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Mortgage Lenders Use Tech And Local Ties to Grow National Footprints

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While rising mortgage rates have prompted some of the biggest names in home lending to downsize as their refinancing business dries up, some smaller lenders, who are focused on providing purchase loans to homebuyers, have been using technology and local connections to grow their business.

Atlanta-based direct mortgage lender Silverton Mortgage, for example, continues to expand its national footprint, adding new branches in the Carolinas, Arkansas and Missouri over the past year.

Silverton Mortgage is the “doing business as” name of Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance Inc. The company is licensed in 45 states and sponsors 277 mortgage loan originators working out of 46 branch locations, according to the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry. The only states where Silverton is not yet licensed are Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York and Wisconsin.

The company announced Friday that it was opening three new offices in the Carolinas — in Charleston and Greer, South Carolina and Apex, North Carolina.

Josh Moffitt

“Given the current market challenges, we know there is value in being able to talk face-to-face (or mask-to-mask) with someone when you’re making a big purchase, like a home,” said Silverton Mortgage founder and President Josh Moffit, in a statement. “Communication is a priority for Silverton and having locally based loan originators is key to helping people feel more comfortable throughout the purchasing process.”

In December, the company announced the opening of two new offices in Arkansas and it opened a new Kansas City, Missouri office last summer as part of a partnership with homebuilder clover & hive.

Last year, Silverton Mortgage began offering hybrid e-closings using Remote Online Notarization (RON) capabilities provided by the digital closing platform Snapdocs.

“We’ve successfully closed more than 1,000 loans with a hybrid e-closing since our beta launch in April, and we’ve received so many positive reviews from our customers who have been able to take advantage of the program,” Moffitt said in November when the company rolled out the program company-wide. “The new process gives our borrowers (and their agents) time back in their day to focus on what’s most important: their dream home.”

Hometown Lenders has opened 18 branches in 2022

Huntsville, Alabama-based Hometown Lenders has opened 18 new branches so far this year as it continues to pursue a strategic national expansion. After opening 14 branches in the first five months of 2022, on Aug. 4, Hometown Lenders announced four new branch offices in Florida, Ohio, Oregon and Washington.

The company sponsors 585 mortgage loan originators, who work out of 125 branch locations in more than 40 states under trade names including 1st Family Mortgage Company, Bryte Home Loans, Hometown Texas, My City Mortgage, Southtown Mortgage, The Conley Group, Tila Mortgage, Total Choice Mortgage and Waymaker Mortgage, according to the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System.

Hometown Lenders is a client of SimpleNexus, the developer of a homeownership platform for loan officers, borrowers, real estate agents and settlement agents. In March, SimpleNexus chose Hometown Lenders as the recipient of its annual Capstone Enterprise Award, which honors enterprise lenders using the company’s homeownership platform “to dominate the residential mortgage market.”

Andria Lightfoot

“Hometown Lenders is a model for how enterprise lenders can maximize their success and achieve astonishing growth with a great team and great technology all pulling in the same direction,” said SimpleNexus Chief Customer Officer Andria Lightfoot, when announcing the award.

Amerant’s move into wholesale

While loanDepot recently announced shutting down its wholesale channel as part of cost-cutting efforts, Florida’s second-largest community bank is expanding its presence in wholesale mortgage lending through its joint venture, Amerant Mortgage LLC. It was launched last year with former City National Bank executives Howard Levine, Tony Eelman, Marshall Martin and Joe Keel.

Amerant Bank employs 146 registered mortgage loan originators, while Amerant Mortgage employs 26 mortgage loan officers and sponsors another three, according to the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry.

The growing role of technology

Automation has become a priority for mortgage lenders as rising interest rates take a toll on their lucrative refinancing business, fueling more intense competition for homebuyers and creating pressure to cut costs.

Maxwell, a technology startup that’s focused on helping small-to-midsize mortgage lenders streamline their processes, raised $52.5 million in additional Series B funding last year and launched a new solution in December, designed to help lenders employ machine learning to accelerate the document review process.

Often, the solutions offered by tech vendors run in the cloud, with Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Salesforce promoting services tailored to help digital mortgage service providers digitize and process mortgage applications and documents.

The nation’s largest mortgage lender, Rocket Mortgage, makes its mortgage origination technology available to financial institutions as an end-to-end “mortgage as service” through the SalesForce Financial Services Cloud.

Banks and credit unions also have the option to “launch, replace, or augment” their lineup of home loans by integrating Rocket Mortgage’s digital mortgage application inside an online banking platform developed by Q2 Holdings Inc.

Rocket and Better growing referrals

But some banks would prefer just to outsource their mortgage lending business entirely, referring customers to a partner lender who handles the entire process.

Santander Bank announced on Aug. 5 that it’s sending customers who are looking to buy homes to Rocket Mortgage, after signing a deal making Rocket the exclusive preferred mortgage provider for the bank’s nearly 2 million customers.

In March, Ally Home, the residential mortgage lending arm of Ally Bank, announced that it would offer home loans to customers nationwide through a partnership with Better Mortgage. Under a pilot program in nine states last year, Ally originated $10.4 billion in mortgages through its “powered by Better” direct-to-consumer channel.

Ally is an investor in Better Mortgage parent company, Better HoldCo, which has struggled in recent months with plans to go public through a planned merger with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC.

Launched in 2016, Better’s mortgage lending affiliate Better Mortgage Corp. funded $58 billion in home loans last year. But this year, Better has laid off thousands of employees as rising interest rates have severely curtailed its refinancing business.

Better Mortgage is licensed to make home loans in all 50 states and sponsors 323 mortgage loan originators working out of 11 branch locations, down from 1,444 originators in March, according to the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System and Registry.

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Email Matt Carter

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