new lease signings in 10 years, dropping by 35.6%, making listing inventory soar to a record 84.7%.

In Brooklyn, listing inventory has also surged by 57.3% as new leases declined for the ninth month in a row to 9.1%, the report said.

“While the decline in new leasing activity remained well below last year, the removal of ‘shelter-in-place’ restrictions in the final week of June that prevented in-person showings, is expected to expand activity,” the report said.

In Queens, New York, new leases declined annually for the eleventh month in a row, sinking by 34.7%, as listing inventory skyrocketed by 40.9%. Here, median rent declined year over year across all bedroom categories, the report said.

To fill these empty apartments, landlords are lowering the cost of rent, with the median cost of rent including concessions falling 6.6% in Manhattan and 5.7% in Queens. Rent actually rose 1% in Brooklyn.

“With the lifting of the lockdown that prevented real estate brokers from doing in-person showings in the last week of the month, there will be greater transparency in the market,” the report continued.

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Real estate lead generation overload

HousingWire recently launched HousingStack, a dynamic visualization of rapid technological changes in the real estate industry. Our first vertical to launch was Lead Generation, and I almost choked when I saw all the companies attempting to generate leads for real estate agents.

Lead generation vertical on HousingWire’s HousingStack

How does a real estate agent wade through all of these lead generation options? It turns out they are having a really tough time. I asked readers of our OpenHouse newsletter to write to me about their interaction with lead generation companies, and here are a sampling of the quotes:

  • “Get so many companies trying to get my business to pay for leads. Don’t know who to trust or go with if any. I delete them.” – Realtor in South Bend, Indiana
  • “I cant wade through lead solicitations. I am frozen.” – Real estate agent in Orlando, Florida
  • “Real estate is a contact sport and technology, while necessary to help streamline the homebuying process, has also created a false narrative that you must buy your business in order to be successful in real estate sales. It is a distraction to the daily boring long term business building routines that will create a predictable business.” – Real estate agent in Phoenix
  • “Every lead gen company claims to get the best leads. Some promise to qualify them (they only ask a question or two and call that qualifying…smh). Referral companies want a cut if the lead buys or sells. Problem is most are several months if not a year or more away from buying or selling. They are handing off leads that are so green you can’t even call them shoots yet. How do I wade through these companies? I don’t anymore.” – Realtor in Jackson, New Jersey
  • “There seem to be more lead gen companies than homes. All with spectacular promises, so good they should have run for Congress.” – Real estate broker in Portland

Yikes! If you’re a real estate lead generation company, I hope you want to clear the record and prove that your product delivers real ROI. HousingWire is planning a Real Estate Virtual Demo Day for July 27.

Lead generation company CEOs, come set the record straight!

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How Blend fuels the trillion dollar mortgage market

This article was written for FinLedger, HW Media’s new fintech-focused news brand designed specifically for financial services professionals in banking, insurance and real estate. Stay tuned for updates.

If you’ve refinanced or purchased a home digitally lately, you may or may not have noticed the company powering the software behind it.

There’s a good chance it’s Blend. Founded in 2012, the startup (which was one of HousingWire’s 2020 Tech 100 winners) has steadily grown to be a powerhouse in the mortgage tech industry.  Blend’s white label technology is what powers mortgage applications on the site of banks such as Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank with the goal of making the process faster, simpler and more transparent. 

The San Francisco-based startup’s SaaS (software-as-a-service) platform currently processes over $3 billion in mortgages and consumer loans per day in partnership with over 250 financial institutions, up from nearly $2 billion and over 150 lender customers last June. Blend’s customer base accounts for more than 25% of the $2.1 trillion U.S. mortgage market by origination volume, according to HMDA data. In 2019, Blend processed a total of $538 billion in loans, more than double the $211 billion worth it processed in 2018.

Just as many others in the mortgage industry, the startup has seen a big jump in business since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Refinance applications for the second week in March were up more than 1600% compared to the prior year. In both April and May, refi apps were up more than 600%, according to the company.

And let’s not forget that former Fannie Mae CEO Tim Mayopoulos joined Blend as president in January of 2019, running all the administrative and go-to-market functions for the company

With so much going on in the mortgage industry, we thought it would be a good time to talk to its CEO, Nima Ghamsari, to hear more about what’s been happening at Blend and to get his thoughts on the fintech space as a whole.

HW: This broader macroenvironment of low interest rates is no doubt fueling demand in the mortgage industry. Do you see this as being a temporary thing?

NG: I believe this is all going to last a bit longer than people initially thought. It is estimated that there is $4.5 trillion worth of loans that should be refinanced given the current rate environment. Lenders may only get through $1.5 trillion of those over the next 12 months. That is a lot of dollars that consumers are leaving on the table. That’s money that should be back in their pockets, and it’s not. So we plan to keep investing over the next 12 to 18 months at least as we don’t imagine that consumers are suddenly going to be dealing with a turnaround or amazing, perfect economy in the very short term.

