Mar. 28: Letters on staying safe & sane while working from home, appraisals, and being bullish on IMBs

What a long year this week has been from talk of Federal prisoners being released to home confinement to sports fans morning the loss of the Globetrotter’s Curly Neal at age 77. “Work from home” edicts in India and the Philippines have raised cybersecurity concerns with lenders who have off-shored vital lending functions. Servicers are overwhelmed with forbearance calls from borrowers, and each one must be answered and the borrower educated. Servicers are hiring, remotely, people those from the travel industry – great phone skills. And now training virtually. Zoom has zoomed ahead of WebEx and GoToMeeting. What happened to Skype? Investors continue to not necessarily eliminate products altogether, but instead shift program requirements or adjust pricing hits.

The industry is dealing with a huge drop in the purchase market this year, impacting the expectations for 2020’s lender volume. “Nail salons closed. Lash salons closed. Hair salons closed. Tanning salons closed. Waxing salons closed. It’s about to get ugly out there…” It already is, although there is a bit of good news. The CFPB suspended quarterly HMDA reporting. And exams are being re-scheduled to not take away attention being paid to consumers. And supposedly the CFPB will take into account good faith efforts, or, put another way, lenders working their best to help consumers should not be worried about technical mistakes. (These pronouncements are not legally binding to the CFPB, but indicate where the Bureau stands.)

Appraisal Chatter

Changes in the mortgage business are happening hour by hour. Let’s start with a letter from Kenn Bartley that echoes thoughts that I’ve heard elsewhere regarding appraisals. “I was reading your commentary today about appraiser protocol to enter homes. Good idea. Here’s another one. I have a handful of very low LTV refinance loans (37.2%-61%) in my pipeline that did not get a DU or LP property inspection waiver. I was really surprised since, at that low LTV, any lender would want that loan on their books.

“So keeping in mind appraiser health protection concerns, not to mention how loosening PIW guides would help loans flow through lender processing, Fannie and Freddie should temporarily accept 60-65% of documented tax assessed value under PIW guidelines regardless of the automated findings. I’m sure there are holes in this, but given the circumstances, it would be a lift for appraisers, LOs, processors, underwriters, and most importantly the health of homeowners and appraisers.”

Sometimes appraisal policies are based on state. Kim Perotti, co-president of AXIS AMC, sent, “As part of our leadership with clients and appraisers, we have been closely tracking health orders. Until Thursday we believed that all of them exempted vendors of financial services who in turn have been exempted as essential. Therefore, we have been able to continue full appraisals in most areas. Vermont, however, has issued a new decree which might cascade. Real estate sales and brokerage firms must suspend in-person operations under the Vermont Governor’s Executive Order. Real estate functions that can be conducted online, by phone or email can continue. And as previously directed by the Governor, employees should be working remotely. Property appraisals, inspections, title services and other activities that require in-person business are not permitted during the term of the Executive Order. As a result, we are unable to complete full appraisals in Vermont until this order has been lifted. We will be reaching out individually to those of you with orders currently in process to determine what options you may have for a desktop solution.

Independent Mortgage Banks

And there’s this note from industry vet James Johnson. “Rob, I just changed out of my Grumpy Old Man Costume. I want to share my Bull Case for IMBs, not my usual MO. Historically, most of the money made by IMBs has come in refi markets, and I visualize this huge refi boom lasting all of 2020 and most or all of 2021. Purchase business will be down for the next 3-4 months before it bounces back. Even after that, the real opportunity right now is refis. But a mine field to get there with a pot of gold on the other side. Many dangerous and scary issues in front of companies today. Rule #1 is Cash, Capital, Liquidity. Rule #2, same as Rule #1.

“The way I see this, the Fed has two main goals in their MBS purchases right now. The first one is to restore liquidity to that market and have a return to somewhat normal trading. But I also think that they would like to see the industry REFINANCE THE WORLD. These stimulus checks of $1200 to individuals will cost the Government around $200-250 billion, and they may need to do that again every 4-6 weeks while the economy is shut down. Quite expensive to say the least.

“But what if we can refinance everybody at rates between 3.50% and 3.0%, or even less? That would have a smaller immediate impact, but a way larger impact over time. This is really free money for consumers, and it won’t cost the Government anything. I think the Fed will continue buying MBS until they restore liquidity to that market and bring MBS yields down to their desired level. In a sense, that is the easy part. But getting borrower rates as low as they want is pretty much out of their control.

“I see this back and forth cycle of lower rates, too much volume, lenders overwhelmed, margins expand, volume slows, margins come down, volume overwhelms, and we do it all over again. Margins should stay relatively wide if it plays out like this. So, a slow play path down to rates under 3.50%. The floor? Maybe 2.75%, which I know sounds crazy, but I think something like that is what the Fed would like to see. Rule #3, don’t fight the Fed. That would save borrowers $200-300-400, or more, per month, free cash for them. If this slow play back and forth market happens it would be pretty much a perfect scenario for IMBs.

“The larger IMBs are having some real struggles. I am not sure exactly what is going on, but I think it may go back to their huge MSR portfolios, which are continuing to slide in value. There is not much of a market for MSRs today, with some servicing valued at zero. Many of these portfolios are financed (50-70% of original value). If you go through the math, you quickly conclude that a lot of the equity in that trade could be greatly reduced or wiped out. Most likely the capital position of the larger IMBs is in the process of declining by some amount. Also a good portion of their cash might be going to meet margin calls on their MSR financing. I think they could end up being a less powerful force for some period of time, so the IMBs with limited MSR exposure could have an opportunity to take market share.

