InsightsInnovation spotlight: Delivering a faster and more affordable home equity experience

How much home equity business can you handle? These two new tools can help.

In 2023, home equity business is here for the taking, and borrowers have made their intentions clear: They want to work with lenders who can get cash into their hands fast. Lenders are giving themselves an edge in the competitive environment by adopting tech-forward solutions from ServiceLink that speed application to close and funding. That promise of speed helps lenders lock in potential borrowers early. Even better? They’re cutting the cost of producing a loan in the process.

Two recent ServiceLink launches in the home equity space are particularly notable: instant title for home equity, using EXOS® Title technology; and Equity View, a three-in-one report that supplies lenders with all the information they need to underwrite a home equity loan. Each of these tools was designed to make the lending process faster and cheaper, supporting lenders’ objectives of securing more home equity business, having capacity to process that new business and fattening home equity margins.

Instant Title — Powered by EXOS Title Technology

The recent refinance boom was an ideal opportunity for lenders to give instant title a try. Those who did found that ServiceLink’s EXOS Title helped them accelerate qualifying loans by delivering title in seconds. Combining this time savings with efficiencies gained by using EXOS® Close, a platform app enabling borrowers and loan officers to self-schedule their closings in real time, shaved days off the refinancing process.

Now this same industry-leading technology is available to home equity lenders – specifically for property reports and legal and vesting reports. As these lenders manage growing demand, instant access to this data offers a means for fast-tracking qualifying loan applications so borrowers can access their funds more quickly and lenders can take on more business, more profitably.

“A lender who uses instant title for home equity in conjunction with our self-scheduling app and streamlined closing solutions could streamline their cycle to a few days – a major improvement over the industry average,” says Barry Coffin, managing director, Origination Title and Close, ServiceLink. “That efficiency represents significant cost savings for the lender, which is particularly important in home equity, where lenders absorb so much of the cost of producing a loan.”

Even with the emphasis on process automation and speed, ServiceLink’s dedicated home equity team still offers hands-on service. Many lenders have individual custom requirements for title work. ServiceLink folds these more complex rule sets into their workflows as required.

Sandeepa Sasimohan, vice president, Title Automation, ServiceLink, explains, “ServiceLink has set a new standard by focusing on title-grade data as our primary source, meaning the data is more accurate and better aligned toward the true condition of title. As part of Fidelity National Financial, the largest underwriter in the country, we can draw from multiple years of historical data across millions of previously examined parcels of land. That historical data, coupled with the most current public records, helps ensure accuracy.”

Sasimohan adds that EXOS technology puts ServiceLink in the unique position of being able to extract data from images where the data doesn’t exist electronically. This capability enables the technology partner to bring more depth to the quality of data they share with lenders.

Equity View: 3 Reports in 1

One comprehensive report, Equity View, provides underwriters with all the information they need to make a home equity loan decision. It includes the following:

Property Report – Built on title-grade plant and repository data, this report, now available in seconds, includes vesting information, a legal description, any open mortgage or deed of trust information, tax information and the status of any involuntary liens of record.

Automated Valuation Model – The AVM simplifies and expedites the valuations process by providing market value data, property details, satellite photos, etc.

Flood Zone Determination – These materials include a Life of Loan Flood Certificate, Notice to Borrower and aerial images to support the flood insurance assessment.

“Noting that many home equity lenders were needlessly going to multiple providers to pull all of this information together, we decided to create a one-stop shop that would save them time and money,” Coffin explains. “With Equity View, they get a valuation product for determining the home’s current value, a title product to confirm the borrower is still on title and disclose any liens on the property, and a flood certificate to determine whether the property is in a flood zone and requires insurance. Streamlining the underwriting process is that easy.”

Experience, Expertise and Stability Are Vital to Home Equity Success

Adopting new technology-based tools and processes comes with the caveat that they should always be backed by a technology partner who’s in it for the long haul. With so many companies coming and going, ServiceLink offers the stability of four decades in the business, as well as the commitment of FNF to continue investing in the technology and people making new products like instant title and Equity View possible.

“When you look at new-product development in the mortgage space, you can’t compare products at face value,” says Coffin. “For example, ServiceLink’s technology team started developing instant title more than 10 years ago, when the 2008 financial crisis spurred the establishment of the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). We were the first to introduce instant title to the industry, and we’ve been perfecting it ever since, testing it through multiple market cycles and continually tailoring it to meet lenders’ evolving needs. Products that have come onto the scene in just the past couple years don’t have that track record to stand on.”

Equity View was also born out of decades of mortgage experience. ServiceLink has long offered a holistic home equity solution that includes customizable title, closing, flood and valuation products; Equity View was a natural outgrowth, bringing data across these areas together into one comprehensive tool. The report is an ideal example of how lenders can benefit from working with a single, stable, reliable technology partner.

“When lenders tell me they’re working with two, three or four providers, I ask them, ‘Why so many? Go to someone you can trust for all your needs,’” says Coffin. “Not every provider can offer that, but our ServiceLink team certainly can, and that simplifies things considerably for the lender. Our overarching goal is to help lenders succeed by becoming as efficient as possible. That comes through in the products we develop, the service we deliver and the partnerships we build over time.”

A Final Note on Technology in Home Equity Lending

There’s a lot of buzz around modernization — process automation and new-product innovation — across the mortgage spectrum, but it is especially pivotal to home equity success. “Margins on home equity loans can be much smaller than those on purchases and refis,” says Coffin. “By saving lenders steps, getting them to the closing table faster and helping them scale to take on more business, modernization can make home equity a much more profitable enterprise.”

Adds Sasimohan, “Product innovation is essential in the home equity market, whether lenders are trying to gain or retain customers. Innovations can set lenders apart in this competitive environment, especially as borrower demographics lean heavily toward the mobile-first generation.”

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