Radian launches new website to showcase all of its companies

After years of acquisitions and rebrandings, Radian launched its newest initiative in the form of a “one-stop-shop” website that caters to its varying real estate products and services. The launch of Radian.com allows customers access to a one-point entry that now redirects all former online branches, such as Radian.Biz and MI Rate Finder, to a single master suite.

The new website mirrors Radian’s 2020 remodel of the company’s two reportable segments from mortgage insurance and services, to mortgage and real estate. 

“With its modern design that reflects our company and culture, the new website offers improved functionality, interactive tools, accessibility and readability on all devices for our customers to connect with us easily and efficiently,” said Eric Ray, senior executive vice president, chief digital officer and co-head of real estate.

The comprehensive suite now houses Radian’s mortgage insurance, mortgage risk services, mortgage services, title services, valuation services, asset management services and real estate agent services.

Radian’s digital transformation arrived on the heels of several other changes the company has seen this year, including the sale of its Clayton services to Covius Holdings in January, and its strategic investment in Covered Insurance Solutions in February.

“We continually evaluate and refine the strategic solutions that we offer across the mortgage and real estate value chain, and part of that evaluation means making adjustments when necessary,” Radian CEO Rick Thornberry added. “We will continue to focus on building our core mortgage and real estate products and services through a data-driven, digital transformation that has come to define our One Radian strategy.” 

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Homebuyers and sellers are ready to return to open houses

Despite open houses pausing over the spread of COVID-19, a new survey from the National Association of Realtors said that 65% of people who attended an open house within the last year would do so now without hesitation, while another 15% said they would feel comfortable resuming this activity if there was an approved COVID-19 vaccine and/or proven medical protocol to mitigate and remedy the effects of the virus.

“The real estate industry – and our country – has endured some very challenging times for several months, but we’re seeing signs of progress and we are earnestly hoping the worst is behind us,” said NAR President Vince Malta.

Also in the survey, 47% of buyers and 53% of sellers said that during the current pandemic, relying on a real estate professional when searching for or selling a home is much more important than before. In addition, 54% of buyers and 62% of sellers said that a real estate agent’s guidance is especially valued right now. Hand-in-hand with that, 59% of buyers and 58% of sellers said that buying and selling real estate is an essential service.

“While we celebrate homeownership month, we embrace today’s version of homeownership and the unique paths homeowners take to realize their dream,” Malta continued. “For prospective buyers, the desire to own a home remains strong and the guidance, expertise and professionalism Realtors provide is more important now than ever.”

Despite the rise of iBuyers and virtual real estate practices, 51% of buyers said an agent is valuable when it comes to gleaning information from online listings rather than uncovering it on their own, and 56% said they believe that an agent can save them time and stress of weeding through listings.

The survey also showed growing comfort with the digitization of the home purchase process. According to the survey, 67% of sellers and 70% of buyers said they are very comfortable with conducting business on a computer, such as reviewing and signing documents electronically.

“Thanks to the internet,” 41% said they could envision themselves buying a house without ever physically stepping foot inside, and 53% of sellers could envision themselves selling to prospective buyers the same way.

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Three mortgage leaders pump up the hiring volume

A trio of leading mortgage companies are wrapping up the first half of the year on a hiring spree, each taking on thousands of new employees to meet the sales demands of their respective operations.

Detroit-headquartered Quicken Loans hired more than 1,500 people since the coronavirus pandemic took root in mid-March. The company is on track to hire and train an additional 1,500 over the next two months.

Austin Niemiec, executive vice president of Quicken Loans Mortgage Services, stated the company’s new push for hiring can be attributed to historically low rates and the strength of the housing market in the midst of the pandemic’s economic turmoil.

“From a QLMS standpoint, brokers are flooding to our platform at a time where they need us and Americans need to save money,” he said, noting QLMS hired 500 of the parent company’s 1,500 new employees. “Our strong foundation has allowed us to help brokers at a record number and, in turn, we need to build a team to support our broker partners.”