“On the surface, this all seems great. Huge and long-lasting refi boom and restrictions on some big players. But to increase market share IMBs need operations capacity and funding capacity. It remains to be seen to what extent WH lenders will or can grant line increases. Remember that they have some exposure to the MSR financing as well. Their clients want to leverage up while the rest of the finance world is trying to de-leverage. In addition there are concerns that IMBs will stretch themselves too thin in this race for market share. Maybe the slow play becomes an even slower play due to capital and funding capacity constraints. Personally, I think that is fine and will extend the duration of this refi cycle.

“So, I see a HUGE boom, a really nice slow play track, and a fantastic opportunity that will last for the next 18-24 months. It is hard to see what will take rates higher in 2020 and maybe 2021 as well. It will take the industry that long to process and close this huge stack of loans. Really, a once in a lifetime opportunity. Not to be a party pooper, but when this refi cycle is over, I think things will fall off a cliff. it will be worse than 2018 and last longer. But for the immediate future, I see the best of times if you can get through the next 30-60 days of market chaos.” Thank you, James. (If you would be interested in reaching out to James, he is at jjcmc@earthlink.net.)

Tips on Working from Home

Now nearly the entire industry working from home or remotely, and this is making the rounds. “I am reminded that as the world, our country and our communities continue to digest the impact of COVID-19, it can feel overwhelming. I know disruption is happening in all parts of life and navigating the circumstances is incredibly difficult. Even in normal times, we’re asked to play several roles simultaneously. At home, we are needed by parents, grandparents, spouses, siblings, children and friends. At work, we are needed by our team, our peers and our leaders. Most people have come to accept that life is about tradeoffs.

“But what happens when we’re thrown into a situation where there doesn’t seem to be anything to actually ‘trade off?’ School closed for your children? Office closed for you? No problem! Just work from home and home school your children. While you’re at it, please make sure to keep everyone you care about healthy and happy. I know it is so much harder than that!

“Each of us are currently being asked to wear more ‘hats’ than ever before…and it’s hard. I encourage all of us to focus on what we can control and to never lose sight on prioritizing our health and the health of our families.

Given the current challenges, it is good to think about senior management expectations as we go through this unprecedented time together. Expect there to be interruptions. Embrace the interruptions. Laugh about them. Show empathy if others are interrupted. I know I am going to get interrupted. I expect everyone to be understanding of this and to embrace dogs barking in the background or kids trying to jump on a conference call. Who knows, maybe the kids will have some great ideas!

“I expect everyone to be flexible when possible. Some parts of our business have more flexibility than others. If a little flexibility is feasible for your party of the business and helps you meet your needs at home, talk to your manager. Managers, be open to this. We have to do things that are acceptable to run the business, but let’s try to be as flexible as possible while still meeting our business needs.

“I expect you will open your refrigerator at least 17 times more per day than usual. I’m hoping I’m not the only one with this quirk, but I often find myself killing a few minutes between meetings by walking through the kitchen and opening the refrigerator; each time I open the fridge, I have this great sense of anticipation that magically there will be different and better food than the last time I checked. I still haven’t given up hope that this trick will work at some point.

“I expect people to feel a little disconnected. I miss everyone already! Use video to connect. Send a picture of the craziness at your home to your team. Send a joke to your boss. Get your work done and try to have fun while you’re doing it. If you’re feeling disconnected, others are, too. Reach out and see how their day is going.

“I expect A+ effort but not always A+ results. One of the most frustrating things about life is when you put in A+ effort and aren’t rewarded with A+ results. If life were fair effort would equal results. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. In today’s environment, we are all juggling too many priorities and are asked to do too much. Do what you can but don’t be too hard on yourself when things don’t go exactly as planned. We are all human. We are all going to make mistakes. It’s okay.

 

“Finally, I expect everyone to know that we are all in this together. When one of our team members needs help, let’s do what we can to lend our support. When we need help, let’s not be shy to ask. Our industry has great teams filled with great people who are all committed to supporting one another and our clients.”

During this “shelter in place” I went to Walmart to buy a bag of food for my dog.

Already in line, a woman behind me asked me if I had a dog.

I thought to myself, “Really?” If you know me you know my sarcasm.

So on impulse I told her no, that I didn’t have a dog, that I was starting the dog food diet again, and that I probably shouldn’t because I ended up in the hospital the last time, but 15 pounds less! I told her that it was the perfect diet and that all you had to do is carry the kibbles in your pocket and eat one or two every time you feel hungry (I have to mention that practically everyone in line was interested in my story).

Frightened, the woman asks me if I ended up in the hospital because the dog food had poisoned me.

I answered, “Of course not! I was admitted because I bent down to smell the butt of a bulldog and I was hit by a truck.”

I thought the man behind her was going to have a heart attack…he was laughing so hard!

Visit www.robchrisman.com for more information on our industry partners, access archived commentaries, or to subscribe to the Daily Mortgage News and Commentary. If you’re interested, visit my periodic blog at the STRATMOR Group web site. The current blog is, “Drinking from a Firehose is Not a Long Term Business Model” If you have the inclination, make a comment on what I have written, or on other comments so that folks can learn what’s going on out there from the other readers.

