Did you receive any SM under the tree this weekend? Call it snail mucus, or snail mucin, it’s all the same to me, which, as a kid, represented a trail to something I could direct the sun’s rays on using my magnifying glass. (Sorry, when you’re a kid on a very limited budget, this counts as amusement.) But times change and now it’s a beauty product? “Next level!” Really? SM aside, Depth’s Kerri Milam reminded me that the key difference between initials and acronyms is that we pronounce acronyms as a word and initials as a list of letters. Put another way, Fannie Mae is an acronym, as is First American Title (FAT), FHA is a set of initials. NASA or ASAP versus MD or DFW. Throw in some numbers and you have… license plates. For those curious, here is a list of vanity license plates rejected by the state of Illinois. Of course, this has nearly nothing to do with mortgages. First American Financial’s customer service woes continue with its cybersecurity failure (more below), but my informal chats recently are still interested in the NAR lawsuit and how it will wind its way through the courts for years. A big question is what will contracts look like for buyer’s agents? (Today’s podcast can be found here, and this week’s is sponsored by Gallus Insights. Mortgage KPIs, automated at your fingertips. Gallus allows you to go from data to actionable insights. If you can use Google, you can use Gallus! Hear an interview with Candor’s Thomas Showalter on the latest in the AI underwriting space.)

Broker and Lender Programs, Software, and Products

How about adding down payment assistance (DPA) to your toolset for 2024? Down Payment Resource, the original keeper of all things DPA, has an extensive database of programs to set your office up with the holiday gift that keeps on giving. With Down Payment Resource, you can reduce declined loans, bring the joy of homeownership to more borrowers, and become a strong contender for referrals and repeat business. To learn more, schedule a demo with the DPR team.

Permissionize revolutionizes servicing retention! Permissionize offers an innovative, cost-effective approach to retaining clients. This cutting-edge technology streamlines retention programs by notifying service providers when borrowers complete a webform, allowing for re-engagement with existing clients before they start the application process. Permissionize constantly monitors for signals, 24/7, whenever a phone number is entered into a webform, enabling you to capitalize on your established business relationships and drive inbound traffic to your call center without requiring opt-ins. This revolutionary technology redefines client retention in the servicing industry. John Lomanno, a seasoned professional in the mortgage industry, states, “We are transforming the servicing industry through automation by providing a cost-effective, extremely reliable way to get in front of your customer when they go online.” Contact us to experience firsthand how our pioneering technology changes everything you thought you knew about servicing retention.

Free eBook: How to Lower Costs, Boost Profitability, and Surge Ahead of the Competition in 2024. Why simply stay alive until ‘25 when you can make more of ‘24? By planning strategically now, you can reduce fixed costs, improve your bottom line, and set the groundwork to win market share as volume begins to improve. Want to learn how? We spoke to senior members of the Maxwell team, each with decades of industry experience, and the result is our new eBook: an actionable guide that will teach you the likely path for rates and volume in 2024, strategies to bulk up your pipeline, why reevaluating your cost structure is vital to achieving profitability, and more. Get your free copy today to inform your 2024 planning: Click here to download Make More Out of ‘24: How to Win Market Share as Your Competition Lags.

First American: This Isn’t the First Cyber Issue

It doesn’t take long for vendor management teams to figure out how much exposure a lender has to certain third-party providers. In this case, First American has been in the proverbial hotseat since last week. There are some who, I’m sure, are thinking about buying stock in First American Financial.

In 2021 we saw, “The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced settled charges against real estate settlement services company First American Financial Corporation for disclosure controls and procedures violations related to a cybersecurity vulnerability that exposed sensitive customer information.”

Last week, ”First American “has experienced a cybersecurity incident. In response, we’ve taken certain systems offline [like the main website above] and working to return to normal business operations as soon as possible.”

Those seeking updates have been pointed to this “non-hacked” site. Word on the street says that First American Financial Corp. cannot estimate how long some of its systems will remain offline after a cybersecurity incident, the company said in a Dec. 22 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

First American touches many millions around the nation, from the early processing of a loan all the way through trailing docs and servicing. For example, Bob Caruso, the CEO of ServiceMac, sent out, “ServiceMac’s affiliated company First American has experienced a cyber security incident. In response, First American has taken certain systems offline and is working to return to normal business operations as soon as possible.

“ServiceMac’s primary data network and systems are separate from First American, have not been impacted, disrupted, breached, or subject to a cyber-security incident. Black Knight’s MSP platform remains fully operational. ServiceMac’s call centers continue to be operational. For customers, payments made by auto-debit from the customer’s designated account, bill paid through a customer’s financial institution, payment by a check sent to the address on the bill and payments made by overnight courier continue to be managed as normal. For those customers wanting to make a one-time payment or set up reoccurring payments, ServicMac’s Customer Service Representatives can handle those requests as usual at no cost to the customer. Customers can contact ServiceMac directly for that service.

