Most of the time it’s pretty easy for a professional mortgage planner to recommend a suitable mortgage–but not always. Many borrowers have circumstances that don’t fit the typical mold. Plus, there are sometimes dozens of different mortgage options to choose from.
Unless the broker is content with limiting themselves to a few key lenders, it’s often necessary to painstakingly comb through product sheets, insurer guidelines, and email updates, or play phone tag with your lender rep, to learn which mortgage is best for a client.
Enter Mortgage Mentor
Mortgage Mentor is essentially an easy-to-use mortgage database. It lets you screen multiple products in just a few clicks to find ones that match your client’s needs.
The product was developed by a former broker, Rick Robertson and has been in development for quite some time. Mortgage Mentor first launched commercially a few years ago when a major national brokerage firm agreed to beta test it. 650 brokers used the software for one year to help work out the kinks. A few weeks ago the product was released to brokers nationwide.
The Test Drive
We had an opportunity to give Mortgage Mentor a whirl this past weekend. It was surprisingly intuitive and took just a few minutes to learn. It’s basically a really big souped-up spreadsheet.
To use it, you simply click on a column header (like “Max LTV”) and select a number (e.g. “95%”). In this example, Mortgage mentor would then display all products with a loan-to-value of 95%.
You can also display results that are “greater than” or “less than” a certain number—for example, “greater than” 80% loan to value.
Currently, Mortgage Mentor compiles data on three mortgage categories: adjustable rate mortgages, non-income qualifier mortgages, and lines of credit. In coming months, Robertson plans to add data on rental products and “alternative lending solutions” as well.
Mortgage Mentor comes with several handy features. For example, brokers can read and compare the “advantages” of each product in one concise column.
You can also do things like compare underwriting standards among products (e.g. whether an NOA is required for a particular non-income qualifying mortgage).
Sometimes, however, numbers alone don’t fully explain a lender’s policies. So Mortgage Mentor includes over 3000 lines of “notes.” The notes tell you all kinds of things, like the minimum credit score required to qualify for a given interest rate.
One thing Mortgage Mentor does not do is display current rates. It might be a feature that never comes. Some lenders just aren’t keen on the idea of being rate-shopped so easily.
Under the Hood
To run Mortgage Mentor you’ll need Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Excel. The company says Vista compatibility is coming soon.
You also need an Internet connection to install it and update the data—although you don’t need the Internet to use Mortgage Mentor day-to-day. Since there’s no frequent downloading, the program is pretty fast.
As for the actual data, product information and policies are updated at least once a week. The data is taken from lender bulletins, meetings with lender reps, and input from Mortgage Mentor users.
Unlike its prior online competitors who charged lenders for redistributing their product information, Mortgage Mentor is a subscription-based product paid for by its broker users. The subscription cost is $29.95 a month plus a one-time setup charge. The price isn’t an insurmountable obstacle though, assuming the product saves you time.
The biggest success determinant of a product like Mortgage Mentor is actually the data quality. Its earlier competitors–which are now out of business or on hiatus–failed largely because their data was unreliable. By contrast, Mortgage Mentor characterizes its data as “highly accurate,” and based on our initial use, we’d generally agree. Nonetheless, no database is ever perfect, so users should always confirm key terms before making promises to their clients.
A Wish List
Among the things we’d like to see in the program is information on fixed rate mortgages. For now, however, the company feels its variable-rate mortgage screener is a good substitute. To some degree that’s true because variables and fixed-rate mortgages often share similar guidelines. Yet, there are still some fixed-rate products that are unique from their variable-rate cousins.
Another feature we’d love to see is multiple dependent variable screening. For example, currently you can tell the software to display all products that offer 100% financing and all products that allow Beacon scores over 600. However, you cannot tell the software to only display products that allow 100% financing GIVEN a 600 Beacon score. As a result, users sometimes have to further research the results to match them up with a client’s needs.
That said, Mortgage Mentor’s notes can often make this process easier.
Overall, we liked Mortgage Mentor. It’s a useful and evolving product. It’s easy to foresee how this software could save brokers time (especially new brokers). It’s also quite helpful for uncovering products one might not have considered
In short, if the company can ensure its data quality is near-flawless, Mortgage Mentor will likely build a large number of happy subscribers.
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