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Mortgage show offers smart options for mortgage and escrow payments


By Jeff Lazerson



What I think: The fast paced, incredibly content rich Digital Mortgage conference I attended earlier this week in Las Vegas can best be described as Shark Tank meets American Idol.

In just its third year this conference offered 33 eight-minute demos, more than 70 exhibitors and 1,500 participants. I chatted with a couple of fellows from as far away as Canada and one Mr. Hamish McCluggage from Australia’s Westpac Bank.

No question. Tops for my consumer best list is Black Knight’s brand-new anywhere, anytime Servicing Digital mobile phone application. I’ve heard from captive borrowers for decades that they would like to drop kick their mortgage servicers for terrible customer service and incompetency.

Servicing Digital allows you to almost instantly make your house payment (with a payment made confirmation) from your cell phone, look up your loan balance, view your payment breakdown including your taxes and insurance, interest rate, maturity date, payment history, estimated PMI drop date, refinance payment scenarios and a neighborhood property value dashboard.

“Kalamazoo Michigan based Amerifirst Home Mortgage is the first loan servicer going live (later this month),” said Shelley Leonard, Blackkight’s chief product officer.

Number two on my consumer best list is Spruce, a digital age title insurer and escrow company. Already live in California, Spruce offers a secure way for borrowers to avoid wire and check fraud through a secure electronic payment solution, offers digital title information (not PDF’s) and structured analytics for fast title underwriting decisions.

Best of all is the savings for the escrow settlement charges (standard title insurance rates apply). “Spruce charges a total of $495 for a purchase or refinance which includes one notary charge. If there is an additional signing (buyers and sellers typically sign separately in California), we add $125 for notary,” said Spruce’s CEO Patrick Burns. “No cap on the sales price or loan amount. It’s the same work.”

I pulled a Mortgage Grader borrowers’ recent closing statement for a $3.1 million home purchase. Buyer and seller paid a staggering $14, 455 in total escrow and notary charges. Compare that to Spruce’s $620. Need I say more?

Number three on my consumer best list is Opendoor. According to Opendoor, 40 percent of all U.S. home sales are contingent on the departing residence being sold in order to purchase the next property.

After a free assessment, Opendoor purchases homes for fair market value in as little as two days or as long as 90 days. Then, Opendoor will turn around and sell it, ideally for the same price.

Using GPS, potential buyers of sold and vacant home can register and self-tour through a smart lock system that will allow buyers in once they reach the front door.

This model takes away the headache of getting your home ready for showings, anxiety of not knowing if or when your home will sell and closing date flexibility-especially good for purchasing new construction.

“Opendoor charges on average 6.25 percent. There is never a cancellation fee even if the seller cancels the day before closing,” said Nate Harbacek, Opendoors’ capital markets director.

You might be on the wrong end of a lawsuit if you back out on a (commission earned) realty agent at the last minute.

This week Opendoor launched in Riverside and San Bernardino counties limited to the $200,000 to $500,000 price range. Just a few weeks ago Opendoor opened California in the Sacramento market ($200,000-$600,000 price range) and has already closed its first Sacramento sale.

More on Digital Mortgage next week.

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Jeff Lazerson - Mortgage Columnist since 2011