Rob

(Market data provided in partnership with MBS Live. For free job postings and to view candidate resumes visit LenderNews. This newsletter is designed for sophisticated mortgage professionals only. There are no paid endorsements by me. For up-to-date mortgage news visit Mortgage News Daily. For archived commentaries, or to subscribe, go to www.robchrisman.com. Copyright 2020 Chrisman LLC. All rights reserved. Occasional paid job & product listings do appear. This report or any portion hereof may not be reprinted, sold or redistributed without the written consent of Rob Chrisman.)

 

Spring Cleaning 101: Make It Fast, Easy and Effective

Spring is the perfect time to open up the windows in your house and clean every surface inch, but there’s no reason to spend more time on this task than necessary.

Use these tips to quickly get your home spic and span.

Have a plan

When it comes to spring cleaning, the best approach is an organized approach. “I recommend having a plan, which includes an outline of the areas you plan to clean, a schedule with time slotted to do that work (for you and any family members), as well as a list of products, tools and even cleaning techniques or tips pertaining to those areas,” says Melissa Maker, blogger and host of the popular YouTube show “Clean My Space.”

Choose the right supplies

When you’re making your spring cleaning plan, take inventory of what supplies you need to gather to begin cleaning. Once you figure out what you need, be sure to choose the most effective and powerful cleaning supplies so that the product is doing most of the work – not you.

Clean room by room

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you are going from room to room to complete various tasks. Choose to target one room at a time so you can see the results of your productivity quickly and not get discouraged.

Work smarter, not harder

Don’t scrub any more than necessary. Simple steps like soaking pots and pans before you scrub them, waiting for cleaning products to sit before you wipe down surfaces, and using the self-cleaning setting on your oven can save you tons of time.

Clean your cleaning supplies

Did you know your cleaning supplies, such as sponges or microfiber cloths, are most likely the dirtiest items in your home? It goes without saying that you can’t effectively clean your home with dirty supplies. So be sure to disinfect sponges or other cleaning supplies in a mixture of one part bleach and nine parts water for 30 seconds.

Don’t forget the …

There are several items in our homes that we often forget to clean on a regular basis. Among forgotten items, Maker recommends cleaning behind the oven, bathroom exhaust fans, refrigerator coils and window coverings.

Focus on the MIAs

Spring cleaning can be a huge undertaking (especially depending on the size of your home), so Maker suggests focusing on the MIAs, or the Most Important Areas. When deciding which area to choose, think about the most visible ones, like the living room or home office.

Get rid of the clutter

You can never truly have a clean and tidy home if you are buried in your own stuff. When cleaning out your things, remember the 80/20 rule: Only 20 percent of the items we own are truly important – so 80 percent of our belongings are just getting in the way.

Figure out ways to be more efficient in the future

While you are cleaning and organizing your home, take note of all the clutter that you most often find. For example, if you are finding that most of your clutter is paper, figure out the best ways to go paperless throughout the year.

Related:

  • Spring Cleaning: 5 Can’t-Miss Spots
  • Winning the War on Pet Hair
  • 3 Extra-Credit Spring Cleaning Tasks

Originally published March 24, 2016.

 

CoreLogic’s digital mortgage solutions streamline the underwriting process

CoreLogic is digitizing the mortgage underwriting process
for lenders with its AutomatIQ suite of solutions. HousingWire recently sat
down with Jay Kingsley, executive for credit and borrower solutions at
CoreLogic, to discuss the company’s AutomatIQ offerings.

AutomatIQ Borrower, CoreLogic’s digital mortgage solution,
provides a comprehensive set of products, analytics and tools to help lenders
quality, understand and underwrite borrowers. With simple inputs and automated
processing, AutomatIQ Borrower helps lenders reduce the time, touch and cost
associated with underwriting loans.

CoreLogic’s offerings also include AutomatIQ Collateral,
which serves as a single point of access for crucial property underwriting
data, streamlining a lender’s workflow. The solution provides lenders with a
full suite of data and analytics on property ownership, value, condition and
hazards.

CoreLogic recently received Fannie Mae certification for its
Verification of Employment and Income offering. With this approval, CoreLogic
now has a full suite of verification products that are Day 1 Certainty
certified, providing users with efficiency, growth and certainty.

In addition, CoreLogic has also announced enhancements to
its Fact Check Income Calculation Tool, including a non-spreadsheet UI version
of an income calculation tool for underwriters, which is an industry first. The
income calculation tool, which includes a multi-investor capability, is also
visible to loan officers in an effort to facilitate communication and reduce
back-and-forth during the underwriting process.

To learn more about the AutomatIQ suite of products, visit https://www.corelogic.com/.

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COVID-19 will cause a record-setting recession, economists say

Economic forecasters are saying the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is going to be record-setting, followed by a rebound in the final three months of 2020 that should result in the largest quarterly expansion in almost six years.

The rapid turn-around is because the economy was firing on all cylinders before America was hit with COVID-19, the most severe health crisis since the 1918 influenza pandemic. More than half of all Americans are in states with governors who ordered residents to stay at home, with the exception of essential workers such as nurses and necessary functions such as food shopping or pharmacy trips.

GDP probably will contract 15% in the second quarter, according to an estimate by Wells Fargo economists on Friday. That would be the biggest plunge ever recorded in more than 70 years of Bureau of Economic Analysis data. The third quarter probably will see a 6.3% contraction, meeting the classic definition of recession used by most economists: Two consecutive quarters of GDP decline.

That should be followed by a 4.1% expansion in the final three months of the year, according to the estimate.

“From full throttle to sudden stop,” is how the Wells Fargo economists explained it. “The economic carnage produced by the abrupt shutdown of economic activity across the country is readily apparent from the weekly unemployment claims.”

