Monday, February 28, 2011

Do You Need to Take Continuing Education Courses This Year?

Are you aware that loan originators will need to take at least eight (8) hours of continuing education this year? That’s right, the SAFE Act doesn’t just require the twenty (20) hours of pre-licensing education. Now that you are licensed, you need to take continuing education every year.

The Safe Act requirements are that you take 3 hours of federal law and regulation, 2 hours of ethics, including mortgage fraud, consumer protection, and fair lending issues, 2 hours of training regarding nontraditional mortgage products, and 1 hour of unspecified mortgage origination training. In addition to these requirements, some states also require state-specific hours. This means that if you are licensed in a state that requires state-specific education hours, you will be taking more than eight (8) hours of continuing education.

You must take these hours from an NMLS-approved provider and you cannot take the same courses year after year. Moreover, the courses that you take must be approved for continuing education as opposed to pre-licensing education. Since continuing education is required each year before your license can be renewed, you may want to think about scheduling your continuing education hours. You do not have to take all of your courses at once so think about scheduling courses when your office is traditionally less busy. You do not want to be taking your continuing education at the last minute when you need to renew your license.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What Are You Doing Differently To Stay In Business?

The number of licensed mortgage brokers, lenders, and loan officers is a fraction of what it was five (5) years ago. If you are still working in the mortgage industry, you are serious about your business. But, the industry has changed and is still changing. What worked in the past is not a viable business model anymore. You are (hopefully) doing things differently to stay in business. Do you have a strategic plan for surviving and then growing your business? Can you afford not to?

There is a lot more regulation about licensing. Every state requires that mortgage brokers, lenders and loan officers be licensed. The exceptions to licensing that used to exist if you did only a few loans in a state are largely gone. So, what are you doing to ensure that your new loan officers get licensed?

Fraud played a large enough part in the mortgage meltdown to push states to enact new laws and regulations that require licensees to create fraud prevention programs. What have you done to ensure that your employees are complying with your procedures?

The number of new loan applications is down sharply from even the start of the housing bubble. Do you have a plan that you are following to get a steady stream of real estate agent referrals, other referral partners, past and present customers, and internet leads? Do you track from where you are getting your leads so you can do more of those actions? Do you know which marketing strategies are not working enough to justify spending much time on them?

Are you training your staff so that they know what your vision of your business is and how you want them to implement that vision? In addition to the required continuing education, do you offer in-house education on new laws, new products, the best ways to get iffy borrowers approved for their loans? Those loan officers who are still in the business want to work for the best companies.

Borrowers want their loans approved faster and want to close their loans more conveniently. Is your technology able to provide your customers with the best loan application experience? Do your employees also add to the loan application process or are your borrowers ready to complain to their friends, family, and state regulators how much of a hassle working with your company was? Do you even survey your customers to know what they liked about working with you and what they hated about their loan application process?

What the industry will look like in the next five (5) years is only everyone’s guess. To stay in business, you need to adapt your procedures, work with the current regulatory environment, and use it to your advantage, wherever possible. Make a plan to use the best ideas out there and then keep testing to see what works.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What To Do When You Don’t Want to Originate From a State Anymore

Are you one of the many mortgage brokers or lenders who applied for numerous state licenses during the housing boom and now you wonder why you are still paying for the licenses and the additional costs associates with those licenses? I’ve counseled all of my clients that at least once a year, they should compare how much they earn from each state against how much each state’s license costs them. Included in the calculations are the costs of the licenses, the filing fee for the annual report to the state’s Secretary of State Corporations Division, the cost of the surety bond, and the payment to the company who acts as your registered agent. If there hasn’t been much origination activity lately, you may decide that it’s not worth the expense of the license and the hassle of keeping the license. What do you do when you decide you want to give up a license?

You can decide to do nothing until renewal season. At that point, you can simply not renew your license. If you choose this course of action, you must comply with all license requirements, even if you do not originate any loans for the entire year.

If you don’t want to wait until the license expires on December 31st, you need to find out the requirements for each state where you want to surrender your license. Some states require prior notice of your surrender of a license. Other states require notice within a certain number of days after you decide to surrender the license. What is the notice that is required? You go to your MU1 record on the NMLS and indicate that you wish to surrender your license in a particular state.

After you change your MU1 record, you may need to take additional action. Some states require a final Annual Report to be filed within a specified number of days after surrender. Other states may have additional forms that you need to submit. If you have branch offices licensed in the state whose license you are surrendering, you must surrender the branch license as well as the company license.

After the state has accepted the surrender of your license, then you can cancel your surety bond and registered agent. Don’t forget to file a Certificate of Withdrawal of your Certificate of Authority to Transact Business as a Foreign Corporation/LLC. Some states charge annual fees if you haven’t withdrawn, regardless of whether you are conducting business in that state or not.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Is There a Specific Order For Completing the Licensing Requirements for a Loan Originator?

I’ve been receiving phone calls and emails from people who want to get licensed as mortgage loan originators (usually known as loan officers). One of their questions is whether there is a required order in which to complete the various requirements that must be satisfied in order to get your loan officer license. There is no required order but certain requirements should be completed before other requirements. You should familiarize yourself with all of the requirements before you even start of the process of licensing.

The licensing laws of each state contain certain disqualifiers to licensing. If you have one of the disqualifiers, you should not even start the licensing process. If you have a dishonesty criminal conviction in your past, no matter how good a citizen you have been since you have been convicted, you will not be approved for a license. A dishonesty crime is theft, embezzlement, fraud, perjury, passing bad checks, among others. These types of crimes are total disqualifiers. If you have a criminal conviction within the past seven (7) years, you are disqualified from licensing. A very bad credit report is not an automatic disqualifier, depending upon the reasons for the bad credit. Were you unemployed for several months and had no income to pay your bills? Or did you declare bankruptcy because you had so much consumer debt due to purchases of lots of “stuff” that you were overwhelmed with bills? Depending upon the circumstances of your bad credit items, you may still get approved for your license.

Assuming you have no automatic disqualifiers, you need to create an MU4 record in the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) database. The creation of your record gives you an NMLS number that you will keep throughout your life. In the mortgage broker/lender world, your NMLS number is your identifier the same way your social security number is your identifier elsewhere.

After you get your NMLS number, you start to complete the licensing requirements: taking pre-licensing education, passing the state and national tests, sending your authorization so that your state regulators can pull your credit report, and getting your background check done. There is no required sequence in which to complete these requirements. The stumbling block for many applicants is passing the tests so make sure you prepare for them.