Software Review- V 2.0

“While this product may appear to be a web-based application due to its use of Java and HTML, in reality it is mostly intended to be used as a stand-alone application. ”

icalc version 2.0 was developed to meet the needs of the mortgage professional or consumer desiring more precise comparisons between various lending scenarios that might impact the desirability of any particular program.

icalc is available in a business and consumer version (the latter just now being released). It is written in the Java programming language and uses the “Java Runtime Environment” from Sun. When opening up the program on your desktop, a window pops up to invoke the Java environment prior to invoking the “front end” where the user actually enters the appropriate information and interfaces with the application. Output is generated in the form of HTML files that are brought up by your browser (Internet Explorer is preferred) for review and printing. The only problem with this use of a web page is that if the numbers in a loan analysis are changed, the output is regenerated with changes to a file, and the browser window must be refreshed to see the new results. This may take some getting used to.

Output can be utilized as printed output or as a file. A file can be e- mailed from within the program to a client, and this output can be customized for the very specific situation that a particular individual might need to review. This output can be read as a standard HTML- based attachment within an e-mail, using a regular Internet browser.

Aside from the novelty of using a Java-based program, just how well does icalc work, and what does it do differently? icalc does all the normal calculations involving payment and amortization schedules, and the impact of paying points. It also allows the user to perform unlimited loan comparisons and very advanced analyses. As one example, It provides nicely formatted reports that compare variations of these scenarios side-by-side, to see what small changes in interest rate represent in terms of cost, equity, and payment at each year in the term.

My one disappointment is that it did not allow me to plug in closing costs and effectively determine the resultant APR from these changes. This omission is the result of the near impossibility of determining so called “loan costs” for federal Truth In Lending purposes—a major problem even for seasoned mortgage professionals. Overall, it is a powerful loan analysis software package offering 11 different reports that are color-coded, and that heavily emphasize what-if scenarios. It even includes 80-10-10 and 80-15-5 loan programs.

While this product may appear to be a web-based application due to its use of Java and HTML, in reality it is mostly intended to be used as a stand-alone application. I found that the Java Runtime Environment loaded reasonably quickly. The program felt fast enough to enable me to run calculations in real time and quickly generate output. While helpful to have an Internet connection for viewing the icalc website for support, it is not essential.

The product is also available in a web-based server scenario, to be installed on your own website. The developers intend that the interface be installed at your website, and the Java application be invoked at their server via a direct inquiry from the user. Integrating the icalc web engine with your particular website only requires that three small HTML files be added to your site. These files can be easily customized if desired to adopt a custom look. Because icalc is a Java based program, the basic calculation “engine” can operate across different platforms (Unix, Windows, Mac), allowing other users to access the program using only a standard web browser as the interface.

This program is a good example of where software may be theoretically evolving: a relatively standard front end (web browser) retrieving information from a remote server that actually does the calculation. In this case, the customer (host website) appears to host the capability, but is in reality redirecting the consumer to another site for the actual calculation, all invisible to the end user. To the user, this all appears as if the information is coming from your own website, yet allows control of the version of the program by the developer, and provides licensing control over the paying users (all access to the web engine can be controlled at the server).

For the nominal cost, icalc can be a valuable adjunct to a loan officer trying to satisfy that detail oriented shopper, or for the webmaster desiring to add more power and panache to an otherwise average performing mortgage loan site.

by Stephen Breden