Initial claims for unemployment soared to 3.28 million people last week, an all-time high that was five times the peak during the financial crisis more than a decade ago, according to data released Thursday from the Labor Department.

“Across the world, governments are deliberately trying to lower GDP to deal with the coronavirus,” said Paul Donovan, global chief economist for UBS Wealth Management. Once people feel it’s safe to be in stores, there should be pent-up demand for goods that will lead to a rebound, he said.

The Federal Reserve’s pledge to buy unlimited amounts of bonds to support lending probably will drive the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate down to an all-time low of 2.9% in 2020’s second and third quarters, before rising to 2.95% in the final three months of the year, according to the Wells Fargo forecast.

Housing starts, measuring the number of homes contractors break ground on, probably will stay near last year’s level, the forecast said. For 2020, housing starts probably will total 1.25 million, compared with 1.29 million in 2019, the economists said. Construction activity in many states has been deemed “essential,” meaning those workers can show up on the job site.

The reason most consumers are staying home, as we should all know by now, is to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed by sick patients, as happened in Italy. That European nation, with a population a sixth the size of the U.S., had to ration care when ICU ventilators ran out, meaning doctors were forced to decide who would live and who would die.

American health officials are hoping that “social distancing,” as staying at home is now called, will prevent a tragic surge of patients with COVID-19. It will also give scientists time to find treatments and, eventually, a vaccine to prevent people from getting sick.

One of the most challenging aspects of dealing with the highly contagious COVID-19 disease is people can be spreading it without showing any symptoms. Nations doing widespread testing that includes people who don’t report feeling sick, like Iceland, have found about half the people who test positive for the disease are asymptomatic, yet are still contagious.

While President Donald Trump is calling for “packed churches” on Easter, just over two weeks away, it’s unlikely he can override the emergency orders put in place by state governors, including some from his own political party.

Those “Stay at Home” orders mean most people aren’t shopping for big-screen TVs, or the newest cell phone, or clothes. Some online retailers, like Amazon, are seeing a surge in business, though delivery times are slower than normal.

Still, not everything can come in a cardboard box. Some auto manufacturers, such as Ford, are running commercials urging Americans to shop online for a car and it will be delivered to their homes. But in times of economic uncertainty, people tend to hold off on big-ticket purchases, even if it can be delivered to their front doors.

Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of the U.S. economy. That’s why President George W. Bush famously said after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, once it was clearly safe for people to leave their homes, “Go out and shop.”

Barring a vaccine, or the ability for widespread testing and tracing of the contacts of infected people, as was done in South Korea, it’s not clear when Americans will feel it’s safe to hit the shopping malls again.

Stay-at-home orders “create a demand drop,” said UBS’ Donovan. But, once the pandemic is under control, “we will have an economic bounce back,” he said.

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An agent’s guide to marketing during a pandemic

As our world continues to change at a rapid pace, where each week feels like a month, rest assured that new opportunities are also emerging every single day. 

One huge opportunity that any agent can take advantage of is marketing even more during this period of time where most of our colleagues and competitors are playing defense. They’re playing it safe, sitting on the sidelines until there’s less uncertainty.

Dustin-Brohm
Dustin Brohm,
Columnist

While I certainly understand that, I also want to win. I want to play offense,  I want to take big leaps forward and grow while others are falling behind, and I know most of you do too. 

The only questions becomes: how do you double down on your marketing during a global pandemic so that you don’t end up doing damage to your brand and reputation (uhh, same thing!)? The same old marketing and advertising messages just won’t cut it.

In fact, some of the ads you were running over the last year or so may actually come across as tone-deaf and insensitive. And just so we’re clear, marketing doesn’t always mean “running an ad.” Marketing can also mean being visible in your community.

So here are some guidelines for marketing during this time of global uncertainty and fear.

Be sensitive to heightened emotions

Right now is not the time to be overly self-promotional, pushy or in your face. We’re all on edge right now, on so many levels, as we battle through each day to the best of our abilities.

Any advertising that could be construed as “taking advantage of a pandemic for personal gain” will be called out and chastised on social media. And rightfully so.

I’ve seen some awful stuff from agents lately, usually just getting a bit too cute with making light of a virus that is killing loved ones and causing livelihoods to be lost, seemingly overnight. A sense of humor is good, people need some laughs right now.

Just be careful not to push it too far or you could wind up with a PR nightmare on top of everything else. 

Focus on your neighborhood

The smaller the area you can focus on, the better. Now is not the time to try to market to the whole damn city. Rather, stand up and be a leader in your neighborhood, subdivision, or town. Be the lighthouse in storm for your neighbors, and do as much good as you can for them.

Utilizing NextDoor and/or a Facebook Group, organize a group of neighbors who will go pick up prescriptions and groceries for those who can’t, or shouldn’t leave their homes. Offer to deliver some extra pasta, bread, or toilet paper to neighbors who may be unable to restock themselves.

Make a video to get the word out, and share in relevant local groups. Ask others locally to help you share the message. You can make a major positive impact in a neighborhood, but it’s much harder when those efforts are spread across a whole city. 

Listen first

What does your community need? Before you just start blasting “The Interwebs” with crap that you want them to hear, first try finding out what they want/need to hear. Listen, watch, read.

Are neighbors asking for updates on specific things? You’ll likely see many conversations about which stores have which items in stock, what kinds of local ordinances have been put in place to encourage (or enforce) social distancing, and where the drive-thru virus testing centers are.

