Overheard last night in Northern California: “’The Empire Strips Back’” is the best parody show I’ve ever seen.” I only mention that because life goes on despite a drop in confidence in parts of the banking system, mortgage rates being sticky, and our industry continuing to grapple with over-capacity. Let’s not forget inflation, sometimes from surprising sources. Recently we saw egg prices skyrocket due to a flue wiping out large numbers of laying chickens. Now, in time for Easter, strawberries, a $3 billion business in California and a staple in many fruit salads, have had torrential rains jeopardize the harvest in much of the state. Many strawberry fields in California are now underwater. There are 40,000 acres of strawberries planted in the state, and it accounts for about 90 percent of U.S. production. The damage is likely to wipe out some acreage (it costs $30,000 to grow an acre of strawberries) and will likely cause further increases in the price for consumers. A 12-ounce package of strawberries goes for $3.17, already rather high following an 8.7 percent price jump last year and a 41 percent increase in 2021. (Today’s podcast can be found here and this week is sponsored by Black Knight, Inc. As a premier provider of innovative, high-performance software, data and analytics for mortgage and home equity lending and servicing, Black Knight, Inc. is transforming the mortgage industry through its best in class solutions. Hear an interview with Jay Beitel of Polunsky Beitel Green on the upcoming Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) case before the Supreme Court of the U.S.)

Lender and Broker Services, Products, and Software

MGIC’s cash flow worksheets for tax year 2022 are now available! Self-employed borrowers? No sweat. MGIC’s editable worksheets help you analyze cash flow, liquidity, rental income, and comparative income easily and accurately. And best of all, they’re auto-calculating! Download your worksheets.

It’s that time of year again when we all get tricked by “false spring,” those earlier-than-usual, short-lived bursts of warm weather before the chill comes right back to remind us winter isn’t over. But the cold months never bother lenders on the Empower® loan origination system. Empower, Black Knight’s LOS, helps keep loan pipelines from freezing over, even when origination volumes cool off, thanks to its advanced “lights out” automation and integrated ecosystem of digital solutions. Empower puts you back in control of the lending process with a cloud-based platform featuring time-saving capabilities like online point-of-sale and document management tools designed to speed up the loan application and loan origination process. Empower supports retail, consumer-direct, home equity, correspondent, wholesale, and assumption channels, all on a single system. Schedule a demo with Black Knight today to learn how Empower can help heat up your business.

Testimonial after testimonial tells the story. Service First (S1) is the premier credit reporting agency for the mortgage industry. High or low interest rates; we post the industry’s best turn-times for verifications and credit supplements, and we prove it. Our affiliate NCS is the nation’s premier income, employment, and ID verification provider. Instant IRS transcripts; yep, they’re ready! S1 is prepared if the IVES (4506-C) turn-time degrades or fails. In 2023, we’re investing nearly a quarter million dollars in a single, restful integration adding speed and accuracy for your income verification needs. Never stagnant and always ready, just like our clients. Let’s get started. Contact S1 for your custom proposal.”

“How can you gain certainty in such uncertain times? OptiFunder can help. You can be confident we will deliver savings: we offer a back test of your data to demonstrate how much our AI-based warehouse allocation decisions would save over your past decisions. And you can be certain of our operational savings; we automate tasks from funding through loan sale. Our clients reduce funding tasks to a couple clicks and save 15 minutes per Purchase Advice with Purchase Advice automation (including retrieval, reconciliation and write back). Plus, integrated partner data enables real-time actual, projected & historical warehouse expense analytics. View our client testimonials, then contact us for a demo to start your savings journey with OptiFunder.”

Want to add a new revenue stream while delivering value for borrowers? Matic, a home insurance platform built for the mortgage industry, automates personalized insurance offers to your borrowers from 40+ carriers like Progressive, Nationwide, Travelers and more, all within your existing systems. Borrowers save over $600 on average, and you’ll rest easy knowing the insurance process is fully automated. Interested in joining other top lenders and servicers who use Matic to automate insurance and generate revenue? Book a quick demo with our team of mortgage experts to learn more about partnerships.

Save money and improve client satisfaction with Capacity. Save your team hours with the only AI-powered helpdesk designed to deflect 90 percent of repetitive questions. Need to check loan status or an FHA guideline? Capacity can pull it for you, putting answers and files at your fingertips instantly. Shorten your handle and resolution times, and watch your CSAT skyrocket. Click here to book a 15-minute chat, and let’s explore how you can do your best work using Capacity.

Have you seen this company in the news recently? Usherpa recently won the HousingWire Tech 100 Award for Mortgage and Real Estate, and they are celebrating their 15-year anniversary this year. If you don’t know Usherpa’s story, it’s a good one. You can find the story on the Usherpa blog. Usherpa was born from the heat of the financial crisis in 2008, so it truly is an organization that was “Born in a Branch; Forged in a Meltdown.” For the past 15 years, Usherpa has been serving LOs across the country, ultimately growing into the largest privately held CRM company in the real estate and mortgage industries. Learn more here.

Upcoming Events, Training, and Webinars

Expert Insights: “What Lies Ahead in the Spring Housing Market.” Rick Sharga, Founder & CEO of the CJ Patrick Company, will be hosting a webinar on Tuesday, March 28th , at 1 PM EST. As we approach the spring of 2023, try to stay ahead of the real estate curve with this exclusive webinar hosted by Rick Sharga from CJ Patrick Company. With decades of experience in the real estate industry, Rick is a sought-after expert on market trends and an authority on forecasting prices in the coming year and beyond. Now, you can get his predictions for what lies ahead with this look into conditions in the real estate market for 2023. Don't miss out on gathering invaluable intel regarding where, when and why to invest your money this spring. Register today!

