At the TMBA’s Secondary Conference in Houston a topic is obviously interest rates and the economy… And the fact that the nation’s interest payment expense now exceeds our defense expense! It’s also a fact that Texas’ business climate is very friendly for companies. The #1 state in the nation for residential lending, California, not so much. Overheard here in the hallway: “California is a blue state wrapped up in red tape.” That said, permit process aside, California gets a lot of flak for its high cost of living, but that is for income tax rather than property tax, as exhibited in “Property Taxes by State in 2024” comparing home and vehicle taxes across the nation. Californians pay the 34th highest annual taxes on homes priced at state median value. New Jersey, Illinois, and Connecticut have the highest annual taxes on homes. Each year, the average American household spends $2,869 on real-estate property taxes plus another $448 for residents of the 26 states with vehicle property taxes. (Found here after 8:30AM ET, this week’s podcast is brought to you by nCino, makers of the nCino Mortgage Suite for the modern mortgage lender. nCino Mortgage Suite's three core products - nCino Mortgage, nCino Incentive Compensation, and nCino Mortgage Analytics - unite the people, systems, and stages of the mortgage process. Interview with SoFi’s Liz Young on the need for Treasury auctions and how supply and demand at those auctions impacts consumer interest rates.)

Lender and Broker Services, Products, and Software

“If you’re heading to ICE Experience, there’s never been a better time to catch up with the Optimal Blue team. Our PPE clients are actively upgrading to the Encompass Partner Connect integration and enjoying new features and benefits. On average, loan officers experience a 60% reduction in the time it takes to request a lock and see it auto-confirmed within Encompass through this upgraded integration. This means users can continue with disclosures and other loan-processing activities faster, which shortens turnaround times and increases efficiencies. If you’re an existing Optimal Blue client and interested in hearing about the other benefits of upgrading, or if you’d like to further discuss your business strategy, consider scheduling a meeting with the Optimal Blue team at our private poolside cabana. We will also be set up at the Optimal Blue booth throughout the event and ready to chat at your leisure. See you in Vegas!”

Compliance Experts Report on 2024 Mortgage Servicing Outlook! Watch the 30-minute webinar that recently launched with ACES’ EVP of Compliance, Amanda Phillips and Reid Herlihy of Ballard Spahr as they discuss the most recent mortgage servicing news, CFPB Supervisory Highlights, and expectations and predictions for 2024 and beyond. Watch the recording.

Guaranteed Rate has chosen Evocalize to enhance the digital marketing capabilities of its mortgage loan officers. Evocalize, renowned for powering leading mortgage and real estate industry tech platforms, is partnering with Guaranteed Rate to revolutionize lead generation and referral partner engagement. Through Evocalize, loan officers can execute targeted digital marketing campaigns across various platforms including Google, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Gmail, and YouTube instantaneously. This collaboration empowers loan officers to leverage local data for lead generation amidst changing regulatory landscapes. Evocalize will leverage real-time data and machine learning algorithms to optimize ad management. Guaranteed Rate anticipates significant benefits from this partnership, including enhanced lead generation, reduced marketing costs, and streamlined compliance efforts, ultimately improving the overall customer experience. Learn more here.

“Welcome to the new AFR Wholesale® (AFR)! Change can be good. Our team has been relentlessly pursuing better execution. This exercise has led to great program enhancements, operational improvements and of course, better pricing. Non-Delegated and Wholesale clients have commented on our aggressive pricing across all programs. Notably our new expanded note rate adjusters in conventional and government. We've also revised pricing for our Down Payment Assistance Program going into purchase season. AFR is dedicated to offering not only competitive rates but also a customer-centric approach, ensuring that you and your borrowers have the tools and options needed for a beneficial experience. Delegated Correspondents have also seen sharper pricing and incredible turn times (under 48 hours). Ensure you're leveraging all AFR benefits by reaching out to our Account Executives, 1-800-375-6071, or explore our enhancements through our Quick Pricer tool. Not a client? Partner with AFR today!

When Al Gore invented the internet, he envisioned a world where borrowers and Realtors could stand in a home, pull out their phones, and update pre-approval letters on demand. Make him proud and check out QuickQual by LenderLogix.