Also in Michigan, Pontiac-based United Shore – the parent company of United Wholesale Mortgage, has hired 1,100 new employees since the beginning of the year and is planning to bring 1,500 more into the company over the next 90 days.

“The mortgage broker channels are really growing and we’re obviously the largest wholesale lender by a wide margin,” said CEO Mat Ishbia. “We’re trying to keep up with demand and help our brokers continue to grow.”

New York City-headquartered Better.com is also expanding its workforce.

“We’ve hired over 1,200 people since the beginning of the year,” said Taina Oquendo, Better.com’s director of corporate recruiting. “Since the beginning of COVID, we’re approaching the onboarding of about 500 of those folks. We have really aggressive hiring plans and we probably will look to maintain that trajectory through the end of the year. I wouldn’t be surprised if we added about another 1,000.”

Each of the three companies has its own distinctive hiring strategies. For United Shore, the jobs will be concentrated at its Michigan headquarters.

“It is in every part of the company,” said Ishbia. “There’s technology, operations, sales, executive roles, middle leadership roles, entry-level roles.”

Ishbia added the company is focused on hiring people with mortgage industry experience, but is also reaching out to those who are willing to learn the profession and become team players.

“It’s all about getting great people with a good work ethic and a good attitude to fit into organization,” he said.

Better.com, on the other hand, has been aiming its hiring efforts at the hospitality industry, which has suffered significant job losses during the pandemic.

“We want to focus on who we’re hiring and not their resume or their experience,” stated Oquendo. “We index heavily for the kind of core competencies and the skills that they bring to the table. When you think about folks that have worked in hospitality and customer service jobs, they have a lot of those core skills that we that we’re looking: folks that are directly speaking to our borrowers with a really strong customer service mindset. They have strong stress tolerance, really high work standards and, overall, really strong hustle and grit. And when we think about what will make a really great employee, those are generally the things that we look for both in sales and off, but also like just across the company at large.”

At Quicken Loans, the new hires come in from a wide range of previous jobs.

“We’re looking for good, hard-working team members,” said Niemiec. “It’s great if they have mortgage experience, but it’s not necessary. We have a fantastic training team that’ll train folks up.”

Niemiec pointed out the training process has been adjusted since the pandemic required social distancing and work-from-home protocols.

“We’re not requiring folks to come in, obviously,” he continued. “We’re purchasing computer equipment and telephones, and then we’re shipping it to these folks’ homes and then doing the entire experience virtually.”

But what happens to all of those new jobs if the housing market were to soften? Niemiec believed his company could withstand a downturn.

“We’ve been in business for 35 years,” he said. “There’s slight ebbs and flow from year to year. But we continue to grow and grow and grow and grow and grow. We started as a small mortgage brokerage back in 1985 and now we’re the largest mortgage company in the world. We think long-term.”

Ishbia, who attracted national attention for promising not to lay off any employees at the start of the pandemic, was equally confident that the new jobs will remain.

“When rates go up, what’s going to happen is more loan officers are going to be leaving retail and joining brokers as wholesale is going to grow,” he said. “When rates are down, all the current brokers are doing a lot of business. And so either way, we see the broker channel growing substantially.”

At Better.com, Oquendo pointed out the company’s high-tech focus as ensuring the new hires will not be gone in a down market.

“We’re continuing to kind of invest in building our tech and continuing to find efficiencies in our platform,” she said. “Being able to leverage tech will enable us to continue to automate pieces of the process.”

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MISMO will charge a new fee for every loan registered on MERS

The Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization, or MISMO, a subsidiary of the Mortgage Bankers Association that sets rules for handling the registration of home loans, announced Monday it would assess a new fee for every origination.

The fee is just 75 cents per mortgage, but that would add up to more than $4.4 million a year if all purchasers used a home loan, based on Fannie Mae’s projection of 5.8 million sales of new and existing homes in 2021. And, that doesn’t include refinanced mortgages.

