Reverse mortgage sub-service Celink announced this week the new availability of an option for reverse mortgage borrowers to sign their annual occupancy checks online. Celink claims that the online options offer increased security over the traditional mail-based process and comply with all relevant existing regulations.
The launch of this new feature comes nearly a year after the initial launch of Celink’s new online borrower portal, and just after the announcement that Celink had won the Department’s Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) service contract. American housing and urban planning. Development (HUD).
To get a better idea of what a digital e-signature option could mean for existing reverse mortgage borrowers, RMD contacted Celink and received responses from a group of company employees, including the relationship manager. with Customer and Industry Ryan LaRose, Director of Information Officer Sergey Dyakin and Senior Vice President of Customer Satisfaction Gail Balettie.
Development and potential impact on borrowers
The feature has been in development for a while now, Celink explained, on a schedule consistent with the online portal’s initial launch.
“We started laying the groundwork for the eSign implementation and designing the actual functionality in the first half of 2021,” the representatives explain. “We started the development phase in December 2021 and it was completed in February 2022.”
The ability to dramatically expand ease of use and engagement with a required reverse mortgage bond should help make a difference for borrowers,
“E-sign greatly simplifies the effort required by our borrowers to fulfill their annual occupancy certification requirement,” the group states. “They don’t have to look for the form in the mail once a year, sign it, and send the paper back (and wait 3-7 days for the postal service to deliver it). They can now certify their occupation of the property in a few clicks, securely online.
The group goes on to say that borrowers will receive email reminders indicating when it is time to submit their certificate of occupancy and once they log in to the Celink portal website, a banner will appear on the destination informing them of the electronic submission option.
Many Americans are simply more accustomed to doing their financial affairs online, and expanding this functionality into the reverse mortgage space was a natural step. That’s according to Marion McDougall, CEO of Celink.
“Many senior borrowers are used to the convenience of managing their financial accounts online. We built the portal to provide real-time access to important information about their loans,” McDougall said. “With the portal, we have also improved the security of communications. Our technology investments aim to improve the lives of borrowers and increase their satisfaction.
Regulations, additional features under study
One of the things that some players in the reverse mortgage industry have said about their willingness and ability to offer additional services online is that a series of legal requirements prevent them from doing so. With this feature, however, Celink complies with applicable regulations and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines, according to the group of employees who responded to RMD’s inquiries.
“Celink developed this feature in compliance with the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign Act) and HUD Mortgage Letter 2014-03,” the group explains. “In addition, we have proactively notified HUD’s National Service Center, outlining the process and providing a sample form that will be included in future HUD assignment packages for loans where a borrower has chosen to certify their occupancy. electronically.”
ML 2014-03 was released in January 2014 in an effort to “modernize” agency processes, according to statements by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) at the time. Through the letter, the FHA granted lenders the authority to accept more mortgage documents containing electronic signatures rather than physical documents signed in pen and ink.
This authority has extended to electronic signatures for origination, service, and loss mitigation documents; in addition to FHA insurance claims, REP sales contracts and other related addenda, according to the FHA. The decision at the time was made to help the agency align with increasingly common lending practices, according to FHA Commissioner Carol Galante.
The E-Sign Act was passed by the US Congress in June 2000 and signed into law that month by President Bill Clinton, and helped officially recognize electronic signatures as a legitimate process in certain transactions.
When asked if Celink plans to explore creating digital options for other reverse mortgage processes, the group hinted at the possibility in the future, but declined to detail what those processes could be.
“We believe reverse borrowers are becoming more digitally savvy,” they said. “Our plan is to continue to introduce new features that will provide an enhanced experience for our customers’ borrowers.”
Potential new efficiencies for Celink, industry
RMD also asked what the company would like to see explored in the future.
“While not directly tied to our borrower portal, Celink would like to see more application interface opportunities with HUD’s HERMIT system,” the group explains. “Creating the ability to electronically interface with HERMIT would greatly improve the efficiency and quality of the work we do for our customers and HUD.”
The Home Equity Reverse Mortgage Information Technology (HERMIT) system was spear by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in October 2012 after a long development cycle. Its creation was intended to improve the processes associated with the approval of HECMs, as well as the handling of services and complaints within HUD.
HERMIT was developed under contract with Reverse Mortgage Solutions (RMS), which partnered with QSSI to create a service provider platform. Reverse Technology Group (RTG) acquired the software in early 2017.
The development of additional digital processes will be a much needed practice for the future of the reverse mortgage industry, Celink added.
“We believe it is important to continue to develop our portal to offer borrowers the possibility of managing their accounts online in complete security”, explains the group. “We have conducted borrower-friendliness studies with real reverse mortgage borrowers and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with users finding the portal very user-friendly and easy to navigate. This direct interaction with borrowers allows us to better plan future enhancements and customize the portal to the needs of our population. Overall, we are very pleased to be able to offer this new functionality to our clients’ borrowers.