Why don’t you just gather that info that people are already looking for, and provide it all in one place? Turn your Facebook Page or Group into a central resource for everything people want. Don’t make it about real estate, at all. There will be plenty of time for that. Just help. If you do, people will remember. 

Video is powerful

Video is extremely powerful, for many reasons, but for this conversation, it’s powerful in that you can concisely deliver a bunch of community updates all within a 60-second video.

Video performs great on social media anyway, so it’s the perfect tool to quickly reach as many community members as possible. The personal connection that the community will then make with you is a great bonus.

Make content easy to share

If you want to do the most good, have the biggest impact, and help the most people, your content needs to be easy to share with others. Videos are certainly easy to share, but so are lists.

Do a post listing some of the local restaurants that are still open and offering takeout. Share a list of stores that have toilet paper in stock. Make a list of companies in the area that are hiring or need some extra help. Lists are concise and easy to share. And when you make something easier to share, it will get shared more.

Seize the opportunity to become a leader in your community at a time when you’re needed most. Don’t worry about making everything you do about real estate. It’s not all about real estate, especially right now. But if you can make an impact and do good, you’ll be remembered for it. At some point down the road, all the help you’ve been providing will catch up to you, and your business will surely grow as a result. 

Stay safe, stay home, stay positive. We will get through this, and when we do, we’ll be much stronger and better for it. 

 Connect with Dustin on LinkedIn

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Are MLOs considered an essential service?

The short answer to the question: Are mortgage loan officers an essential service, in most states, is no. However, state and local governments clearly understand the importance of allowing MLOs to remain active.

While loan originators aren’t being named as essential service workers, companies are going to great lengths to allow them to work remotely.

On a call with HousingWire, Quicken Loans Mortgage Banker Steve Diamond said that within just one day, the company told its 18,000 Detroit-based employees they would be working remotely, assigned them a time to pick up their supplies and, at the appointed time, loaded up employees’ cars with extra monitors and other supplies they would need for a home office.

“I thought it was going to take hours, but it didn’t. I pulled right up and they put everything in my car,” Diamond said. “Now I have everything at home that I had at the office.”

But Quicken isn’t the only company exercising its remote capabilities. Other companies are also sending employees remote including Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, United Wholesale Mortgage, Guaranteed Rate, Caliber Home Loans, Flagstar Bank, Fairway Mortgage, Radian, Black Knight and many others.

Some of the greatest potential obstacles to a smoothly functioning loan process while originators are remote are the strict laws surrounding remote online notarization. eClosings are still rare, which is mostly due to state restrictions surrounding eNotaries. However, that is slowly beginning to change. And coronavirus has brought even more focus to the issue.

The Mortgage Bankers Association and the American Land Title Association collaborated to prepare model legislation that would provide the framework for any state to adopt a remote online notarization process.

There’s also now a bipartisan movement in Congress, a bill introduced
by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND), that would allow remote
online notarizations nationwide.

It is also worth noting that according to the National Notary Association, notaries do provide an essential service. 

Most states are also taking steps to ensure loan officers are
licensed to operate from home. Take California’s stay-at-home order, for example:

“The Department will not take enforcement action against licensees for operating unlicensed branches to the extent that, during the state of emergency, employees conduct activities from home that normally would require a branch license, provided that appropriate measures are taken to protect consumers and their data,” the Department of Business Oversight stated.

For more information on your state, click here to see a list of resources compiled by the MBA.

Loan officers are not considered essential service workers who can remain working at an office, but it is clear authorities recognize they are essential to the U.S. economy, as evidenced by the unprecedented measures being taken to ensure they can continue working through the quarantine.

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Keller Offers has no plans to slow down business during pandemic

Despite other major iBuyers halting business for the time being due to coronavirus, Keller Williams‘ iBuyer product, Keller Offers, is pushing through and said it won’t be stopping anytime soon.

In an email sent out to Keller Offers agents on Monday, the company said it would be prioritizing the safety and well-being of its clients, partners and employees.

“We have no immediate intention of suspending home offers,” the email said. “Keller Offers will continue to make offers on homes through various offering sources. We are making modifications to processes in order to prioritize safety while remaining committed to doing our best to provide much-needed certainty to our Certified KW Agents and their clients.”

On a phone call with HousingWire, Chief Operating Officer of Keller Offers Gayln Zeigler said that Keller Williams agents are staying in contact with clients in a creative way, with safety in mind.

As COVID-19 is evolving and changes by the minute, Zeigler said communication is key.

“We are letting sellers know that if they wish to pause, or to terminate [the contract] and come back later we are completely fine with that,” Zeigler said. “Safety is the biggest component for us. We will never force something to close, we will never force an inspection. We are just trying to remain as consistent as possible because we feel that our agents need for us to do that. Their sellers need for us to do that, and we rely upon our agents to give us information about how their sellers are feeling, and we respond in a positive way to whatever that guidance may be.”

The company, which is offering only 3D virtual tours and scheduling live virtual houses, for the time being, has already initiated working remotely and doubling down on training and technology.

Despite the spread of COVID-19, Zeigler said there has been a rise in offer requests, and it’s business as usual.

“We’ve also seen people who want to hold, and maybe not have an inspection right now so we’ve allowed them to push that out,” Zeigler said. “We’ve seen people who don’t want to close yet because they aren’t able to view home, and in a particular time in the manner they want to.”

“We’ve allowed [clients] to push closing dates out, we’re trying to be as flexible as possible, knowing that these are very uncertain times,” Zeigler continued. “Tomorrow we can have a completely different mandate that we all need to be able to shift our businesses on, and still provide some sort of certainty or understanding to the consumer who is also experiencing a great deal of stress right now.”

