Now that she’s working from home, Michelle scheduled her Zoom meetings around the window when an appraiser was due to arrive, yet another hurdle to clear for a refinance on her San Francisco home. Suddenly,she realized she was about to let a stranger in her home, a person she had heard from only once and knew nothing about. She had no idea if she needed to do anything in preparation for this appointment, or even be home during the inspection.
She had not even invited friends or immediate family into her home since the shelter-in-place order began. Would it be safe to allow this person in? And if so, what safety protocols do they follow? She shared her concern during a last-minute call with her loan officer hoping to gather enough information to set her mind at ease.
This scenario has played out tens of thousands of times since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the industry fast and hard, with pipelines bursting from a rate-driven refi boom. This “new normal” required a hard and immediate pivot to ensure consumers could close on their refinances without driving up lender costs.
With the current shelter-in-place mandates and the secondary market’s temporary inspection waivers, both appraisers and homeowners find themselves in a precarious position. In many cases, the inability for appraisers to physically inspect the interior of a home because either party did not want to allow an interior inspection could cause a delay in the mortgage process. This is where lenders are looking to AMCs to provide compliance-driven solutions to obtain an accurate appraisal, while accommodating the challenges of the inspection process. As closing companies have quickly launched eClose and eNotary digital signature technology to accommodate contact-free signings, AMCs are rapidly implementing applications that leverage smartphones and drone technology to provide an accurate picture of the property and its condition.
Consumers associate their overall satisfaction and experience with the lender throughout the origination touchpoints, and in many cases where service providers are used, the lender is not in direct control of the interaction. Assuring good communication and leveraging new technological tools help give a borrower piece of mind and are essential to reputation and brand management. COVID-19 takes it to an entirely new level, with unwavering demands for the health and safety of consumers and appraisers.
A virtual inspection solution, similar to a 3-D tour used by real estate agents, is being implemented today in many forms. Prior to the home inspection, the appraiser can send a link to a homeowner to gather pertinent information on the property and take geocoded photos of the interior of the home. The appraiser can then follow up with the homeowner for required information that may not be in county property data, such as an upgrades or additions to the home.
Requests of information could include, but are not limited to:
• Old repair receipts
• Insurance documentation
• Client inventories or spreadsheets
• Model or serial number(s) of appliances
During the virtual inspection, the consumer or selling agent would “tour” the appraiser using a smartphone. In real-time, the appraiser can request a closer inspection of specific areas, to validate current condition and quality of the property.
Clearly defining the metrics on process, communication,safety, quality and service are key elements in the success blueprint to create a virtual inspection experience so good that it inspires loyalty and eliminates the opportunity for fraud and reduce the lenders risk
TECH SHOULD ENABLE SAFETY, EXCELLENCE
Technology and product innovation go hand in hand, but the key is where to deploy technology, and how to ensure it enables the service levels that consumers need.
According to a JD Power Customer Satisfaction Survey, the increased implementation of technology has improved borrower satisfaction levels, but consumers still want personal interaction throughout the loan process, including a personal follow-up after an initial inquiry.
The appraisal process benefits from technology at every stage, and emerging technologies drive innovation in everything from product development to communications. Mobile apps have gained traction, connecting appraisers with an efficient process with scheduling, real-time collaboration,status updates, information and frequent notifications. Ordering an appraisal via an app improves efficiency and enhances the mortgage appraisal experience.Apps also serve as an effective means of consumer communication.
Smart AMCs continually innovate as an instrument to attract the best and brightest appraisers in the market. Companies that use outdated technology find themselves at a competitive disadvantage from their value as a service provider, to the consumer experience, and in talent acquisition. Not to mention, millennials raised with advanced technology from an early age expect innovative processes and vision.
Can technology replace people? Not yet. While there are many ways machine learning can help with some tasks, a big part of the consumer experience and accuracy of the valuation is based on people and subjective opinion. This is why the appraiser provides his or her opinion of market value.That coupled with the fact humans can see and understand things that a machine can’t and may never have the ability to learn. Take mold, for example. A machine could mistake mold for paint or wallpaper. Since no two mold infestations are identical in size or shape, a machine can’t “learn” mold.
With that in mind, innovations that fuel communication and connectivity, aid in delivering data and analytics, and develop valuation products that are lower in cost, will lead the pack. By keeping people central to the development goal, everyone wins–the lender, appraiser and consumer.
In today’s market, technology is not a magic bullet, so knowing where to use it and where to wrap in traditional forms of one-on-one support is key. People remain an important part of the process.
As we begin to settle into our “new normal,” it will be the innovators who thrive … those who will find a way to get the job done.