Technology Presents for 2017

As this is being written, we are just a few days before Christmas 2016. What new technology did you find in your Christmas stocking? Technology tools that will help you build a stronger business this year? There is certainly no lack of options to choose from, although for some of them, you’d need an extra large stocking. Following are a few of the tools and products that will help you get the most out of your business this year.

A Wireless Network—While this technology is still developing, the convenience of anywhere access within your office is tough to beat. Work at your desk, carry the laptop to the conference room to work with clients, or conduct training. No difference in how you use your machine.

You can connect to other systems within your office. You can add a video projector for marketing presentations. You can add a music system to provide background music throughout your office from a PC server. The list of options continues to grow as new tools enter the marketplace.

As wireless systems proliferate to more hotels, airports, coffee shops, libraries, and so on, you gain the ability to work from more venues, thus gaining even more opportunities to expand your business.

A Digital Camera—These tools are extremely helpful when creating marketing materials, such as open house fliers, marketing comparison enhancements, post-closing communications, such as just moved photo cards. You can enhance your client records with photos and use the camera to help promote consumer-direct events.

You don’t need to be on the “bleeding edge” with this. While camera resolution is important, four mega-pixels or more will be adequate for enlargements up to 16 by 20 inches, a size you will only rarely use.

The important features are that the camera is easy to use, small enough so you will actually carry it with you, and have a built in flash, and a basic zoom lens to handle various size compositions without excessive running back and forth to frame the shot.

While you don’t need to buy film or pay for processing to see your results, you will find that an extra data card or two will come in handy. Also, consider the battery life for the unit. Mine uses rechargeable (15 minutes to full charge) batteries so two sets are sufficient.

A Digital Scanner—Scanning technology has come down in price to about $500 for a functional unit with automatic paper feeders good enough to handle loan paperwork. By creating a file image, you can distribute the data throughout your office while leaving the paper securely stored in your file cabinets.

All the work can be done with the image file. Organize with specific lender stacking orders. Scan support data for other documentation, eliminate lost file items, and keep client records separated for easy recall. Scan tax returns, bankruptcy documents, and divorce paperwork and you will not have to ask for that data again for that client (other than taxes each year).

You can copy the scanned data along with your LOS loan data records onto a CD or, if you need more room, use a DVD for long-term storage. Much smaller to store than boxes upon boxes of old files. In most states, if you copy your final loan files to image form on non-changeable media, you will not need to retain the paper files. Check with your local regulator for the law in your location.

External System Hard Drive Back-up—Lose your data files, lose your business. The importance of routine daily back-up can’t be overstressed. But it is not enough to simply back-up to tape or other media unless you remove a copy from the premises for safekeeping.

The fastest way to back-up today’s larger hard drives is to copy everything to another hard drive. External drives with capacities of 360 GB are readily available for under $300. Using high-speed USB connections, the file transfer rates are reasonable for most offices. If your company is bigger than that, you will likely have an IT staff to administer this process for you. However, for a small broker, a one-click hard drive back-up is very welcome.

Many mortgage companies miss doing this critical step and seem to get away with it just fine—as long as nothing happens. But hard drives are mechanical equipment with delicate parts spinning at high speeds. If something happens, it is often very bad indeed. With current back-ups available, restoring your business is just a matter of installing a replacement drive and restoring your data. Without a back-up, restoration is only possible by hand entering all the original data again—if you have it all available.

Portable GPS Navigator—Are you lost? Late for an appointment and find the road you know blocked with traffic? If your current car does not have a built in navigation system, one of these little devices can save the day. GPS is a satellite-based system that is accurate to within a few feet.

You get voice notification of turn-by-turn directions to get anywhere you need to be. This is much safer than reading a map or even printed turn-by-turn directions you printed. If you work in a large metropolitan area, these devices can be lifesavers in a literal sense as they let you focus your attention on the external scene around your car, not the fine print on a map. If you make a mistake and take a wrong turn, the system will reanalyze your position and create an alternative route on the fly.

Color Laser Printer—Nothing says it like color. When you print marketing materials, whether from your LOS system or other software, the difference of appropriate color is dramatic. Color helps you focus the borrower’s attention on what they need to see. Color can provide an accurate replacement for otherwise expensive letterhead to further enhance your company image.

Color printing technology was initially limited to either using an inkjet printer, or to very wealthy folks who could spring for a $20,000 piece of hardware. But now, color laser printers are available for under $1,000 with good speed and excellent color representation. You can use these for photo reproduction in property brochures that make standard open house fliers seem almost primitive.

The Apple I-Pod—This leader of the pack product is not just for storing music, but the current model allows you to store photos as well. Photos of happy clients and homes sold that you financed. The list goes on to the extent of your imagination. It’s small enough to fit in your pocket and it is easy to carry with you for instant use. Of course, you may wish to retain a little space in the device memory for suitable music to enhance your ability to recharge your personal batteries during some down time.

Do you really need everything on this list for the way you work? Perhaps you already have similar tools that work well for you. If those tools are more than a couple of years old, you will be impressed with the improvements in the current models. In technology, every year produces better products for less money. There are also bragging rights to the latest technology tools that some people enjoy.