HW: Last June, Blend raised $130 million at a near-unicorn ($1 billion) valuation. Any plans to raise more venture capital?

NG: We are investing in the product so much right now so that’s something we are always considering.  As a company, we’ve grown a lot. But it’s important to keep investing if we want to continue on that path. As part of that, we plan to hire another 50 to 100 people by the end of the year on top of the 100 people we’ve onboarded since March 4.

HW: Can you share your thoughts on the overall fintech landscape (especially in light of Quicken’s recent S-1 filing and nCino’s plans to file for IPO)? 

NG: The remote world that we’re moving toward is accelerating the pace of fintech adoption, which will naturally benefit companies like Quicken and nCino, who are digitally powering things.

HW: How has Blend been navigating doing business amid a global pandemic?

NG:  We can help our customers take on more business than they otherwise would if doing everything manually. Blend was building out some things over the past three to nine months, and we’ve suddenly had a ton of accelerations, such as now offering digital closings. We rolled something out on that a couple of months ago, which was six to seven months ahead of schedule.

We have heard from loan teams and banks that they need better tools to qualify and quotes. So one of the things we’ve rolled out is the ability to pull soft credit pulls for loan teams. By starting out with a soft credit pull, they can get a sense of where they stand with a consumer. Plus, it won’t affect the consumer’s credit. It’s easier for the loan officer and cheaper for the lender since they won’t have to pay for a credit pull for someone who might not turn out to be a customer. They’re dealing with a ton of volume so anything that can help save time and money is welcome.

We’ve also worked to make sure our customers have access to an entire set of data metrics they can use to run their businesses. We can either transport their data to them or they can access it on our app. It helps them to quickly visualize things like changes from month to month, and where business may be dropping off.

HW: Where do you see Blend headed in the future? 

NG: We see additional opportunities in creating a new kind of home-buying journey that’s oriented toward consumers and their goals. We want to streamline the home-buying process with a suite of services that will assist a consumer through the whole process.

Are you a financial services professional hungry for better fintech news and info? HW Media is proud to introduce FinLedger, a fintech media brand that will cover the critical news impacting financial services professionals — from SaaS to big data, and cybersecurity to regtech. Want to be notified when we launch? Enter your email here and follow us on Twitter.

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NAR: Nearly half of members say their market is slowly recovering

The housing market has seen its ups and downs as a result of COVID-19, and now, summer homebuying season is in full force.

The National Association of Realtors released its Market Recovery Survey on Thursday, revealing that 45% of its members had reported that their market has slowly entered recovery mode.

Still, as states reopen, many Realtors are hesitant due to fears of a second wave of COVID-19, NAR said.

Only 39% of members reported being somewhat prepared for a second wave of COVID-19, and just 19% said they expect to be very prepared.

The housing market is rebounding in some regions – 28% of those surveyed said their market is coming back hotter than normal, 19% said their respective market is back to normal and 9% don’t feel like they have entered recovery yet.

Trends show that more apartment dwellers want to move to rural areas with bigger space. In fact, 28% who live in a small town or rural area reported that their market is actually hotter than normal.

And it’s not just apartment dwellers. Since stay-at-home orders went into effect and more workers are telecommuting, an increased number of people in general are fleeing the big cities to more rural areas and larger spaces in a home.


The report also showed that some renters have been disregarded in terms of government assistance and rent payments.

As such, 16% of property managers reported tenants had terminated their lease, compared to 6% among individual landlords.

However, property managers with residential tenants said that 42% of property managers had no issues with their tenants paying rent, compared to 63% of individual landlords, NAR said.

Despite no assistance, 40% of property managers reported being able to accommodate their tenants who cannot pay rent, but 27% reported it being difficult to do so.

Pandemic-fueled shift

Locations have been shifted by 24% of homeowners because they intend to buy a home as a result of the pandemic. Specifically, 47% of NAR members said their clients wanted to purchase in the suburbs, 39% planned to go rural and 25% said they were looking to move to a smaller town.

Meanwhile, 22% said they are less concerned about their commute. This is not surprising considering more companies are working remotely since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, 49% of those in urban areas told NAR that their market is slowly entering recovery, compared to 40% in a small town or rural area.

On the other hand, 92% of respondents indicated that some of their buyers had returned to the market or just never left and 8% said that no buyers returned to the market.

For some buyers, the pandemic has left their timelines the same – 54% in fact. 27% of buyers felt more urgency to buy a home, while 18% reported less urgency.

In terms of agent and client communication, teleconferencing and virtual home tours have been utilized now more than ever.

Agents reported they expect the use of video technology to communicate with clients will increase 67%, while 24% expect the usage to remain the same and 8% expect a decrease.

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