STRATMOR on Lender-Vendor Communication

We in the industry know that there is often a massive disconnect between mortgage lenders and their technology partners, so why isn’t “business relationship therapist” a thing? In STRATMOR Group’s February Insights Report, Senior Advisor Sue Woodard takes on the role of “therapist” to help both lenders and vendors unpack the key areas of disconnect. If you need guidance in breaking down these communication barriers, contact STRATMOR and don’t miss “Step into Our Office: Couples Therapy for Mortgage Lenders and Tech Vendors” for suggestions for both parties and to learn how STRATMOR is already working with technology providers to hear, understand and better respond to the needs of the lending community.

Disaster News

Given that 20-25 percent of the nation’s mortgages come from California, exposed to earthquakes, fires, and flooding, seeing a disaster declared there is worth noting for lenders and servicers alike. FEMA announced that federal disaster assistance has been made available to the state of California to supplement recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe storms and flooding, January 21-23, 2024. The President’s action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in San Diego County.

“Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-interest loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide. Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in the designated areas can begin applying for assistance by registering online at, by calling 1-800-621-3362 or by using the FEMA App.”

But up in Washington we have wildfires: FEMA DR-4759-WA.

On 2/19/2024, with DR-4758, Release Number HQ-24-024, FEMA declared federal disaster aid with individual assistance has been made available to San Diego County California affected by severe storms and flooding from 1/21/2024 to 1/23/2024. See AmeriHome Mortgage Disaster Announcement 20240206-CL for inspection requirements.

On 2/15/2024, with DR-4759, Release Number HQ-25-025, FEMA declared federal disaster aid with individual assistance has been made available to a county affected by wildfires from 8/18/2023 to 8/25/2023. See AmeriHome Mortgage Disaster Announcement 20240208-CL for inspection requirements.

FHA, VA, Ginnie Mae, HECM, and USDA Developments

Ginnie Mae’s mortgage-backed securities (MBS) portfolio outstanding grew to $2.53 trillion in January, including $28.1 billion of total MBS issuance, leading to $10.8 billion of net growth. January’s new MBS issuance supports financing for more than 91,000 households, including more than 46,000 first-time homebuyers. Approximately 77.6 percent of the January MBS issuance reflects new mortgages that support home purchases, because refinance activity remained low due to higher interest rates.

The January issuance includes $27.4 billion of Ginnie Mae II MBS and more than $674 million of Ginnie Mae I MBS, including nearly $558 million in loans for multifamily housing. For the 2024 calendar year to date, Ginnie Mae supported the pooling and securitization of more than 46,000 first-time homebuyer loans. For more information on monthly MBS issuance, unpaid principal balance (UPB), real estate investment conduit (REMIC) monthly issuance, and global market analysis, visit Ginnie Mae Disclosure.

In USDA news, an Unnumbered Letter (UL) dated February 13, 2024, has been issued which increases the appraisal fee to $775 and the conditional commitment fee to $850 under the rural development direct programs. The fee increases are effective March 14, 2024. The increased fees reflect market research for origination appraisals in rural areas and incorporates the average cost of appraisals under the programs’ nationwide contract with the Appraisal Management Companies.

With the current market trends of rising interest rates, the Single-Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program (SFHGLP) Rural Development announced a Stand-Alone MRA ratio waiver; to remove the 55 percent and 31 percent limitations from the requirements in the regulation for the Stand-Alone MRA.

FHA published Frequently Asked Questions, FHA (FAQs), that address inquiries received from stakeholders regarding its final rule, Changes in Branch Office Registration Requirements published in the Federal Register on February 2, 2024. This regulation eliminated the current requirement for lenders and mortgagees to register branch offices where they originate FHA Title I or Title II loans. This new rule, which becomes effective on March 4, 20 is not applicable for those institutions whose fiscal year ended on December 31, 2023, and are required to recertify by March 31, 2024. Recertification fees for those lenders will be calculated based on the number of registered branches as of the last business day of their fiscal year-end certification period. Refer to the rule and accompanying FHA INFO 2024-01 dated February 2, 2024, for information on the rule.

Effectively immediately, AmeriHome is removing the existing $100,000 maximum cash-to-borrower overlay on VA Cash-Out Refinance transactions, to align with VA guidelines. For additional information, see Product Announcement 20240207-CL.

