HousingWire recently spoke to Tom Kriby, vice president of client development and partnerships at Westwood Insurance Agency, about how working with an insurance agency can simplify the closing process for their customers, even in times of interest rate uncertainty.
HousingWire: How is today’s market shaping the need for a better customer experience particularly when it comes to closings?
Tom Kriby: Higher interest rates and inflation have exasperated the home affordability issue. Lenders are looking for competitive solutions to help borrowers manage their total monthly payment so they can still get into the home of their dreams. While some elements of PITI are set, others offer buyers opportunity.
Take insurance, for example. At Westwood Insurance Agency, we work with more than 40 insurance companies, meaning we can find the most competitive rates nationwide without sacrificing coverage. We’ve seen savings of up to 30% in difficult markets like Texas and Florida. An affordable home insurance policy not only means lower monthly payments, but also improved debt-to-income ratio and more money to put towards home improvements, property taxes or closing costs.
Often left to the last minute, insurance can push a buyer’s monthly payment beyond their limit. But lenders who bring a better insurance solution to the table can offer real value to their customers.
HW: How does working with an insurance agency simplify the closing process?
TK: Moving into a new house is exciting, but it’s also a very stressful and busy time. In addition to finalizing a loan, there’s selecting movers, setting up utilities and more. The last thing a buyer wants to do is spend hours searching for insurance, answering question after question from roof type to distance to fire hydrant. Lenders who integrate insurance directly into the closing process can offer buyers a better experience.
Think about it: In applying for a loan, customers have already provided much of the information required to obtain an insurance quote. This means lenders could pass that information via API to an insurance provider rather than make a borrower enter it again. That insurance provider could return a quote which is displayed directly within the LOS. Borrowers can see and accept their quote in one platform. It’s an easy, online experience that takes minutes, not hours.
What’s more, the insurance premium is known early in the home buying process. This helps borrowers understand exactly what the total cost of home ownership will look like and what they can afford. This transparency is key when every dollar matters.
HW: What should lenders look for in an insurance provider?
TK: When it comes to closings, it’s all about keeping it simple. That’s why integrating insurance directly into the loan origination process is so important.
At Westwood Insurance Agency, our platform facilitates seamless home closings by connecting lenders, homebuyers and insurance companies with click-to-bind technology. Our goal is to avoid last-minute surprises by creating a more transparent process and giving loan processors more visibility into what’s happening with their buyers.
Through our online portal, the mortgage team can view insurance quotes, prequalify customers and calculate debt-to-income ratios, and process closing date changes in minutes. You can also request a policy and easily print EOI.
Additionally, we believe there’s real value in working with an independent insurance agency. To deliver the most competitive coverages and rates, you need to be able to compare policies. Some insurance companies are best suited for a particular region, like coastal areas. Others are better for newer homes. Discounts for things like security systems vary by insurance company. An independent agent can shop for you to maximize savings, as well as bundle ancillary policies like auto or flood.
Finally, look at the insurance provider’s track record. How long have they been in business? How many clients and customers have they served?
HW: How is Westwood Insurance Agency empowering lenders to provide a better borrower experience?
TK: Westwood Insurance Agency’s tech-enabled process integrates insurance into the loan origination process. Rather than spending hours searching for insurance on their own, borrowers have a competitive quote presented early in the home buying process. They’re just a few clicks away from being covered and checking insurance off their list. Customer satisfaction increases and there’s less risk of a delayed closing.
There are also real benefits for your loan team. They can view insurance quotes instantly, prequalify customers and calculate debt-to-income ratios, request EOI online and process closing date changes in minutes. It’s a more transparent process that helps everyone avoid last-minute surprises.
Closings can be stressful. Westwood Insurance Agency is here to help lenders with an embedded insurance model that helps close on time, every time with an improved customer experience.