5 Jul

Technology in Mortgages and Real Estate


Posted by: Dean Picketts

Technology in Mortgages and Real Estate

Technology is already playing a huge role in the mortgage industry. In the past, mortgage applications had to be physically taken by hand and faxed in (what’s fax anyways?!)… It may soon by possible, with technology’s help, for borrowers to be able to fill out their own application and send it, along with all supporting documentation, straight to lenders without a mortgage professional’s help – kind of scary.

On the Realtor side, there is DocuSign, Realtor.ca, Zillow, and a host of other technology driven solutions that help Realtors be more efficient in their business. However, just like in mortgages, it’s coming to a point where buyers and sellers may see value in going to discount brokerages such as Redfin.

Let’s first look at the mortgage side.

Quicken Loans’ Rocket Mortgage in the States started out as an online-only mortgage application tool. The promise is faster service, with little headache, and everything done “from the comfort of your own home.”

In Canada, Scotiabank just rolled out their eHOME Mortgage application. RBC has had a Pre-Qualification Application for a year and TD rolled out their Digital Mortgage Application in early 2019.

Our own parent mortgage company, Dominion Lending Centres, brought out their “My Mortgage Toolbox” application for Mortgage Brokers to use, and other Broker houses are fast on the trail. All lenders are trying to capitalize on a Millennial’s and Generation Z’s comfort level with providing their personal information to a computer system.

The promise with all of these digital tools is to make a borrower’s mortgage journey easier, and with how technology is progressing, this digital experience is going to keep getting better and better.

Unfortunately, as with any process change, problems arise…

The first and most glaring issue with the digital mortgage experience is that because mortgages are complex, with timelines to follow and anxiety to manage, borrowers are continually requesting human interaction to answer their questions. Rocket Mortgage’s own website now advertises being able to chat online with a specialist right up front.

Secondly, although digital applications promise speed and ease of use, all mortgage files still have to have “eyes” on an application. We’re not there yet (nor will we be for the foreseeable future) where humans do not have to touch mortgage applications for final approval. This human requirement means that a mortgage file must wait in queue to be approved.

Lastly, if any file has the slightest hiccough and doesn’t conform to exactly what the computer systems need to see, an expert will have to be called in during the process to troubleshoot. As an aside, the “experts” who look at these files are salaried individuals; more on that later.

All-in-all, technology alone is not changing the mortgage market.

On the Realtor side, the biggest issue with using Redfin, or relying too much on technology driven companies, is that the Realtors who work there are most likely going to be sub-par… Yeah, I said it… Just like 1% and 2% real estate companies, if someone is working for half the commission, they are, by nature, not going to be as good or competent as someone who prides themselves on working for their due. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for those 1% and 2% real estate companies (it’s obvious due to them being around) but I believe they are not the best choice for the vast majority of clientele

Additionally, I firmly believe that in life, we get what we pay for. The best advisers and salespeople will gravitate to where they are better compensated. Salaried individuals and discount mortgage and real estate professionals will invariably move to become independent if they are any good. If they are just so-so, bad at their jobs, or are just happy to provide the bare minimum in service, they stay and let someone else hunt for business.

Technology as a Benefit:
There are ways that technology is being used for the benefit of borrowers.

The first is that in our hyper connected world, a borrower’s credit, income, and down payment can all be verified at the touch of a button. Mortgage Brokers can already pull someone’s credit bureau in seconds, and there are also services to allow us to get 3-months of bank statements for down payment verification with a client’s permission. The last step is to have our systems validate income by way of a national employer registry or by other means. In the States, this is done through their IRS and the credit bureau companies and it will come to Canada in the future. All of this means that a borrower can get firm approvals more efficiently (not having to download bank statements, get employment letters, etc.) and it will allow the professionals more time to provide advice and cater to the client’s needs.

The second benefit to borrowers is that the new applications are now able to receive documentation, communicate on application status in real time, and much more, all in one easy-to-use platform. It’s incumbent on the professional to make sure that their technologies and systems are properly integrated to provide a seamless, but better, mortgage experience for their clients.

To recap, technology will be playing a larger and larger role in how mortgages are obtained in the years to come, and in order to thrive in the 2020s, Mortgage Brokers and Realtors are going to have to use technology to the best of their abilities. The marriage between human interaction (building rapport) and providing a seamless experience through leveraging technology should dominate our thinking!