Proof of concept is how any technology tool will help you become more efficient at your primary task—creating and closing quality loans. The items on this list will help you do that for 2017.

Software Review – Product Spotlight

Product Spotlight

MorSystems has introduced the third version of the Borroware® client loan application system. Borroware allows originators to provide their clients a choice of application options. The pre-approval requires just enough information necessary for a loan originator to run a credit check and pre-approve a client. When the client is ready to complete the full application (online or downloadable), the information from the pre-approval is already in the application. When the originator receives the file, they save and import it to their loan origination system. Borroware is branded to each loan originator through the MorSystems Web site.

Rate Consolidator software (from Arieysoft, LLC) provides loan originators with a sole source for lender rate sheets. Rate sheets are pre-sorted and organized, with the latest interest rates available. Rate Consolidator includes a tool bar customized so that users are able to view their lenders’ information.

Ellie Mae’s Encompass 2.0 includes several new features including a loan template that enables users to pre-populate fields with common data such as loan program, forms lists, and closing costs. A custom milestones feature is aimed at enhancing business manageability by allowing users to tailor/adapt milestones to their individual business flow. Version 2.0 also includes a new integrated calendar and scheduler and an expanded contact manager.

Palisades Technology Partners’ version 4.0 of the Impact Software Suite includes independent XML services, including good faith estimate fees calculation service, loan pricing service, lending compliance service, and mortgage loan calculations service. The Impact Mortgage Suite provides support for customers’ existing enterprise workflow tools, in addition to an out-of-the-box document delivering system featuring mapping, auto-selecting and online previewing functions, and remote printing and sending of standard and custom documents. offers training for bilingual Spanish-speaking loan originators. The Web site was developed as a partnership of Bilingual Scout and will be a key part of, a Web site for Spanish-speaking homebuyers. displays mortgage companies that employ Spanish-speaking loan officers, along with information on purchasing a home, down payment assistance, and other homebuyer information.

Getting Back to the Basics

We tend to think of the latest and greatest, and the cutting edge, when we think of technology. There are some very minor, seemingly unimportant annoyances in our offices that really cost us time and productivity, which we can cure with very simple technology fixes. Even more importantly, they are issues related to our misapplication of technology.

The Wayward Mouse
Nothing infuriates me more than to sit down at a computer to work and find that the mouse acts erratically, as if it had a mind of its own, or as if I were trying to operate it through a layer of slow moving molasses. What is more amazing is the number of computer users who put up with this kind of behavior, knowing that things are not working quite right, and yet not taking the time or trouble to correct it.

I am referring to the universal tendency for a computer mouse that uses a mechanical ball to pick up debris and oil from your own hands, and transfer this to the internal rollers to the point it gums up their ability to smoothly move the mouse ball with any degree of precision. The mouse will still operate, but is visibly difficult to run smoothly, and will frequently catch and hang up as the ball attempts to run across the hopelessly clogged rollers.

For the most part, what you should do is throw every mechanical mouse in the office into the garbage and run down and pick up a good inexpensive optical mouse that will never require cleaning, and will always operate more smoothly. These can be obtained for $20 to $30 dollars, and are much more satisfying for a heavy computer user than the older mechanical ball style mouse.

If you are unable to replace the errant mouse, simply remove the ball from the bottom of the mouse by twisting the visible plastic panel that contains the ball. Then use the end of a paper clip to carefully chip away at the visible band of collected goo that has clogged the rollers, and that will look and act like hardened cement. It will come free if you are careful and persistent, providing another two or three months before the next cleaning.

Shaking Monitor Display Syndrome
Many Windows users operate a monitor that has never been properly adjusted for correct display of the information offered by the programs in use. Several factors need to be considered.

Most importantly, there is an adjustment called video refresh rate that will dramatically affect your long-term visual fatigue from using a monitor. If this number is set too low, such as 60 Hz (cycles per second), the picture will have an obvious flicker that will cause serious eye fatigue and thoroughly irritate any heavy user of that computer. I have seen processors use machines for months with this problem and never complain, and act shocked when I readjust their monitor for a more pleasing, non-flickering refresh rate.

Simply right click the mouse on the Windows desktop, and left click on properties. Then click on Settings, and Advanced, and Adapter tabs. Finally, click on List All Modes. Set the monitor for a resolution of at least 800 by 600, with 16 bit or higher color depth. Make sure that the final number is set for at least 70 Hz if you are using a conventional monitor. If you are using an LCD monitor, the normal default of 60 Hz is acceptable since the flicker is not noticeable on the persistent display characteristics of an LCD monitor. Try doing this with a conventional monitor and it will really improve your comfort factor with the monitor.

Memory Starved Processor
It is truly amazing how many company owners will hire a number of expensive employees, and then provide them with the latest computers with deficient memory configurations, just so they can save a few dollars when the acquire their equipment. For example, a minimally specified Windows XP based desktop computer will frequently be supplied with 256 (or even 128) Mbyte of silicon based Random Access Memory. With this memory-starved configuration, the operating system will barely load into the available memory without having to swap to the hard drive. When additional work is brought up on the machine, such as using Outlook and Word, the machine will consistently have to use the hard drive (much slower) than the lightning fast results that you get by having enough memory to allow normal operation without disk swapping.