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Is the coronavirus about to wipe out FHA lending?

It looks like borrowers who don’t fit neatly into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s lending criteria could soon be running out of options if they want to buy a house.

Over the last week, many (if not all) of the biggest lenders specializing in lending to borrowers outside the Qualified Mortgage lending box paused their activities due to uncertainty in the market.

And now it appears that Federal Housing Administration lending
as we know it is disappearing from the market too.

That’s not to say that the government itself is making any
changes or limiting borrowers’ ability to get an FHA loan. The FHA’s loan requirements
are still the same: minimum credit score of 580 for a minimum down payment of 3.5%.

But the current economic environment is forcing lenders to make
changes to their FHA lending programs. And those changes are likely to make FHA
lending unavailable for a number of borrowers who could have gotten an FHA loan
just a few weeks ago.

Scuttlebutt in the mortgage industry over the last few days pointed
to lenders raising their FHA requirements, and that’s just what appears to be
happening.

In fact, it seems that many lenders are raising their minimum FICO scores for FHA loans to as high as 660, which would prevent a large section of borrowers from accessing an FHA loan.

A HousingWire investigation found more than a dozen rate
sheets from various lenders scattered across the country that showed that some
lenders have indeed raised their minimum FICO scores for FHA loans.

And while not every lender has raised its minimum FICO score
for an FHA loan, many of the lenders have set their loan pricing for lower scores
to such a level that no borrower would possibly agree to the loan.

In fact, one lender is currently stipulating that a borrower
with a 580 FICO score would need to pay an additional 10% above the market interest
rate for an FHA loan.

Other lenders have pricing adjustments for lower FICO score borrowers
that aren’t nearly as dramatic, but the economics of even the smaller interest rate
adjustments may still price some borrowers out of the market entirely.

And even for the borrowers who could qualify for an FHA loan in this environment, a number of those borrowers would be much better off financially going with a conventional loan (one backed by Fannie or Freddie).

Combine all these factors together and you have an environment
where FHA lending as we know it is quickly slowing down.

So how did this happen? It’s all about the economic conditions
in the U.S. right now. And the view of the borrowers in question.

Borrowers who get an FHA loan are generally thought of as
riskier than “traditional” borrowers. That’s why those loans typically cost the
borrowers more. Put simply, the riskier the borrower is, the more expensive their
loan is going to be.

For lenders and the secondary market, it’s all about pricing the risk. They don’t want to lend to super-risky borrowers because those borrowers are far more likely to default on their loans and the lenders and investors would end up losing a lot of money per loan.

So, they protect themselves by lending only to borrowers who are more of a sure thing. But the FHA borrowers are also likely the ones who are at the most financial risk given the economic conditions in the country right now.

Case in point: There are millions of people who just lost their jobs as the coronavirus shuts down the country. And many more people are expected to hit unemployment in the coming weeks. Many of those people don’t have massive amounts of money in savings and that’s going to be an issue for them and for everyone they owe money to.

That will likely lead to massive mortgage delinquencies.

Now, the government is preparing for that and reportedly plans to offer some borrowers as much as six months of forbearance on their mortgage, but servicers are still required to advance the mortgage payments to investors even if the borrower isn’t paying. And servicers don’t have the cash on hand to supplement months of missed payments for millions of borrowers.

Here’s how the mortgage industry laid out that problem in a letter sent to federal decision-makers earlier this week: “To give one a sense of scale, if 25% of the nation receives forbearance for only 3 months, servicers will have to cover payments of roughly $36 billion. If they received it for 9 months, then the cost would exceed $100 billion.”

Those economic conditions are making FHA loans undesirable both
on the front end and on the secondary market. FHA loans are securitized by Ginnie
Mae
along with Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of
Agriculture
loans. And those securities and the mortgage servicing rights
that go with them are viewed as too risky for all parties involved right now.

Now, things could change quickly. Servicers are supposedly eligible for funding from the Federal Reserve as part of the coronavirus relief effort. That money could float the months of missed mortgage payments that are about to start hitting.

But in the meantime, there’s a lot of uncertainty. And because of it, FHA lending is slowing down considerably. How long that slowdown lasts is a question that no one can really answer yet.

The post Is the coronavirus about to wipe out FHA lending? appeared first on HousingWire.

Dallas Builders Association unites construction industry to donate N95 masks

The Dallas Builders Association urged the construction industry to band together to join in the fight against COVID-19 by donating their respirator equipment, masks and protective wear to help medical professionals on the front lines.

The construction industry sits in a unique position since it shares some supplies with the medical industry, most notably its use of N95 respirator masks. N95 respirator masks are extremely important since they are designed to achieve a very close facial fit and block at least 95% of very small test particles. This means that they not only help protect against the coronavirus but they also help block concrete dust for construction workers. 

Earlier this month, Vice President Mike Pence asked construction companies to donate their stocks of N95 respirator masks to local hospitals and stop ordering more for the time being. There’s currently a major shortage of N95 masks due to the influx of hospitalized coronavirus patients and panicked people rushing to buy masks. 

The Dallas Builders Association partnered with the Greater Fort Worth Builders Association and TEXO, along with the local North Texas County Medical Societies to host an ongoing industry drive. The association claimed that since this drive involves the collection of necessary supplies and delivery to others, it is exempted from the Dallas County “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order.

The list of equipment being accepted is below, and all donations must be new and unopened. For more information on the drive and drop-off locations, go here. 