The announcement cited the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to advance technology for electronic mortgages, including remote notarization, although the new fee was approved by the MBA board in October.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our industry significantly, demonstrating the importance of continuing to discover and develop new digital and technology solutions that will benefit our industry and customers alike,” said Bob Broeksmit, MBA’s CEO. “All proceeds collected will go directly to MISMO to advance and accelerate the production of valuable products and services MISMO creates for the industry.”

The fee will be collected by the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems when it registers a new loan on its system.

“MERS will be the billing agent for MISMO and will retain none of the fee,” Broeksmit said. “In this role, it will serve as a utility providing a service to MISMO and the industry.”

MISMO is working to create standards for fully digitizing loan files, common closing datasets, and standardizing servicing files to ensure compliance and make servicing transfers easier, Broeksmit said in the statement.

“The new fee will allow MISMO to move more quickly to better assist mortgage lenders of all sizes and business models by seamlessly blending the integration and sharing of data across the real estate finance landscape, offering a variety of benefits for borrowers and industry,” he said.

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Fairway’s Haley Parker to speak at engage.marketing in June

A solid marketing strategy proves ineffective without a team of finely tuned experts backing it from start to finish. For CMOs, establishing a concrete communication channel across internal teams is essential to promoting content and company value.

That’s why we’ve invited Haley Parker, area business development manager for Fairway Independent Mortgage, to June’s virtual engage.marketing summit. Parker, along with a panel of industry leaders, will discuss how to maximize marketing’s influence as it integrates with internal teams.

With almost six years at Fairway, Parker has dedicated herself to advocating for organic team growth that places a huge emphasis on partnerships, education, and execution.

Ten of Parker’s 19 years in the industry were spent at loanDepot, where she acted as set up manager for compliance logistics, and was a national loan officer trainer. Today, Parker uses her knowledge and understanding of marketing to help Fairway loan officers explore marketing’s “why’s.” She is also the co-host of a podcast, Industry Insiders, that focuses on leaders in the mortgage, real estate, and title industry.

Parker is one of many marketing gurus we have lined up at engage.marketing on June 11-12, including Jake Fehling, Sarah DeCiantis, Bobbi Howe, Barbara Yolles, Rick Arvielo, Chelsea Peitz, Alec Hanson, Brian Covey, Cindy McGovern, Kevin Peranio, Bill Ludwig and many more. Register here.

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The number of New Yorkers who can’t pay rent this month has doubled

It’s the first of June, and rent is due. Nearly three months into the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are struggling to make rent payments.

Last month, 80.2% of apartment households still managed to make a full or partial rent payment by May 6, according to The National Multifamily Housing Council’s Rent Payment Tracker for April.

Now, according to PropertyNest, 36.9% of all respondents who live in New York said they do not have the money to pay rent on June 1.

This is a combination of three groups – respondents who cannot pay June 1, those who haven’t been able to pay since May, and those who haven’t been able to pay rent since April, PropertyNest said.

Last month’s survey from PropertyNest showed that 17.9% of respondents would not be able to make rent payments due on May 1.

As another 2.1 million Americans filed jobless claims a few weeks ago, the amount of jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic has risen to 40 million, making it harder for many to pay rent.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. had an unemployment rate of 14.7% in May.

More New York renters also said they worked out a deal with their landlords this month: 5.6% of respondents said that they worked out a payment plan with their landlord last month, compared to 9.5% this month.

Overall, 65.9% of respondents said they will struggle to pay the rent for June. This number includes everyone who is not able to make their rent, those using stimulus or unemployment checks to pay, those borrowing money and those who worked out a payment plan with their landlords. This is an increase of 48% from last month’s survey.

In fact, Avail said that the total number of incomplete rent payments rose 93% between March and May.

The number of people who cannot pay rent roughly translates to about 24% of New Yorkers since this data is collected purely from the rental market, PropertyNest said. This is an increase of 106% – 36.9% of renters compared to last month’s 17.9% of renters – who said they could not make a rent payment.

Meanwhile, Zumper said that all of the top 10 priciest cities either had flat or declining rents.

As a result of the pandemic, demand for apartments has been away from the most expensive cities, as more companies move into remote work and workers can be flexible as to where they reside.