This computer user may spend an additional 10 to 20 minutes per day waiting for programs to load on the computer, or in switching from one application to another. Over a year, this can result in a real productivity hit against an employee, not to mention their ongoing frustration and resentment about working with such an unsatisfying work implement. The answer? Never specify any modern computer, either at home or the office, unless it has 512Mbyte of RAM. Real power users should have 1 Gbtye of RAM. It currently costs less than $100 for 512 Byte of RAM (I run a Dell Latitude, with 1 Gbyte of RAM, and a correctly configured optical mouse and LCD display). If machines have less than 512 MBtye of RAM, then either upgrade them or replace them with an entirely new machine. While you are at it, always go for more RAM over a slightly faster yet significantly more expensive microprocessor. The faster microprocessor gets all the marketing hype, but the RAM does the real job in speeding up overall business productivity.

Preventing Installation Blues
Hardly a week goes by that one of my associates doesn’t call me upset because they have installed a new program, and now their computer runs like a sick animal. Having been through this a few times, I understand the frustration completely. For this reason, I actually run two computers at home. Computer one is my main work computer, and the only things on are my copy of Winfax Pro, so I can see my faxes remotely when I am out of town, and minimal installations of Microsoft Office and my basic installation of Calyx Point in case I need a quick back-up installation for my online classes. Computer two is where all the multimedia “toys” are. If I inadvertently install something on Computer two that doesn’t work right, I don’t spend a week trying to get it back to normal so I can at least get my important work done. My really important programs are installed on my Dell laptop, which I try to avoid installing frivolous programs into.

Actually there is a simpler solution that will bail you out, especially if you don’t like having six computers around. The answer is to always install a program after you have created a Windows Restore Point from within the help utilities accessible from the Start button. By creating a restore point, and then installing your latest programs, you can always roll back the computer to exactly where you were before installing the errant application. This will allow you to experiment without endangering your valuable workstation for serious work, in case you need to simply get the machine back to exactly where it was before you started with the new application. If you are unsure of how to do this, simply click on Start, Help and Support, and then Undo Changes to Your System With System Restore. This feature is easily the most valuable feature provided with Windows XP, and one you should use whenever the urge hits you to start “adding” to an already perfectly functional computer.

These are some of my favorite hints to save you time and irritation. Above all, we need to remember that the correct use of technology does not necessarily require always spending a lot of money, time, and acquiring a highly visible new toy or technique. We may be overlooking some of the most common irritants with some of the easiest repairs, such as the ones I have mentioned. I am sure you will find other simple, yet valuable things that you can also use to improve your productivity and lower your frustration level.

By Stephen Breden

Product Profiles

Products and services of interest to originators, lenders, and others.

Entyre has released version 2.0 of eMortgageX4™, featuring new X4 e-Collaboration Engine capabilities. The Engine was designed to provide lenders with the ability to “easily customize” the communication process between all parties in the closing process. According to Entyre, users can reduce their closing and post-closing costs by delivering enhanced, “more accurate, and compliant closing documents.” It uses an “advanced,” open architecture platform and SOAP/XML transfer protocol. X4 enables brokers, closing agents, and consumers to collaborate electronically and to confirm and enforce data accuracy and compliance.

GainClients, Inc. has introduced a new automated template-based Web site service to real estate and mortgage professionals. The GainClients Web site system allows users to incorporate the Internet into their total marketing package and extend their personal/corporate brand on to the Web. Homebuyers can educate themselves with the purchasing process, preview and “short list” the choices they want to consider, and communicate with agents. GainClients gives users the ability to manage their own Web site with automated functions and features.

Office Capture, a paper-to-electronic document program developed for low-volume document conversion and management environments, has been released by DocuLex. DocuLex Office Capture enables document scanning, content indexing, image quality control, optical character recognition (OCR) conversion, image coding and endorsing, electronic document conversion (PDF image + text, TIFF, or JPG formatting), and printing, including export capabilities. Office Capture is a Windows-based, open-system format, and according to DocuLex, is “easy to operate for document imaging beginners while flexible for experienced users.”  

Sysdome, Inc. has unveiled the Sysdome Broker Score® program to “advance industry standards and support professionalism” among broker originators via a national registry.  Based upon its scoring logic algorithms, Sysdome will rate individual brokers with a “score” to be shared with both the broker and Sysdome’s lender customers. Sysdome assigns an identifying number associated with individual originators, and stores their Broker Score findings in a proprietary relational database.  Key broker/originator data reviewed by the Broker Score program includes: state licensing agency status check, derogatory state licensing information search, and OFAC compliance review in accordance with the U.S. Patriot Act. Through an annual subscription service, brokers can monitor their lender-accessible score, as well as their employees’ scores; have the opportunity to explain irregularities; and dispute incorrect information through verifiable documentation. 