“Certain customer and client facing technology features, such as the customer portal/website, the client portal, the IVR and the document management system, which depend on having a DNS that translates a domain name to an IP address, are back to normal operations for our internal team members. Because the outage is limited specifically to our DNS provider, external parties will have limited or no access to our systems like Client Portal, inbound SFTP sites, and Reporting.

“In addition, we are experiencing issues processing external emails. Please continue to communicate directly with your Account Executive and/or their leaders should you need anything. Once our DNS provider is restored, all services will be available to our clients and any of their customers who may have been affected. We will continue to provide updates as available. Should you have any additional questions our team is happy to set up a call with you to walk through together.”

Average Cost of Home Maintenance

Unsurprisingly, initial costs of upkeep were higher for new owners of older homes than for those who had lived in their homes for at least 10 years, according to recently released Census Bureau data. About 61 percent of owners of older homes started a home improvement project between 2019 and 2021, spending a median of $4,100 on all their home improvement projects during that time. Homes built before 1950 made up about 17 percent of homes and their owners spent a median of $1,800 a year on upkeep.

Owners of older homes who had moved in within the past two years tended to spend more on overall upkeep. These new owners spent a median of $3,900 per year, while longtime owners who had lived in older homes for at least 10 years spent about $1,500 annually. About 61 percent of owners of older homes started a home improvement project between 2019 and 2021, spending a median of $4,100 on all their home improvement projects during that time. Median annual spending on maintenance alone was around $540 for owners of older homes. Among owners of older homes, 59 percent of new owners who had moved in within the last two years did interior projects, compared to 46 percent of longtime owners who had lived in the home at least 10 years.

Capital Markets

Are these the best of times for stocks and bonds? Interest rates have been behaving themselves, and U.S. stocks on Friday ended largely higher, extending its amazing bull run to eight straight weeks. Sentiment this week has been boosted by favorable economic data, led by inflation data showing price increases are simmering down. The bond market may be ahead of itself, but, for now, the “smartest guys in the room” are talking about how inflation is in a downward trajectory and the Federal Reserve will lower benchmark interest rates in 2024.

Economic data released over the last week showed the U.S. economy is still expanding. That is despite November’s Leading Economic Index falling 0.5 percent, the 20th consecutive decline and typically a sign that the economy is currently in recession. Consumer spending increased 0.3 percent in November and for the first time in eight months, discretionary purchases surpassed non-discretionary. The spending gain can be attributed to a 0.4 percent rise in real disposable personal income.

Meanwhile, falling mortgage rates boosted existing home sales in November which rose 0.8 percent and snapped a five-month streak of declines. New home sales fell 12.2 percent in November due mostly to a sharp decline in sales in the South region. New home sales were up 1.4 percent on an annual basis. Lower mortgage rates could be a catalyst for a rebound in sales in the new year. And the Fed’s preferred gauge of inflation barely rose last month, and by one measure even trailed the policymaker’s 2 percent target. That marks the first time in three years the Fed has achieved its definition of price stability after waging war on inflation.

U.S. markets return today, and the calendar kicked off with the non-market moving Chicago Fed National Activity Index for November along with Philadelphia Fed non-manufacturing for December. Later today brings October house prices from Case-Shiller and FHA, Dallas Fed Texas manufacturing for December, and a Treasury auction of $57 billion 2-year notes. The rest of the week is light on data, though we do receive December PMI on Friday. We begin the abbreviated trading week with Agency MBS prices unchanged from Friday and the 10-year yielding 3.89 after closing Friday at 3.90 percent.


“Citizens has garnered attention for its clear vision, strong leadership, and disciplined execution through challenging market conditions and is looking for talented salespeople (sales managers, loan officers, and more) in Retail throughout the Northeast, MidAtlantic, Midwest, and Florida. Our deep product mix allows us to help with many different loan needs, from affordable loan programs such as HomeReady to a best-in-class one-time close construction to permanent product. Our specialty loan programs such as condo/co-op financing, rate protection programs with extended rate locks, along with an amazing Private Wealth discount value proposition for high net worth banking clients, ensures you have all the tools to win in this challenging market. Contact Carl Minott or visit here. During this holiday season we would like to express gratitude and appreciation to our customers and partners for their continued business this past year. While interest rates may go up and down our commitment to serving customers with their homeownership needs has never wavered. We look forward to serving our communities in even more ways in 2024!”

In the Northwest and California, Banner Bank is searching for Mortgage Loan Officers looking to create lasting Realtor and builder relationships at a bank focused on the market today. Banner has opportunities for lenders looking for local decision making with FHA, VA, USDA, state bond and true Portfolio lending opportunities along with servicing retained Fannie and Freddie loans to assist in client retention. Additional highlighted products cover CRA lending with private label no payment down payment assistance to help assist all borrowers with the right opportunity. Banner is the right fit for an established team, or the individual looking to grow their business and take the next step in their career. Please send resumes to Aaron Miller.