Severely impacted by a global pandemic, 2020 has been…unprecedented. At a loss to describe the scale of disruption caused by the novel coronavirus, America has used that adjective to describe everything from supply chain stress and unemployment to the severity of the health crisis. Even the use of the word unprecedented has become, well, unprecedented.
If we look beyond the “what’s next?” train of bad news that plowed through the passing months, we also saw some unprecedented good: unprecedented early voting, unprecedented activism, unprecedented kindness and community, and…unprecedented PROGRESS.
Out of change comes opportunity, and the pandemic certainly created a vast amount of change…for our families, and specifically, our industry.
We all had to adapt our businesses quickly to meet the new challenges. You may have started out the pandemic in flux, figuring out what you had to do to simply survive, which heavily depended upon navigating ever-changing program guidelines and processes. You may have also used downtime, or whenever you had time, to work on your systems and your databases. That said, not only did you make it through, you quickly shifted gears and figured out how to thrive!
In addition to changes in business protocols and processes, many recognized a shift in mindset was also needed. We have learned that you can’t always control what happens, but you can control how you react to it. As an industry, we have decided to focus on helping families and taking care of our communities.
This has always been a relationship business, and when you cannot meet face-to-face, the phone and video chat are the most powerful tools we have. Many of us not only embraced different ways of communicating and staying connected, but we also empowered our communities in new ways, from podcasts and livestreams, to Facebook live panels and virtual events. New interactive online training was also developed amidst social distancing and shared with the world to educate the next generation of mortgage professionals.
Today, our business is all about efficiency and we realize we can’t run our operations like we used to. It’s not just higher loan volumes; origination teams can be far more productive working remotely, an idea that’s now evolved from a ‘pandemic survival tactic’ to a long-term operational advantage. The highest producing teams are the ones with strong relationships powered by the most efficient, automated, integrated workflows.
Electronic asset verification has made its way into the world of mortgage lending. Lenders are moving away from traditional credit scoring and toward ATP scores fueled by direct-source data.
Lenders, vendors, title companies, and even GSEs have made virtual progress, at lightning speed. With remote online notarizations and virtual closings, the industry compressed years of technological changes into six months, as demanded by our collective quarantine.
With the housing market’s combination of high demand, low rates, increased buying power and low inventory, the need to streamline and digitize the mortgage process to maximize loan production has arguably never been more important. Application, underwriting, production, settlement, closing, and post-closing all represented both unique challenges and opportunities for optimization.
Each quarter has been very strong for originations, even record-breaking, in many cases.
The Housing Market Index (HMI) jointly maintained by Wells Fargo and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) rose again in November, reaching yet another new record high. In fact, this was the third straight month of all-time highs for the index.
With the housing market’s strength enduring the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) even made upward revisions to its projected originations. Given the robust sales pace and historically low rates leading to a wave of buyer demand, the MBA now expects $1.59 trillion in purchase originations next year. If realized, that would be a record high, surpassing the previous peak set in 2005.
What we’ve seen more than anything during this unprecedented year of crisis, is that out of change comes community. Our perspectives on time and community have changed and changed for good — permanently and positively.
Our industry has proven that we truly are all in this together…and capable of achieving unprecedented progress.
Photography by [Sergey Tinyakov] © Shutterstock.com