MBA Technology Report

I just returned from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) National Technology in Mortgage Banking Conference. This year’s conference certainly lived up to its reputation of being a looking glass into our future. One of the more compelling trends, which I expect to continue to gain momentum, is the ability for wholesale Web sites to pre-qualify a borrower for you. IndyMac released their QuickPricer(sm) feature available from their e-MITS® Web site. The idea is to allow the wholesalers to qualify your borrower rather than you doing it based upon a difficult set of qualifying criteria such as ratio’s, assets and others. Within seconds, you can quote your customer several rate and point combinations and even offer pricing on different products. More importantly, you are in essence getting a pre-approval as the borrower is actually being underwritten. Ultimately, you’ll take a loan application and go through this process with your top three or four wholesalers that would likely want the loan at hand. You’ll instantly be able to provide highly accurate pricing to your customer and not have to worry that you didn’t read a complicated rate sheet properly. Of course, the data all flows from your loan origination system (LOS) so it literally requires just a few clicks. There are a couple of other wholesalers that have adopted this feature. Soon, mortgage brokers will prefer to work with these lenders and shun those that don’t offer such a terrific tool.
The exhibit hall had quite a few new companies from a couple of new categories. In years past, we saw waves of new start-ups setup booths for each new wave of technology. In the mid-90s we saw many video conferencing vendors. Just prior, we saw new Windows-based LOS vendors. All of these start-ups are out of business as video conferencing never caught on and the entrenched LOS vendors came out with their own windows products, which won over the industry. This year, I saw many vendors offering electronic signature and digitized document solutions. While I do believe such technology will catch on, we are probably several years away from widespread adoption. It is great that we have these companies trying to plow new waters as it helps educate the industry and can push things along. I think digital signatures will become widespread for the up-front disclosure packages but it will be a long time before we see them at the closing table.
One of the hot topics being discussed around the aisles was the transaction platforms. They are all experiencing strong growth and it’s clear that this year, “they have arrived.” They are showing widespread usage by the industry. Some have been in development for years, but sometimes that’s how long it takes from the point a technology is available to the point that it gains widespread acceptance in the industry. One of the panel sessions was called “Transaction Platform Shootout” and it consisted of myself representing Ellie Mae and representatives from RealEC, eMagic and Ocwen Technology. The overriding message was that each platform has different strengths and weaknesses and more importantly, there are times that you may want to use more than one. In fact, for vendors, they should be on at least two of these industry portals. Most of the discussions centered around how successful each was and who would win the various categories these portals play in.

While I only saw one vendor that was promoting their hosting solutions for loan origination systems (LOSs), it was clear that they had some traction with over 160 mortgage companies. Their solutions allow a multi-branch operation to access their LOS over the Internet. This allows all data to be centralized and accessible from anywhere. I believe they are generally more expensive but for some companies they can be a good solution. Over time, I think these solutions will generally remain at a small percentage of the marketplace, but it is a solution every multi-branch operation should look at.
There was also a vendor promoting its solutions for recording offices—perhaps the last segment of our industry that will ever become automated. It’s great to see a firm pushing into this area,we need to get these government ran offices up to speed. Once they are automated, the entire industry can become more efficient. Even this software vendor admits it will be years before a decent percentage of these offices have adopted electronic documents but they have installed their solutions in many offices so far. Some, like those in Orange County, Calif., are quite large.
Each year this premier technology conference brings new and exciting solutions. This year was more exciting than most and we can look forward to more efficient times ahead.

By Scott Cooley

InterActive vForms

While I was recently demonstrating the virtues of creating Adobe PDF files for purposes of e-mailing original loan documents to a client, he proudly mentioned that he had a program called InterActive vForms that did this and much more. After using the product myself, I am happy to say that it goes a huge step beyond the simple creation of these files, and at only slightly more in cost than the regular Adobe Acrobat Distiller that I have been using.
The main panel of vForms contains buttons that provide various data-linking capabilities, depending on the specific programs that you choose to integrate it with. During the installation process, you may choose to merge data into the program from a variety of sources, including any of several popular loan origination systems or contact managers. I set my copy up to integrate Point for Windows and ACT!—a common enough requirement for loan originators.
The product easily allowed me to take any of my borrowers, prospects, or contacts inside of ACT! and merge the desired data into the built-in marketing fliers and letters in vForms. A simple drag-and-drop technique allowed me to easily select the desired data, in a way far different from data manipulation with other products.
My single complaint was in regard to the time required to bring up my voluminous ACT! database to extract data from one user. In cases like this, I would recommend using vForms on a computer with ample memory and processor resources, to keep things from becoming bogged down.
The vForms Printer allows you to e-mail any completed document from your loan origination system (LOS), including the Good Faith Estimate, TIL, 1003, and other documents and disclosures. In this regard, vForms functions like Adobe Acrobat in its ability to generate PDF files that may be easily e-mailed.
In addition, vForms comes with an extensive library of interactive forms, including the 1003 and many disclosures that may be “interactively” reviewed and completed by the receiver of the e-mail. The only software required by the borrower is a copy of the free Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available on the vast majority of all computers in use today and can be downloaded free if not already installed. A Preview option enables users to view forms at different zoom levels prior to opening them for editing.
The rich text format (RTF) program, a standard available on all Windows PCs, allows you to create custom letters and e-mail messages that can be automatically populated with the data from the LOS or contact management software. The user has only to click on a borrower or contact from within the left-hand pane of the main panel of the program, and then select the preprogrammed RTF form and print or e-mail it.
The product provides several graphic capabilities, including custom placement of your company logo in the Forms Library. If users want to custom place their own pictures or a picture of a specific home from an Internet site, vForms requires these pictures to be saved in a .jpg file format to be viewed and printed in the fliers. It is easy to obtain pictures of individual real estate agents and their listings from publicly available Web sites, and these pictures may be easily placed in the vForms Library to add impact and to customize them for those receiving the marketing documents. If a digital camera is used to obtain these pictures, they may also be easily transferred from the camera for placement within the fliers.
vForms provides a valuable bundle of features to allow more efficient extraction of data as available to the loan officer, and to allow the merging of this data automatically into forms and disclosures. It enables you to e-mail these forms and provides the borrower with the ability to complete and edit them. Finally, the product provides a powerful print preview function in conjunction with its basic ability to generate PDF files for e-mailing. vForms is well worth its nominal cost, considering the variety of things that it does.