Zumper said that the most expensive city in the U.S. had the largest year-over-year drop since it began tracking in 2015.

San Francisco’s one-bedroom rent is down 9.2% since this time last year to $3,360, which is also the lowest price point it’s been since March 2017, Zumper said.

Likewise, the three next most expensive markets, New York City; Boston; and San Jose; all had negative year-over-year changes for their respective one-bedroom rents as well.

Overall, one-bedroom rent dropped by 0.2% last month, to $1,217, while two-bedrooms were flat at $1,473. On a year-to-date basis, both one- and two-bedroom rents are down by 0.5%.

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How the COVID-19 pandemic kick-started digital innovation in mortgage

The social protocols mandated by the COVID-19 pandemic have jumpstarted the mortgage industry’s pursuit of digital solutions to keep origination volume in motion. Three origination leaders discussed the innovations during a HousingWire webinar on Friday: “Social Distancing Paves Way for Digital Proximity.”

Origination leaders on the webinar included Jason Cramer, managing director and head of fulfillment at CitiMortgage, Tammy Richards, chief operating officer at loanDepot, and Rakesh Sheth, head of consumer direct sales and business insights at Wells Fargo. Karthik Kumar, global head of mortgage practice at Tata Consultancy Services, moderated the webinar.

“This crisis has inspired creative thinking to its highest order,” Kumar said. “And our own U.S. mortgage industry has been quite innovative – not just the active exploring all the possibilities of video-based closings, remote online notarization regulators and investors easing restrictions, but enabling remote working by a mammoth and diverse workforce.”

Sheth acknowledged the housing market went into the pandemic in a very strong state of health, with consumer interest in homeownership fueled by historically low interest rates.

“Each customer need is going to be unique and circumstantial, depending upon where they are. But from the macro perspective, the market is very healthy, the home prices are holding up quite well, and there’s a continued lower interest rate environment,” Sheth said.

“We’ll be strongly supportive of the market going forward, and I think the Federal Reserve has indicated the market rate to be fairly accommodative in a reasonable and continued expansion.”

Sheth also credited the government-sponsored enterprises for coming out with an “accommodative guidance for supporting homeownership” that also ensures investor confidence in the secondary market. And while acknowledging the challenges in maintaining jumbo mortgages and non-QM loans on balance sheets during the ongoing crisis, he believed “the industry will continue to support products and homeownership to the extent that is allowed by the investors.”

Cramer said social distancing and stay-at-home edicts did not break the bond between consumers and retail lenders.

“It all comes down to the fact that borrowers still need a trusted advisor, and they still want a trusted advisor in their home-buying experience,” Cramer said. “We have invested pretty heavily in our retail footprints – we actually have branches and can serve those customers’ needs, along with our direct consumer channels and the correspondent [who] are able to go out to perform and provide banking services on our behalf. Once we actually have the loan in the door, we hopefully can have a customer for life.”

Richards observed that the pandemic altered how lenders determine borrower eligibility, with both parties trying to balance social distancing mandates while still eager to pursue the transaction. The solution, Richards pointed out, was digital, and she predicted it would outlast the pandemic.

“Pre-qualifying customers has never been easier with online applications,” she said. “Nobody wants to go face-to-face right now. So, the online application and also customer portals are another good way to work with our customer to be able to have communication.”

Still, not every stakeholder is rushing to embrace digital solutions. Kumar highlighted that “technology-based mortgages can save up to 2.2 billion a year sheets of paper pages per year,” but Cramer countered by observing that “sometimes folks just want to add paper and they want to touch and feel and then put a ballpoint pen or something.”  

Cramer also questioned if some highly-touted digital solutions now being used in the appraisal process are worthy of a full embrace.

Sheth noted the new importance that e-closings have taken on in what he dubbed a “low-touch or no-touch economy,” and he did not believe the technology would lose popularity in the post-pandemic era.

“My expectation is that it will accelerate,” he said. “There is always going to be a customer segment who will demand [in-person closings] and lenders will have to meet those needs.”

