Today, borrowers expect to close fast. A small issue within the title process can have an impact on the length of the closing process, impacting mortgage lenders and borrowers. HousingWire recently spoke with Dave Steinmetz, Division President of Origination Services for ServiceLink, on what tools lenders should leverage to streamline home equity title and closing.
HousingWire: How did the title business adapt to unique conditions caused by the pandemic, the growth of the remote workforce and low interest rates?
Dave Steinmetz: Starting in early 2020, we worked to scale production with the challenges presented by the combination of the pandemic and record volumes. Luckily, the technology and infrastructure we had in place at ServiceLink kept our client service uninterrupted. The tools enabling work-from-home and remote closings were not only readily available, but efficient and accessible. This was crucial for us, and our clients, in order to maintain operations during a difficult and uncertain time.
We were also able to help our clients navigate the volume spikes associated with low-interest rates. We continually monitor volumes, market nuances and industry trends to ensure our products – and our staff – meet our clients’ needs. At ServiceLink, we’re flexible with our offerings and can scale up or down as necessitated by industry conditions. This scalability includes our industry-leading signing agent panel. We’ve secured calendar availability from our notary panel at month-end, providing unrestricted closing capacity in many of our lenders’ top markets. At the same time, our dedicated client service teams were able to offer proactive, transaction-level reporting, so lenders could continue communicating effectively with their borrowers.
HW: How has the title process evolved as a result of these conditions?
DS: Amid high volumes and challenging conditions, borrowers continue to prioritize speed in their transactions. According to the 2021 ServiceLink State of Homebuying Report, 50% of consumers said speed was an important factor in their refinance process. With borrower preferences and our clients’ busy pipelines in mind, we heavily leverage technology in our instant title solution, EXOS Title, for every aspect of title, data aggregation, analysis, production, and curative services, probably more than most mortgage lenders realize. We’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars in leading-edge title technology – and our teams of top data scientists, inventors and engineers ensure our processes are as automated as possible. The end result is the ability to deliver clear-to-close commitments instantly.
One specific enhancement we unveiled this year is our EXOS Closing Disclosure (CD) feature. With EXOS CD, “stare and compare” manual processes in the loan closing lifecycle have been automated, reducing the time and effort required for data preparation and ultimately, reducing cycle times and improving quality. Moreover, any revisions that may be needed throughout the closing process can now be processed virtually, with the ability to CD prep within a minute with appropriate workflows.
This year, we also began offering the ability to combine EXOS Title with an option for instant digital closing scheduling with EXOS® Close. Using EXOS Close, consumers and lenders see the exact dates and times signing agents are available and instantly select their preferred date, time and location. Instant scheduling reduces friction associated with closing scheduling – and lenders using EXOS Close have seen an 80% reduction in reschedules. This product combination allows lenders to further streamline their origination process.
HW: What are some misconceptions about instant title?
DS: One misconception is that title has no impact on the consumer experience. But, as mentioned previously, today’s borrowers expect to close fast, and title can have an impact on the overall length of the closing process.
Another area that requires clarification is the importance of searches performed on title grade data to the instant title process. Lenders may believe that it’s impossible to perform title searches and deliver instant title. ServiceLink’s EXOS Title uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to perform title searches and deliver instant title. Quality data is key to the viability of an instant title product. With instant title, you’re leveraging alternate methods to produce a title decision instantly as opposed to relying on more traditional methods that take much more time. We’re setting a new standard by focusing on title-grade data as our primary source, meaning the data is more accurate and more aligned toward the true condition of the title.
The industry is trying to move into the instant title space, but it’s imperative that lenders vet the quality of the data that’s being delivered. Because of ServiceLink’s more than 10 years of delivering instant title, our technologies, processes and risk assessments set us apart.
HW: How does ServiceLink leverage technology to streamline home equity title and closing?
DS: As demand has grown for fast, digital solutions in the home equity space, ServiceLink envisioned how technology could improve the speed and level of service for both the lender and borrower. Our clients – home equity lenders of all sizes – quickly realized the value of our tech-enabled services. Automation is infused through our full suite of title products, from title data at point of sale to uninsured title reports to ALTA products and more.
With this wide range of title products, we’re able to fulfill a wide variety of client needs, according to their individual risk appetites. We complement our line of title products by providing a technology-enhanced closing experience. Instant digital closing scheduling with EXOS Close empowers the consumer or lender to schedule their own closing, which increases efficiency. And, it supports virtual closing options for both refinance and home equity loans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
EXOS Inspect is a mobile app that allows borrowers to conduct their own home inspections when a traditional appraisal is not required, such as in home equity lending. EXOS Inspect enhances home equity lenders’ risk management strategies by ensuring they have the most up-to-date information on the house. In fact, the application uses geo-fencing and time-stamping to assure the accuracy of the borrower-submitted inspection. It can be combined with other ServiceLink offerings including AVMs, Title, Flood and Desktop Appraisals.
ServiceLink provides a wide suite of services across the mortgage industry and has the experienced, trained staff to shift with the demands of the market. When the industry shifts from refinance to purchase or refinance to home equity, ServiceLink is able to quickly adjust to meet that demand and close more loans, faster.