By Stephen Breden

The Mortgage Office

Most mortgage companies have settled on one of several loan origination systems (LOS) for their loan origination and processing needs. While most of these products are specific to the area of loan origination and processing, I have been looking at a product that is a bundle of services for the mortgage office, including a number of functions.

Installation of The Mortgage Office takes a few minutes and a call to the tech support department to obtain a key that is associated with your specific computer ID. This factor makes it nearly impossible for anyone to “‘borrow”‘ your software and set up their business on it, a problem I have seen with other systems that were not copy protected.

Opening the demo version that I was provided with allowed me to access the files of a mythical company called World Mortgage Company, and I entered a user name and password to enter the main database. A clearly marked menu at the top contained the standard set of Windows icons, as well as some that are proprietary to The Mortgage Office. Under Modules, I noted that the system provided the following sets of functions: Loan Origination, Loan Servicing, Trust Accounting, Partnership Servicing, Collateralized Mortgage Obligation, DRE Annual Reporting, ACH Express, Financial Calculator, and Credit Reporting. While it was clear that the system could be used by any mortgage broker, it may be of most interest to a California based broker doing private trust deed investments and note sales—so-called “hard money lending” (the area in which I started in the mortgage business back in 1989).

The Loan Origination module contains a number of features that can be selected from a menu structure. Open and Pending Originations and Note Sales appear to be the modules you would routinely use. After clicking on the Open Originations button, a spreadsheet appears with a line for each transaction in the database. Clicking on the particular line allows the user to select that transaction for further processing. This new menu has icons at the left-hand side for General Information, Borrowers, Funding, Properties, Terms, and a number of other items. The program is structured so that any or all of these windows can be left up at the same time to allow the user to switch easily to the desired section, rather then moving in and out of the existing window, as is very common with many programs. One is essentially “drilling down” into the program to get to the level of detail desired within a particular transaction.

A Financial Calculator module allows for a number of sophisticated results to be obtained, including Amortization Schedule, Negotiate Loan, Calculate APR, Fully Amortized, Interest, Calculate Yield, Balloon Payment, Current, Balance, and several others. Negotiate Loan covers all the details of a transaction, including terms, payoffs, yields, and commissions to be factored together. These items are all on one screen, in a manner commonly done with financial calculators to obtain yield or purchase price, as an example.

Other modules are available to allow for Loan Servicing, including payment and check disbursement, which can be a major headache to any private money lender trying to manage multiple trust deed investments and funds on both the investor and borrower side.

Maybe of most interest to me was the heavy focus on marketing, reporting, and preparation of required forms and disclosures in the program. As I well know from personal experience, it is absolutely essential to correctly disclose in these types of transactions for Department of Real Estate (DRE) compliance, and to provide the necessary reporting and trust accounting to meet DRE requirements. This program is obviously a real help to the private money lender doing business in California, and who finds other LOS systems inadequate for these types of requirements.
Additional features include its ability to operate with multiple companies, allowing the user to keep separate databases. The built-in security used in The Mortgage Office protects data with a system of passwords. Access can be restricted down to the user level, and can even allow for limited access on the basis of a particular workstation or time of day.

The Mortgage Office can be purchased in any of several configurations, depending on your specific requirements. I think any broker considering such a product should call the sales and marketing department at Applied Business Software for a specific quote centered on their particular private money lending operation and its requirements.

By Stephen Breden

Technologies We Can All Use Now

How originators can use today’s technology to enhance their business.

Technology continues to be an essential catchphrase in the mortgage business, as we all endeavor to find ways to be efficient and more accessible to our customers. We are faced with an array of new “happenings” that we must distinguish from the real innovations. I would like to review some existing technology applications we can use today to our advantage as mortgage professionals. Most of these technologies rely to some degree on our use of the Internet, the one true revolution in the business in the last 10 years.

Virtual Meetings/Training Sessions
We are all accustomed to having to travel to meet with Realtors, managers, or other business partners, or to intermingle with associates at conventions and trade shows. To really increase our efficiency, we need to use the tools now available to allow us to hold some of these meetings and training sessions without leaving our offices. While this technology will never replace all personal meetings, it is clearly able to improve our efficiency and reduce costly, time-consuming travel.