  • Mask, N95 Particulate Respirator/Surgical
  • Gloves (non-sterile, powder-free)
  • Shoe Covers
  • Impermeable coverall without integrated hood
  • Mask, Standard Procedure, Yellow, Pleat style w/Ear Loops – one size fits all
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • NIOSH & FDA certified (3M 1860)
  • NIOSH & FDA certified, fluid-resistant (Gerson 1730)NIOSH certified (3M 8000)
  • NIOSH certified (3M 8210)
  • Duck bill NIOSH & FDA certified fluid shield (Kimberly Clark 46767)
  • Duck bill NIOSH & FDA certified fluid shield (Kimberly Clark 46767)
  • Duck bill NIOSH & FDA certified fluid shield (Kimberly Clark 46767)

The post Dallas Builders Association unites construction industry to donate N95 masks appeared first on HousingWire.

[PULSE] How to work and lead from home

It’s sinking in that I take working from home for granted.

Scott Petronis,
Guest Author

Having worked remotely for the better part of 15 years, it’s become just part of who I am.

Now I’m putting myself in the shoes of so many others for whom it is a very new territory. I went through this transition a long while ago, so I’d like to share what I hope is some tangible advice. I hope most find it helpful and others find it reminiscent of their work-from-home experience. 

With that in mind, I’m going to provide three perspectives on the following three topics: Working from home, leading from home and collaborating from home

Working from home

I have five crucial pieces of advice, especially for those that are brand new to this. These are things that will ensure that you can actually not just succeed, but excel, at this. 

Routine

Do not get out of your normal routine, with the exception of driving into the office! Set your alarm. Get up. Shower. Get ready. Get Dressed. And get it into your head that you are going to work.

If you would normally have coffee, eat breakfast, read the news and so on, continue to do that. Just don’t let it consume all of your time. Your new routine might include others (kids, spouses, significant others, pets, etc.) that require focus and attention as well. Make sure to factor that into your new routine.

Schedule 

Create a schedule of your time each day. You’ll probably have standing meetings or other obligations. But besides those, block time on your calendar to get things done. Hold yourself accountable to your schedule.

One thing I’m terrible at is actually scheduling lunch and exercise. Make that part of your schedule like anything else. Especially if you’re used to walking each day or grabbing lunch with colleagues.

Space

If you don’t already have an office, you live in cramped quarters, or your house is simply packed with everyone else who has to be home, you need to set up a dedicated space. Make sure wherever you set up is comfortable, but not too comfortable. Take heed of all of the recommendations you’ve heard about ergonomics and screen height and posture as well.

You need to set up a space you can “go to.” Treat as if you’re away. It’s your office. I tell my family when they’re home that “I’m at work.” You need to treat wherever you set up your workspace as if it’s your office.  

Distractions

Avoid distractions! (He says as he pleads with you to read this). It’s easy to get sucked into the news, the thousands of articles about COVID-19, and the billions of Facebook posts about toilet paper. Keep yourself focused and don’t fall victim to the insane volume of distractions that will be all around you. 

That’s not to say that there won’t be legitimate ones. Your kids may need your help. Your spouse may need to discuss real-world challenges you’re both facing. But ask yourself if you’d be getting distracted by this if you were in the workplace. Urgent matters, especially under the current circumstances, are always urgent. 

Learning

Devote time to learning. Over the years, I’ve organized my time so that first thing in the morning and the last hour of every day, I try to set aside for learning. That can be reading a book, article, research report or series of articles. It can be watching videos that will expand your knowledge. It can be taking online courses. 

Think of it as an investment in yourself during the times that you’d normally be commuting. Don’t squander an opportunity to improve yourself.

Leading from home

When you’re working from home and are leading a team of people who are also working from home, you have a new set of challenges and opportunities to contend with. Not the least of which is, you certainly can’t “manage by walking around.” Regardless of what your functional role is or how your team is structured, there are a few things you need to excel at.

Leadership

It’s one thing to “manage people” and it’s another thing entirely to be a leader. Over the years I’ve fielded many questions related to having people work remotely such as: “How would I know people are actually working?” “What if people don’t do what they’re told?” “How can I trust that they’re doing what they say they’re doing?”

I have some responses to all of these questions and usually, they’re not G or even PG-rated. So let me just pose my own question…

Do you trust that you’ve hired qualified and competent people?

If the answer is “yes,” then the questions above should be the farthest thing from your mind. If it’s no, I’d do some introspective soul searching to find out why. For now, let’s assume you have been smart and surrounded yourself with great people.

Now, as a leader, especially under current circumstances, your job is this:

  1. Set the tone – Let everyone know that you’re there for them, that you’re all going through this transition together, that you know everyone (including you) has been disrupted, and that you’re all going to continue to work to accomplish what needs to get done as best you can. Your team needs to know that you’re human, compassionate and understanding. And that there’s still a job to be done. 
  2. Inspire your team –  A major part of keeping people inspired and motivated is keeping in touch. I don’t mean lurking, sidling and peering over people’s shoulders or even the digital equivalent. What I mean is maintaining a tempo of checking in with your team as a whole and with individuals. And it’s not just about what they’re doing, it’s about what you can do for them. 
  3. Inform often – Your openness and willingness to keep people informed is not just a great way to give people comfort, it’s also a great way to build trust. Trust is a magical ingredient for high performing teams.