Richards highlighted that digital solutions are already shaping how the mortgage industry hires its next wave of employees.

“loanDepot did a virtual job fair recently and we were able to hire 400 employees through our virtual job fair,” she said. “We had 10,000 people join the virtual job fair. I think that there’s a lot of a lot of people that are wanting to find a new way to look for jobs.

Hear more of their deep-dive into the topic here.

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Offerpad launches consumer-driven real estate solutions

Real estate tech company and iBuyer Offerpad has announced its launch of the Real Estate Solutions Center. The center is a customer-driven suite of real estate solutions, including an advanced listing option with concierge services, the company said.

On May 6, Offerpad announced it would resume extending cash offers for properties in the more than 800 cities it operates in. The iBuyer implemented a newly developed health and safety plan in conjunction with HealthyVerify and said home sellers can expect a contactless experience throughout the entire home-selling process.

Offerpad Greenhouse, the company’s research and development group, has been working toward creating the Real Estate Solutions Center for over eight months. Users share details of their current home, upload recent photos and schedule virtual tours from anywhere, the company said.

The home is then evaluated by the company’s real estate experts and Offerpad’s data-driven real estate platform. Within 24 hours, the user will be presented an Offerpad cash offer, along with additional exclusive selling options. Those options include selling the home instantly to Offerpad or partnering with Offerpad to list the home.

“We’re known for providing quick competitive cash offers, which will always remain a core offering,” Offerpad Founder and CEO Brian Bair said. “For those looking to list their home, Offerpad is by far the most advanced way to maximize a home’s value on the open market. Our 100% free services matched with our Home Improvement Advance program and back-up instant cash offer are unparalleled.”

Offerpad said it has been hiring licensed real estate agents to help with listings, showings and renovations. As the company tests its solutions under Offerpad Greenhouse, it is continuing to hire licensed agents in its markets. They declined to specify how many agents they’ve hired across their 800 markets.

“This is by no means the ‘traditional way’ to sell a home,” Bair continued. “I am confident that with our extensive real estate experience and one-of-a-kind renovations division, Offerpad’s solutions cannot be duplicated. Sellers are now, more than ever, in control of their experience through our solutions center – we provide solutions, they select their option.”

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People movers: Notarize, eXp and Home Point Financial

Kate Brigham has been named the vice president of product at online document notary company, Notarize.

Prior to joining Notarize, Brigham was the vice president of product, design and research at ezCater, a catering delivery service. There, she led the product management, design and research teams in developing user centered solutions, achieving ROI across ezCater’s suite of products and solutions for consumers, restaurants and delivery partners.

Michael Valdes

Before that, Brigham was the design director for ezCater, and has many years of experience with product design.

eXp Realty has announced the appointment of Michael Valdes to the role of executive vice president, international expansion.

Valdes has over 25 years of experience in global real estate and finance. Prior to joining eXp, Valdes was the senior vice president of Global Servicing for all Realogy Corporation brands, including Better Homes & Gardens, Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Corcoran, ERA and Sotheby’s International Realty.

Before he began his career in real estate, Valdes was director of private banking at Deutsche Bank in New York and San Francisco for 10 years.

Delane Olin

Home Point Financial has named Delane Olin its first chief learning officer.

Olin has over 15 years of experience developing and managing corporate training programs for Planet Home Lending, Stearns Lending, Caliber Home Loans and Nationstar Mortgage.

Olin has experience in the design, development, implementation, delivery, and evaluation of training content that is aligned with key business strategies and provides demonstrated return on investment. Olin has led learning and development functions across multiple lines of business, including Retail, Joint Venture, Wholesale and Servicing channels.

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PropTech Special Reports

The process of buying or selling a home is constantly evolving to reflect changes in not only home prices and inventory but the technology available to support the needs of lenders, agents and their clients.

As real estate professionals adapt to trends and market shifts, they continue to turn to proptech companies to help them eliminate pain points and provide clients with a streamlined experience.

In this section, we highlight two companies with solutions that are helping move the real estate market forward. Click through to read more:

First American Data Tree

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