The initial interest in pure videoconferencing has been followed by a focus on applications that allow us to share PowerPoint presentations and see live software demonstrations. The most popular technologies available include Webex Meeting Center, Microsoft Office Live Meeting, and Microsoft Remote Assistance (built in to Windows XP). Coupled with an inexpensive conventional conference call, you have all the requirements for a nationwide, virtual meeting. Thus you can conduct meetings from your office with associates in any other location.

When conducted correctly (taking into account the slight delay you get on the Internet) you can achieve a very satisfying virtual experience that can be set up with only a few minutes notice for all the participants. With the common availability of high-speed Internet connections, we can even achieve reasonable quality video conferencing if we want to add this additional element to our meetings.

The “Enhanced” Telephone
A simple tool such as the conventional telephone can be easily taken for granted. While we have just recently achieved historically low telephone per minute charges, we still tend to think of the telephone in a one-dimensional way—a tool to converse with one other person. The cost has become so relatively low that the user need not be concerned about the bill, and can just use the phone “at will,” a key requirement if we are to maintain ourselves as totally available to our clients.

Now, using a single master dial-in number, you can remotely forward that number to any location in which you might be, effectively eliminating any semblance of “being out of town” when clients try to reach you. Another variation on this theme is the automated attendant that receives calls, and allows you to selectively forward or take messages, on a pre-set list you can customize every day.

All of the major mobile phone carriers now allow the user to dial commonly desired phone numbers by speaking a name over the phone—a good example of voice recognition technology being used practically. This can replace the need to carry phone numbers around on paper, or to rely on a palm PC or laptop for purposes of recalling phone numbers. This can greatly help us in maintaining contact with our key customers and associates, and we never have to worry about forgetting a phone number.

Voice over IP (Internet Protocol) Telephony
The conventional telephone industry has been shaken up like never before, with the advent of phone networks that use direct Internet connections instead of conventional “landline” phone connections. These systems operate anywhere you have a high speed Internet connection, only becoming part of the conventional telephone system when the call is “dropped off” into a particular city for dialing to a particular number. The call itself is carried over the Internet as just another data transmission. Key advantages include very low cost for phone service, domestic or international, and a host of features which have not been available before. The user can be called to just as if they were another phone number on the conventional network, and the switching in or out of the Internet is not noticeable to the user. A Voice Over IP phone solution can be used anywhere. In fact, two VOIP customers may have phone service between each other and never enter the conventional landline-based phone system.

Because these systems do not rely on a connection to the local telephone system, there are some very interesting scenarios that one can find valuable in business. Some modern VOIP systems allow users to carry home a telephone that is an extension of the number in the office, to allow access to the office system while at home. Customers can call you at a dedicated instrument separate from your regular home phone, that you can carry anywhere you have a high-speed connection.

Another advancement in telephone technology is the availability of other “virtual” phone numbers, which will ring into your cell phone number. I now have local phone numbers in Sacramento and Dallas, both of which can be forwarded into my PCS phone automatically when I am traveling into any area served by Sprint PCS.

These virtual phone numbers allow one to appear to be a local company in that market. I acquired my virtual phone numbers from Vonage, which has been followed by other major conventional phone companies that are rushing to add Internet based phone capabilities to their systems.

Reducing Paper
MISMO stands for Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization (MISMO), and marks the best hope available to standardize the way data is exchanged between different vendors and applications that are a part of the mortgage loan transaction. These standards may eventually lead us to the true electronic mortgage, where a minimal amount of paper documentation will flow in terms of scanned paper documents. This technology is heavily based on the use of XML language in the way data is specified and transferred to other applications.

In spite of monumental improvements in computer speed and data storage, the loan transaction today is still burdened with more paper than ever. While we wait for the true implementation of the paperless mortgage, there are currently other options out there to reduce the amount of paper we use. Most originators are familiar with the use of scanners to turn paper documents into digital media on hard drives or optical disks, but there is one variation on this theme that many offices still overlook. What do we do with documents that we need turned into editable verbiage, and for which the paper copy is the only version available?

OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology has been around for years, with varying degrees of success. It should be considered when we have information that must not only be scanned, but turned into editable text. Recent innovations can provide output that is ready to be used by Microsoft Office or even as Adobe PDF files. This type of software can even convert other graphics images, such as fax files, into editable text.

The cost savings and massive reduction in storage space are equally important advantages to any efforts we take to reduce the amount of paper files. This technology should be seriously reviewed today by any larger office “drowning” in a sea of paper files. Some larger players are now getting into this market, such as Del Mar Database, which has promised to couple its popular DataTrac product with an ancillary document scanning and filing system.

For the smaller office, remote storage and data vaulting services will allow the broker and banker to submit documents to a central escrow location, trusted by both, in an effort to eliminate the famous “misplaced condition” syndrome that is such an integral part of our business.

The Wireless Originator
There are only two things we need to be truly mobile as originators: phone service and access to our important loan files and associated data. The first requirement has been totally achieved with modern portable telephone technology. The second requirement has been reached to a degree, if we can take the time to look at several technologies that are all converging to give us “total access” wherever we are.

