For the past few years, low mortgage rates have fueled a housing market so hot that even a pandemic couldn’t derail purchase originations. Record-breaking lending volumes led many lenders to tighten up their processes across every stage of the mortgage cycle.
Plaza Home Mortgage® was no exception, as it sought to improve its property tax estimation process. This case study explores how the correspondent lender was able to reduce its property tax estimation time by upwards of 90% per loan by implementing CoreLogic’s Property Tax Estimator (PTE). The tool offers a comprehensive response to tax amounts for properties within the United States. By integrating PTE, Plaza has, in turn, accomplished two vital goals: Faster turn times and happier clients.
The Pain Points
Prior to implementing PTE, Plaza Home Mortgage had to collect property information manually. There was no uniform or timely way to do this, which meant that on some occasions Plaza associates would have to scour government tax bill websites. The sites would often vary from state to state, and in many instances, Plaza found that this manual process took about 10 to 20 minutes per loan. The lender was not alone on this timing. In 2018, CoreLogic conducted a controlled random experiment simulating the estimation process and found that “Well-trained researchers required at least 20 minutes, but less than 45 minutes, for existing property loans.” 
To avoid any servicing issues later on, it was essential that Plaza had accurate tax information prior to buying loans. If Plaza purchased loans within a few days of property tax payment due dates, it had to hold its correspondent lenders responsible for making the payments. And with inconsistent state websites as its property information go-to, Plaza was often forced to take a conservative approach when buying loans. This caution, coupled with the extensive manual process to research property information created a recipe for frustrated clients.
“We required property taxes to be paid if they were still open within 30 days of the actual due date prior to our pur- chase. Based on information available online, there were times that it appeared they were due within the 30 days— in actuality, the borrowers didn’t even have the bills yet,” explained Ed VanDuren, Plaza EVP of Operations. “We were having to either wait for the bill, or we were having to make regular exceptions, and the exceptions became the norm which was tough to track. So we were really struggling with trying to follow a policy while, at the same time, making clients upset because we were holding up purchases to ensure that we did not have servicing issues afterwards.”
Whenever possible, Plaza tried to be proactive and seek out property information on behalf of its clients. Even then, the data was difficult to obtain and the pattern repeated itself, regardless of who was responsible for providing the information.
Finding a Solution
In response to these pain points, Plaza implemented CoreLogic’s Property Tax Estimator solution in 2018. It was a logical move for the lender, as it already had a relationship with CoreLogic and it naturally evolved to expand to PTE.
And while Plaza didn’t have to go hunting for a new vendor, it still had specific requirements for its desired solution. Specifically, Plaza needed a tool that offered streamlined and easy access to data as well as true data accuracy
Streamlined, Easy-to-Access Data
The correct tool for the job would eliminate the time-consuming task of navigating tax collectors’ websites. With a wide variation of available information by state, there was never a guarantee that researchers would even be able to find the property information. Or, even if there was property information, tax information was not always provided. Plaza needed a solution that would take guesswork and manual research out of the process.
Data Accuracy and Quality
Of course, the speed with which property information can be gathered would be irrelevant if it weren’t accurate. Once again—by removing the manual aspect, having a proven process in place and using the right tool—Plaza would be able to ensure accuracy for its associates. “What we needed was a tool that was going to work,” VanDuren said. “We needed information at our fingertips quickly and had to be able to depend on it.”
Implementation, Launch and Noteworthy Results
To ensure a smooth transition to using PTE, Plaza created a training manual for its team and its associates. In doing
so, Plaza was able to set clear expectations on what property information they required. Additionally, CoreLogic led an orientation and demonstration to aid Plaza in the implementation process. Because the tool is online and did not have to be integrated into Plaza’s loan origination systems, the onboarding process was quick and easy.
Since implementing PTE in 2018, Plaza has seen a substantial increase in turn time efficiency and a decrease in client complaints. When Plaza completed the review following the new process through PTE, it took about two minutes to pull up and review the tax information. One file took roughly five minutes, but that was only because the researcher had
to review the city, school and county taxes. By comparison, prior to PTE, Plaza reported review times taking anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.
While this increased efficiency has monetary benefits, Plaza views pleased clients as PTE’s main asset. Plaza recognizes that even though it would be proactive and gather data ahead of time, clients would still get frustrated with Plaza’s added conditions on loans. Now, those frustrations have been eliminated.
“The last thing clients want to see are unnecessary conditions, and our property data requirements were challenging because clients were burdened by having to go through extra work to get their loans purchased,” VanDuren explained. “So by listening to them, hearing what they were saying, and finding a tool like this, the complaints just dropped.”
With client satisfaction as a key performance indicator, Plaza has found success with PTE.
“I don’t know that I’ve heard any complaints since we’ve implemented this, and I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone challenge a condition,” he added. “Looking back, I wish we actually found CoreLogic’s tool sooner because it would have saved us all a lot of heartache.”
Saving time at any part of the lending process has long been the goal of every company in the mortgage industry. Plaza was not only able to identify and remedy inefficiency, it was also able to eradicate client frustrations in the process. By listening to its clients and associates and hearing their needs, Plaza was able to create a better purchasing experience for all involved.
Plaza’s implementation of CoreLogic’s PTE was fast and effective and has proven its worth time and again since 2018.
For more information, please call 866.774.3282.