Before I forget, a list of upcoming conferences and events can be found here under the “Conferences” tab.

Tomorrow, Thursday, March 23rd, at 11 AM PST is the Mortgage Quality and Compliance Webinar featuring Scott Weintraub and James Brody hosted by the California MBA. Listen to insights on how to optimize loan quality and navigate the next wave of buybacks, discover how Quality Control should be treated as a business intelligence tool to grow your profits, the necessity of creating quality loans in a down market, and the most recent Fannie Mae Pre-Funding and Post-Closing QC changes.

Join the Mortgage Bankers Association and the Home Builders Association on Thursday, March 23rd from 11:30 - 1:30 pm to present a variety of perspectives on the home building industry in the St. Louis region. Hear from home builders of all sizes, a land development professional and the EVP of the Home Builders Association of St. Louis. Each will share their insight on market dynamics for new home builds, supply chain issues impacting the market, and home building trends they see impacting the market in the short and long term.

This Friday the 24th at noon PT is the next edition of The Mortgage Collaborative’s Rundown with Tom Gallucci, me, and Fairway Independent LO Guy Schwartz. We’ll be covering current events in the mortgage market for 30 minutes starting at noon PT in “The Rundown”!

Find out how the recent bank failures are impacting rates, Join MMLA’s Lunch & Learn Webinar on Wednesday, March 22, 12:00 - 1:00 P.M. Learn how the secondary market function works to develop pricing for various products from investor sources, as well as lender portfolios. Included will be the overlays of industry regulations from the federal as well as state and local governments. Then hear how it all ties in to the current economic conditions.

Register for the GRCIQ webinar, Analyzing personal financial statements, scheduled for Friday, March 31, at 10:00 AM PDT, 1:00 PM EDT. Speaker David Sawyer will guide participants to effectively analyze borrowers’ personal financial statements.

Capital Markets

Rates rose again yesterday ahead of today's release of the March FOMC Statement. The move was driven by coordinated actions to restore order to the banking system. The market’s so-called fear barometer, or VIX, fell drastically yesterday. We also learned yesterday that U.S. sales of previously owned homes rose in February by the most since mid-2020, snapping a record year-long slide resulting from rising interest rates and affordability constraints.

Residential lenders were interested in the latest mortgage applications from the Mortgage Bankers Association, released this morning. After mortgage rates declined for the second consecutive week, driven by uncertainty over the health of the banking sector and worries about the broader impact on the economy, mortgage applications increased 3.0 percent from one week earlier, according to data from MBA’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey.

Today has no other scheduled economic news, but brings the latest decision from the Federal Open Market Committee where another 25 basis points hike to bring the fed funds rate range to 4.75 percent to 5.00 percent is expected, despite the recent bank-related market volatility. The Statement, and the Summary Economic Projections, are due for release in the afternoon, followed by Fed Chair Powell’s press conference. Before the Fed, and of particular interest to the MBS market, We begin Wednesday with the 2-year at 4.20 percent, Agency MBS prices unchanged from Tuesday evening, and the 10-year unchanged, yielding 3.61 percent.


Time for a career upgrade? Embrace Home Loans, a well-capitalized, privately held national lender, is hiring loan officers nationwide. The company is known for really rolling out the “Orange Carpet” for new hires and makes transitioning a breeze by flying new loan officers to its corporate headquarters in Rhode Island, where they receive VIP treatment and participate in three days of corporate training. Embrace takes care of all the required licensing, too. Why? “We’re like family, which means we support everyone professionally and personally,” says Jason Will, SVP of market growth. “Our loan officers receive everything they need to succeed, including best-in-class technology and top-notch marketing support.” Add to that competitive compensation, great benefits, paid volunteer hours, wellness programs, and much more, and it’s easy to see why Embrace consistently earns best places to work awards, both locally and nationally. Sound like a perfect fit? Contact Jason Will.

Evergreen Home Loans™ believes that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. In addition to an efficient technology stack and robust portfolio of innovative products, the company is embracing one of its core convictions of growth by providing leadership and production coaching to its branch managers and loan officers. "Now is the time to double down on our family of associates and invest in our people,” said Don Zender, President of Production. "We want our loan officers to be engaged and energized to work on their business, not just be in the business, and we're already seeing the results!" If you're a loan officer looking for a company that will support you when the going gets tough, visit the Evergreen Careers page.

“The flowers and trees aren’t the only things growing this Spring. At AFR Wholesale®, we are looking to expand our Account Executive teams for both our Wholesale and Correspondent Divisions! During the winter, we have been streamlining procedures, developing more communication channels, and overall speeding up our loan processes. Now we need more hands-on deck to join our family! We like to offer a close community that feels like home to thrive and make dreams become a reality. We are looking for experienced candidates because at AFR, we recognize that some scenarios can be challenging, and we want to provide a home for all possible circumstances. That is why we do what we do. At the end of the day, it’s about being proud we made it possible to turn a house into a home. AFR is an equal opportunity employer. Contact AFR, email us or call 1-800-375-6071.”

AmWest Funding Corp, one of the nation's leaders in Non-QM lending, is looking for Delegated Correspondent Account Executives to join our team! AmWest Funding is thrilled to feature its array of Non-QM programs, including VOE/P&L, Asset Qualification, Bank Statement, One Year Tax Return, and DSCR programs to a broader clientele. Here at AmWest Funding, we have been setting the bar high in mortgage lending since 2016. Our team is passionate about providing our lenders (or business partners) with competitive pricing and an expansive array of products that allow them to excel. If you are looking for an experienced lender to help you expand your territory and further diversify your product offerings with excellent service and turn times, join us today! Contact us or visit our website for more career opportunities.”