Eitan Pinsky
Dominion Lending Centres – Accredited Mortgage Professional
5 Jul

Following Months of Booming Jobs Growth, Gains Stall in June


Posted by: Dean Picketts

Following Months of Booming Jobs Growth, Gains Stall in June

After a long stretch of stronger-than-expected Canadian jobs growth, it is not surprising that this notoriously volatile data series took a breather. There was little change in the number of employees in both the public and private sectors in June. The Canadian economy shed 2,200 jobs last month as self-employment fell 1.4% and other employment edged up only 0.2%. Despite this slowdown, the economy enjoyed the most robust first-half growth in jobs since 2002.

One positive note in the June report is that full-time jobs were up by 24,100, offsetting a decline in part-time work. Also, wage gains accelerated to the fastest pace in more than a year, with annual pay gains up 3.8% in June compared to 2.8% in May. Another good sign is that total hours worked accelerated to a 1.8% annual-rate gain, up from 1% in May.
The unemployment rate ticked up to a still-low 5.5%, after touching a forty-year low of 5.4% in May.

The recent pace of hiring was unsustainable, so a slowdown was in the cards. The June data, however, does not alter the picture of a red hot labour market driving Canada’s economic rebound. The Bank of Canada has significant reason to resist cutting interest rates when it meets again July 10 and September 4, even if the Federal Reserve decides to ease monetary policy. The Fed’s next decision date is July 30, and it is under continuing pressure from the White House to take rates down a notch.

The Bank will see the strength in wages and hours worked, along with the still low level of unemployment, as plenty of reason to remain on the sidelines. After the dreadful performance last winter, the Canadian economy has bounced back as the central bank predicted. A string of recent reports shows the expansion picked up at the fastest pace since 2017 in March and April. Business and consumer sentiment rose in May and housing activity is improving in most regions. Exports are recovering as trade tensions between Canada and China remain. It appears that the US trade war with China is on hold for now, as the two countries agreed to go back to the bargaining table forestalling a threatened rise in US tariffs on China.


Early Data for June  Housing Mixed

Local real estate boards report that GTA home sales jumped again in June, while home sales fell to a 19-year low in the GVA. This continues a well-established pattern.

GTA sales were up 10% year-over-year last month. New listings fell 0.4%. Buyers started moving off the sidelines in the spring, while new listings remained virtually unchanged, so market conditions have tightened, and price growth has picked up, especially for condos as more affordable housing has outperformed.

In direct contrast, sales in the GVA were down 14.4% year-over-year last month and are a whopping 34.7% below the 10-year average for June according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver–the slowest sales pace for June since 2000. Moreover, the residential benchmark price slipped to $998,700, down from a record high of $1.1 million in May 2018. The benchmark figure, an industry representation of the typical home sold in Greater Vancouver, has declined month-over-month for the 13th consecutive time.
The slowdown in the Greater Vancouver housing market is the result of intentional actions by regulators and government. Provincial actions compounded the January 2018 introduction of the B-20 stress-testing rules, which made it more challenging to qualify for a mortgage. Since February 2018, the provincial government has rolled out tax measures, including a ‘speculation and vacancy tax’ targeted primarily at out-of-province residents who don’t rent their homes. Also, there are new taxes on properties valued at more than $3-million, such as an extra land-transfer tax and an annual surtax. Last year, the province also raised the foreign-buyers tax to 20% from 15% in the Vancouver region while also expanding the tax to other urban BC markets.

Also, the province is about to publish a property ownership registry to reveal the actual owners of all properties to combat money laundering through real estate transactions. Formerly, many properties were registered in the name of numbered companies. As well, the Chinese government is now enforcing capital export limitations and penalizing those who broke these restrictions in the past. The new registry will make these activities far more transparent and could well contribute to the weakness in foreign transactions in BC, where foreigners accounted for a proportionately more significant share of the housing market than in other parts of Canada. The recent turmoil in Hong Kong might change these dynamics, but it is too soon to tell.

Dr. Sherry Cooper

Dr. Sherry Cooper

Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
Sherry is an award-winning authority on finance and economics with over 30 years of bringing economic insights and clarity to Canadians.