Using the 802.11 technical standards (a set of protocols adopted by industry and government) now in wide use, I can today move my laptop from my home office, to my regular office, and even into numerous hotels and other business offices, all while still having high speed Internet access. This capability can allow for you to also access your office computer and read faxes, or look up information in loan files.

When we are out of range of these localized wireless access points, which have a range of several hundred feet, we have another option also available. WAN (Wide Area Network) access cards are available from several national PCS carriers. These solutions are essentially the digital equivalent of cell phone or PCS service for your laptop. You can rely on this capability when traveling to locations nationwide that do not have wired or conventional wireless Internet. With the wireless laptop card, you can operate in any medium or large city in the United States, and leave this connection on full time if you need to.

Between these various tools, you can remain in touch with your office. Equally important, you can work in many different places such as airports and hotel rooms, as well as in your office, with minimal thought as to how to stay connected.

The Portable Back-up
The small floppy disk has all but disappeared for carrying smaller amounts of data. In fact, you can carry a USB (Universal Serial Bus) style portable storage device that fits on your key chain. It holds 256 Mbytes, or as much as a hard drive would have held 10 years ago. This device can easily transfer files from one computer to another. Most importantly, you can carry all your important loan files, PowerPoint presentations, and multimedia materials. Even if your laptop fails, you can be up and working in five minutes with a borrowed machine.

An even more significant use of these devices is the ability to effectively carry loan files and contact management files at all times, and to easily switch between your office computer and laptop. By maintaining a data folder on the USB storage device, you can simply unplug the key from the office machine and plug it into your laptop, where I can effectively always access live loan files regardless of where you are. The same applies to valuable contact management files, which saves the trouble of synchronizing two databases. A key advantage of this technique is that your data is never actually on the laptop. In the case of loan files, you need not be concerned that you have lost several dozen sets of proprietary financial data if your laptop is lost.

The net result of these improvements is that there is simply no excuse left for any of us losing data because it was too difficult or expensive to keep things “backed up,.” or to have to be concerned about identity theft concerns with proprietary financial data.

Adding Search Capabilities to Your Office
The Google phenomenon underscores the real problems we have with finding data and sorting it in some way that makes sense. If online search technology is so impressive, why not apply it into the office network now?

Google offers a tool called the “enterprise search appliance,” which allows a company to use the very same Google search technology you use on the Internet to find any desired information within your office network. In addition, Google is expected to be offering a product now code-named “Puffin” (scheduled to be a free download from Google), which would bring a similar search capability to your own personal computer files. If this is true, and the product is anywhere near as good as the regular Google, this promises to be a major usability improvement to personal computers. We would not need to be concerned anymore about the location of an important file, as the search tool would catalog these files based on our actual level of use of these files. Just imagine looking for an appraisal PDF file on your own machine by typing in “Albert Smith Appraisal Folsom.”

The “Digital Signature”
While key parts of the mortgage transaction, notably on the title company and recording side, are not yet equipped to handle electronic signatures, we can still personalize our marketing communications.

Since our key customers and business associates are comfortable with seeing our signature as a sign of authenticity, we should make this more available in our routine business communications and in marketing. I have been using my scanned signature within all communications that I send through ACT! for a number of years. This signature can be easily copied and pasted and then inserted like any other image.

If you want to send letters to your clients and feign a written signature, you only need to scan your signature and make it available as a standard part of your letterhead. If desired, you can fax this signature to yourself in high resolution mode, and then copy the signature out of the document using a simple graphics program such as Microsoft Paint, and save this image under the name “Signature.bmp.” By the way, if you fax the signature to yourself, it will still appear scanned if examined closely (I use a lower resolution scan deliberately in case others want to borrow my signature).

While not intended to fully replace the genuine article, the scanned “Digital Signature” can fill the void by allowing you to more fully personalize your communications and broadcast mail merge letters, while saving you the time and hassle of manually going in and signing every letter yourself.

There is hope even today towards that elusive fully digital electronic signature. has produced a product that allows the user to send documents for digital signing from any PC. After setting up the account that provides your electronic signature, the user can “sign” any document by placing their personal signature stamp anywhere in the document where “e-tags” are placed indicating signature required. This web-based service requires an account for the sender of the documents, and allows the receiver to set up their signature via email invitation. The entire process provides a number of safeguards, including locking and date stamping of all signatures as they appear in the document. A written audit trail is available with each signed document, providing a degree of security not available with conventional live signatures.

The Digital Business Card
In my business dealings, I am frequently asked to provide a business card, to be followed up by a resume, and perhaps several articles that I have written. Two fairly inexpensive solutions exist to provide all of these things within a single package for easy delivery to our clients.

Mini CDs can be produced for well under one dollar each, completely ready to go including protective sleeve, with custom lettering and even a unique shape. These catchy handouts can carry a full multimedia presentation on your product, an explanation of loan programs, your picture and directions to your office, and a link back to your own Web site.