Check-ins

Your schedule may be more full than usual. Set regular check-ins with your entire team as well as individual team members. Find a time that works for everyone or make a time. Having worked in technology for so long, another thing I take for granted is stand-ups. But these work wonderfully no matter what line of work you’re in.

Get in the habit of quick, 15-minute stand-ups where you can all catch up on three important things.

  1. What did you work on yesterday?
  2. What are you working on today?
  3. What’s blocking you that you need help on?

Stand-ups are even more effective when everyone posts their items in advance so you don’t have to re-hash everything you could have just read. These should be about “what do I need to know about and what impediments are there to success?”

Over-communication

Yes, sometimes over-communication can be overbearing and downright annoying. But at times like this, communication is imperative. Keep in mind, I don’t recommend this style all of the time, but with what everyone’s dealing with right now, these things are top of mind:

  1. Don’t assume everyone knows what you know when you know it.
  2. People need frequent and consistent reassurance.
  3. Timeliness is more important than completeness: As a manager, there’s a tendency to want to have all the facts before communicating. But right now, it’s more important to get out what you know, when you know it. It’s okay to say ‘I don’t know’. Don’t go dark.
  4. Everyone could use a little levity: No, you don’t need to practice your stand-up routine. But it’s okay to throw a little fun into communication.
  5. Use a consistent communication channel.

There’s a fascinating post on the Doist blog all about the communication pyramid, synchronous and asynchronous communication, what tools to use when and loads more. I can’t do this topic justice in the confines of this article.

Collaborating from home

A lot of articles have focused almost fully on the technology you can use to work from home.

Of course, many have focused on things like Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting and other video conferencing apps. Unsurprisingly, that’s led to a run on many of these applications and also a dramatic slowdown in everyone’s services.

Leverage what you have

Starting with what systems you may already be using. I find that this generally falls into two camps: Microsoft or Google. Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t other choices, but these are the two “platforms” that many businesses run on today. 

I’ll start with Google and specifically GSuite. There are also nonprofit, public sector and school versions of these. GSuite comes with a powerful set of capabilities for document sharing and collaboration. Email, calendar, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, file organization and sharing. You’re hard-pressed to find something missing here. But in addition to all of this, you get some things that I find people don’t take great advantage of:

  • Chat – GSuite provides an integrated chat feature based on A Hangouts that you may or may not be familiar with from your personal account.
  • Meet – Also based on Hangouts but way more robust is the Meet product. Essentially, it’s integrated video, voice and chat for handling internal and external meetings.
  • Groups – Another handy product is Groups which lets you create discussion in groups so you can get people communicating with each other in a shared environment.
  • Sites – Google has essentially given you a content management system, integrated with your files and docs, to create websites and pages for collaboration. It’s pretty feature-rich, ridiculously easy to use and may offer you one of the best ways to keep people informed on a shoestring. 
  • Forms – This product gives you the ability to create forms to capture information and then actually do stuff with the data. Now think about how you can use this to send out surveys to your employees, customers, vendors, etc., to quickly get a read on anything. 

Similarly, Microsoft has an impressive suite that’s all part of Office 365. I won’t go into all of the details here but this handy matrix will tell you everything you get in their various versions. If you’re on any one of these, you already have an arsenal at your fingertips and, again, chances are you’re not fully leveraging it. 

I can’t tell you how many companies I’ve worked with that don’t even know that they’re paying sometimes two or three times for redundant services. Great collaboration tools are essential for keeping teams motivated, productive and informed, but you don’t have to go out and spend an additional fortune to get them when many of you have these offerings already.

Ways to augment

While I’m a huge proponent of leveraging what you’re already paying for, there are some great point solutions out there that absolutely make collaboration that much better. I’m just going to highlight a few that I personally use and like, and give a few reasons why.

First, collaboration is not one-way or even two-way, collaboration is about getting everyone within a team department or company working together toward common goals. So the tools you choose have to facilitate that or they’re working against you.

Slack  

One awesome thing about Slack is that you can create channels to control the flow of information. I’ve seen some companies create way too many channels so you have to be careful. But used properly, Slack channels can create amazing collaboration, boost community and provide incredible efficiency. There’s also the ability to call, direct message, connect to loads of other apps, search through conversations. If you’re looking for a fast, affordable way to help your team collaborate, this is a good place to start.

Zoho

Zoho is a bit of a curveball in here because they’re way more than collaboration. They’ve not only built out an impressive suite of solutions, but they’ve also managed to help loads of companies cost-effectively scale with capabilities that were once reserved for the largest enterprises. Today they have an offering called Remotely which combines what they feel are all of the capabilities you need to effectively work remotely. Productivity, communication, collaboration and a host of other goodies that facilitate integration and automation. 

Workplace 

Specifically targeted at collaboration is a newer application called Workplace by Facebook. I’ll be the first to admit that I was extremely skeptical when I was first introduced to this. But over the past two and a half years, it’s grown on me and it’s also matured immensely. Based on the core Facebook platform, but tailored to the needs of businesses (security, administrative controls, branding, integration, etc.), they’ve created an environment that allows people, teams, departments, divisions and entire organizations to work together in ways that most couldn’t have imagined. 

Ready to get things done?

If you remember, I said avoid distractions in the first section of this and I just distracted you for at least 15 minutes. But I hope I also gave you some things to think about and learn from.

These are the things that have helped me effectively work, lead and, most of all, collaborate with team members all over the world. No, this is by no means an exhaustive list of how to be successful at it, but if you follow even a little bit of this advice, I think you’ll find it will help you.

The post [PULSE] How to work and lead from home appeared first on HousingWire.