While many Americans were busy debating Thanksgiving travel, four NASA astronauts suited up and took off for the International Space Station last week. What’s so special about this voyage, aside from their special stowaway, Baby Yoda? This voyage has made SpaceX the first private company to launch astronauts to the International Space Station.

In other, less stellar yet still notable housing technology news, a Rocket of another kind is making news on the eClosings front, Freddie Mac has partnered with Zest AI to help in underserved markets, among other areas, eOriginal introduces new tech and APG goes into expansion mode.

On the mortgage processing front, the coronavirus crisis continues to fuel wider mortgage lending digitization, and technology advances bound to support the industry in the long-run. When interest rates go up, inventory is more robust and affordability coupled with convenience will make the most meaningful difference to consumers.

Rocket Mortgage and Amrock deliver 90% of eClosings with eNotes

The nation’s largest lender Rocket Mortgage and title insurance, property valuations and settlement services provider Amrock delivered 90% of all digital closings with eNotes through the first three quarters of 2020, according to recent data provided by the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS) eRegistry.

Both firms highlighted significant gains in electronic mortgage closing pushing the bar higher for all lenders. Amrock has digitized the legal contract portion of the mortgage, providing electronic promissory notes, or eNotes created, signed and managed digitally, providing lenders fully digitized closings.  

In the first nine months of 2020, Rocket Mortgage and Amrock, both subsidiaries of Rocket Companies, have more than doubled the number of eClosings they completed in all of 2019, “accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic” and demand from clients who appreciate the process efficiency as much as lenders looking for consistent, human error-free closings.

Rocket Mortgage reportedly closed $145 billion of mortgage volume across all 50 states in 2019 and currently uses Rocket Mortgage Technology to process up to 98% of all home loans originated by Quicken Loans.

Consumers can participate in a remote online notarization (RON) via the proprietary Clear Sign platform, by signing and notarizing all documents electronically while speaking with a notary using online audio video technology. Since 29 states have passed RON legislation, 25 of them already are conducting RON transactions.

Rocket Mortgage also offers hybrid digital closing, where the client signs most documents electronically but meets with a notary in person to sign a few forms with pen and paper. Clients in 34 states can close their mortgage with an in-person electronic notarization (IPEN), using technology that allows clients to electronically sign all documents while the notary is present.

“Just as Rocket Mortgage digitized and revolutionized the application, processing and underwriting of the home loan, our mission is to end the mortgage experience in the same way,” said Brian Woodring, chief information officer of Rocket Mortgage.

eOriginal introduces Closing Center2.3 & RON Hub

Also this week, eOriginal announced the release of ClosingCenter 2.3, which includes RON Hub, a contactless mortgage closings portal designed to provide “maximum closing choice and flexibility for lenders, borrowers and settlement agents.”

Building on the recent ClosingCenter 2.2 release of remote pre-close capabilities, including turnkey RON partner integrations, ClosingCenter 2.3 further simplifies remote closing day execution, the mortgage fintech said. Integrating the pre-built RON solution, the software connects borrowers with notary signing agents in a secure digital closing room.

ClosingCenter’s RON Hub, anchored by partners Notarize and Clear Sign by Nexsys Technologies, allows lenders to activate the best-fit RON solution for every mortgage closing.

“In 2020, RON became an essential service to ensure closings continued uninterrupted, and now more than ever, lenders need RON tools that empower and optimize their workflow,” said Pat Kinsel, CEO at Notarize

Lenders have a simple open ecosystem “to intelligently activate RON capabilities for their settlement agent partners and borrowers,” said Simon Moir, chief product officer at eOriginal. ClosingCenter 2.3 furthers eOriginal’s mission to ensure frictionless, secure and trusted lending from loan closing to the secondary market.

Freddie partners with Zest AI

Considering mortgage lending’s complexity, the path to full digitization involves many processes, including narrowly specific solutions and partnerships, such as Freddie Mac’s recent collaboration with Zest AI of Los Angeles. Freddie announced a new offering through Zest AI, a credit underwriting software fintech that leverages machine learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools designed to help lenders assess borrower credit risk and automate regulatory compliance requirements.

The Zest Model Management System enables lenders to analyze vast amounts of credit data and use the results to measure the credit risk impact on their business.

“Freddie Mac is always evaluating technology solutions that meet our high standards and support our continued commitment to expanding homeownership opportunities responsibly, especially among first-time homebuyers, communities of color, and those living in underserved markets,” said Michael Bradley, Freddie Mac’s senior vice president of modeling, econometrics, data science and analytics for its single-family business.

“Zest allows us to do our machine-learning modeling work more efficiently and with less operational risk,” added Bradley. 

“Freddie Mac and Zest share the goal of making economic opportunity possible for more people. With Zest software, Freddie’s already best-in-class modeling and fair lending teams will have the latest tools to help provide more borrowers access to homeownership,” said Mike de Vere, CEO of Zest AI.

APG expands to 50 states

Dallas-based American Property Guard (APG), developer of a proprietary Al program that locates properties and captures relevant tax data in real-time is expanding nationally. An affiliate of nationwide property tax and flood data services fintech LERETA, AGP reported it is now covering tax certificates for title companies, mortgage originations and servicers in all 50 states.

“We have listened to customer feedback and are excited to grow our product offering on a national scale to better match customer’s needs. We could not think of a better way to thank our customers for their continuous trust and commitment to APG than to expand our services,” said Bill Vassalotti, division general manager at APG.

APG’s strategic integrations allow for direct report ordering. APG platform users have access to real-time data from the fintech’s national tax certificates needed to build pre-closing tax lines, verify tax delinquency status and fulfill special asset management and servicing requirements – in a customizable format.

The information enables loan originators and servicers to manage a variety of mortgage products and situations to ensure they comply with regulations and mitigate compliance risks related to delinquent property taxes.

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