This same methodology can be used by providing any customer with a web link to a private server location, where they can download the equivalent information that would be provided on the mini CD, and that can be automatically expanded on the user’s desktop. I use this customized file transfer heavily when following up with key customers, following a class or consulting session. I suggest, which can provide you with web space for as little as $5 per month. Couple this with a simple FTP (file transfer protocol) program to load your files up to their location in a custom subfolder for each client.

These techniques go a long way to taking the traditional business card beyond a simple name and phone number, and providing the files and documents you would really like to give your clients, in a way they can always get to and not have to worry about losing, like they would with paper documents.

We don’t need to wait for further revolutions in technology to make ourselves more efficient. These suggestions should help any of us find ways we can be more effective and visible with our clients and increase our efficiency, as we deal with our competitors that are still locked into a “paper intensive” past.

By Stephen Breden

Need a Business Pick Up?

Use your Web site to its greatest potential.

Have you been impacted by the recent rate changes? Are you looking for ways to increase business?

If you are serious about staying in this business, now is the time to look at what you can do to energize your business. I know the power of the Web, and I know that it is absolutely possible to use it to make more profit than you currently do. The Web can help you increase profits through expansion or increased efficiency. Your Web site is a powerful tool. In this business, some take full advantage of its power and the results are that they generate over 50 percent of their business online. On the opposite end, there are others who haven’t taken one loan from their site yet. What makes the difference? A belief that your Web site can generate profits for your business. And taking the action required to make it happen.

If you want to increase your profits you can increase sales and/or increase efficiency. This is quite obvious. But do you know that your Web site makes it easy to accomplish either expansion or efficiency or both? Have you closed loans in other states? Do you wake up in the morning and find applications that borrowers have completed while you were sleeping? If not, you might be missing out!

Expand Your Business
The Web makes barrier-to-entry in non-local markets much easier. If you are looking to expand in other markets, you should first be aware of what your market is. If you tend to only want to do localized business in which your customer is usually only a few miles from you, it may be time to think bigger. Why? Because that’s what your competitors are doing. Jay Steren, CEO of Mortgage Capital Associates in Los Angeles, Calif. has been doing business online for over seven years and is a true believer of expansion using the Web. “As business starts to dry up,” he says, “if you’re not expanding you’re not going to make it.” According to Steren, the pros of expanding the business far outweigh the cons. While the Web makes expansion to different areas very affordable, he cautions that it does require a little upfront work. “The first thing you have to do is develop a business plan when expanding your business. You need to know your market. Then you need to find your appraisers and title companies, and you need to know the rules in each county. But the good news is it’s really not hard to get there.”

Without a Web site, expanding into different markets becomes more difficult. The borrower can’t take a 10 minute drive to see you. Without a Web site, the best they can do is call you with numerous questions. If you were the customer and you had two businesses to choose from that were not local to you, who would you be more inclined to contact? The one with or the one without a Web site address in their ad?

Whether your borrower is 10 miles away or 1,000 miles away, if they can log on to your site they can see that you are real, read about your company, your programs, and your rates, and apply online.

What you get for some leg-work and a little time upfront is increased revenues.

Why limit yourself to a 50 mile radius? Get licensed in additional states or expand into states that don’t need a license.

Create More Efficiency
How can a Web site help you reduce your costs by increasing efficiency? Here are just a few examples:

Guide your borrowers to filling out their own applications by using your Web site. This is a no-brainer to some, but many have a hard time letting go of walking a borrower through their application. This is still considered providing good service. While some of your borrowers may request that level of attention, others would love the opportunity not to have to drive out to meet you somewhere or to invite you into their home when they could simply fill out the app at their leisure during hours that are convenient to them. If you moved half of your app-taking into your borrowers’ hands, what could you do with the extra time? Don’t believe that consumers are willing to apply online? My research shows that over 50 percent of Internet borrowers are willing to fill out a full 1003 online as long as it’s secure.

Train your Realtors and other business partners to use your Web site. Do you have a difficult time keeping up with demands of your Realtors? How often do they want you to take an application on a Sunday night or when a prospect is in their office? What if you trained Realtors on how to shop rates on your Web site and fill out an application? If you can teach your business partners to self-serve themselves on your Web site, you can get more business without having to hire more people.

Hire personnel to work remotely. Employee and office-space overhead can be expensive—especially in a downturn. If you have a good Web site you can move to a smaller, cheaper office or have everyone work from home. You can have your loan originators apply on your Web site and check loan status online. If you have employees working from home mainly on commission, it’s easy to expand your business without creating a lot of overhead. If you choose to expand into additional states, you can even hire originators in that state who work out of their home!

Getting Started
What’s the best way to get started? First you have to have a professional Web site. Simple brochure sites will not work. At minimum your Web site needs to be able to take a full 1003 that imports easily into your LOS. Ideally, you also want to have loan status and up-to-date rates. Many successful online companies have a rate search option that provides customized quotes, payments, closings costs, and APRs.

Next, you need a business plan. I recommend creating a plan that has several small projects that are easy to execute. For example, your first step may be to get licensed in one more state. The next step will be to get approved with your lenders to originate in that state. Next you will need to get lists of appraisers, title companies, and others in that state.

Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

By Lovina Worick