Big news for the “Empire State” of New York! Plaza Home Mortgage excitedly shared that borrowers can now utilize a reverse mortgage for purchasing a home. This is a great option for “buying up” or keeping key cash liquidity vs paying all cash. Plus, FHA now allows borrower concessions up to 6% of the Principal Limit. So, what does that mean for your borrower? When discussing the HECM product, these interested party contributions [or concessions] may include REALTORS®, builders, developers, lenders, and others with an interest in the transaction. Now, interested parties may contribute up to 6% of the sales price toward the borrower’s origination fees, closing costs, prepaid items, and more.

Weary about adding reverse mortgages into your business plan? Although there are lower LTVs caused by the higher rates, keep in mind that the acceleration of equity often offsets all of that. While your senior borrowers may get 47 percent instead of 57 percent LTV, their house may have appreciated $150K or more. Contact Plaza Home Mortgage for more information.

Pennymac Announcement 24-07 provides updates to Government LLPAs effective for all Best-Efforts Commitments taken on or after Friday, February 09, 2024.

The Single-Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program (SFHGLP) announced upcoming revisions to technical Handbook 1-3555, Chapter 12, Property and Appraisal Requirements. Changes are expected to be implemented on April 1, 2024. View USDA Rural Development Bulletin for more information.

Per Pennymac Announcement 24-13, Government LLPAs were updated, effective for all Best-Efforts Commitments taken on or after Friday, February 23, 2024, as follows: Improve values on the ‘Government FICO Price Adjustments’ LLPA Grid.

Capital Markets

There are competing narratives emerging around the strength of the U.S. economy. Weaker consumer spending of late calls into question whether the economy can avoid a recession, consumer confidence has fallen and remains shaky, economic activity pulled back in January as storms and cold weather disrupted day-to-day activity, and markets received a disappointing Durable Orders report yesterday. However, employment has remained resilient, homebuilder confidence has improved, and Treasury auctions this week have not indicated any sort of flight to quality. On balance, the data suggests that the economy should pick up as the weather improves.

Home prices continue to hold steady as demand greatly exceeds supply. The FHFA Housing Price Index rose 0.1 percent month-over-month in December after increasing a revised 0.4 percent in November, while the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index was up 6.1 percent in December after being up 5.4 percent in November. However, local markets are seeing some price easing. Supply and demand may be a greater determinant: Despite high rates, home prices rose 5.1 percent in January, year over year, and while still painfully low, inventory is up 3.1 percent year over year and new listings rose year over year for the fourth straight month.

Today’s economic calendar kicked off with mortgage applications from MBA decreasing 5.6 percent from one week earlier. Later today brings the second look at Q4 GDP and January advanced indicators: the goods trade deficit, retail inventories, and wholesale inventories. Three Fed speakers are currently scheduled: Atlanta President Bostic, Boston President Collins, and New York President Williams. We begin the day (an early travel day for me) with Agency MBS prices, the 10-year yielding 4.28 after closing yesterday at 4.32 percent, and the 2-year at 4.67.

Jobs and Transitions

Looking to expand in CA or NV? Licensing in both states is now taking nearly a year. Opportunity for immediate licensing in either or both states. New established small Mini-Corr/Broker shop located in Northern NV for sale. The operation was established by an industry veteran with two immediate family members. Some circumstances with the family have changed and the principal believes it would be better to continue forward becoming a part of a larger entity. The company is licensed in NV, CO, TX, FL, and CA; banking license should be completed within 6 – 8 weeks. If interested, please contact Chrisman LLC’s Anjelica Nixt to forward your note to the owner.

Movement is providing its loan officers, and the agents they work with, a unique way to highlight their impact. Powered by the company’s new proprietary sales and marketing tool MORE, every Movement LO and the agents they closed loans with in 2023 recently received a personalized “Highlight Reel,” featuring an email, web page, and social media content showcasing the work they did together last year and how that work impacted their respective communities. Movement has also released its annual Impact Report, which also looks back on the previous 12 months. Check out all the ways Movement helps its loan officers stand out with unique storytelling, content, technology, and yes, MORE, at

New American Funding is pleased to announce the addition of industry leader Mosi Gatling as SVP Strategic Growth and Expansion. Gatling is renowned for her expertise in serving previously underserved communities and her commitment to increasing Black homeownership in the U.S. and will help to reshape the industry's approach towards minority communities and effect positive change across the mortgage industry.