Housing Counselors, Too, Need Support

MAY 16, 2013 5:27pm ET

When it comes to counseling consumers on their financial health,†home buying or home retention, an effective client management system can help with that process that takes place following an initial counseling session.

The benefits of the technology used by counselors also affect lenders/servicers as more consumers turn to counselors for assistance when they need assistance with their mortgages. Technology has become key to counseling and has a direct effect on the grants agencies receive to stay afloat.

For example, counselors approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development are required to have access to client files, and HUD needs access to the same files for monitoring and audit purposes. Also, all participating counseling agencies must use client management systems that interface with HUDís data

bases for the collection and reporting of agency and client-level data. Without technology, complying with these rules is more time consuming and more costly to manage manually.

Counselors who or counseling agencies that use the proper technology to manage cases have been able to increase their productivity for example HomeFree-USA who are able triple their productivity by using RxOffice Premium Portal.

This boost is beneficial for every stake holder involved, including servicers as the counselors will successfully help homeowners to reach a resolution of their financial issue which allows servicers to maintain or regain the health of their portfolios.

It is now imperative for counseling agencies to select a system that not only meets the counseling requirements of HUD but isalso able managetheir day-to-day activities effectively and accurately at the counselor and managerial levels.

All client management systems are not made to withstand the rigorous needsof counselors today. Therefore, when selecting a CMS, counseling agenciesshould consider the following requirements:

  • Time spent: Housing counselors spend countless hours assisting homeowners who are under a significant amountof stress and at the same time need help contacting and communicating with their servicers. Until now, the time spent has not been effectively used nor is it tracked and reported. Anonline CMS must be able to streamline client management related activities and deliver information to counselors that allow them to be efficient in their efforts after the initial client session.
  • Going green: The online system should automaticallystore electronic documents sent by homeowners to counselors, dramatically reducing paper use.
  • Report generation: The system must also easily generate HUD, NFMC and grantee reports, and each counselor should be able to view his/her cases or activities or allow the manager to view theteamís cases or activities.
  • Audit: An effective CMS should also identify cases that are audited and indicate the various sources as well as retrieve these cases in the future if necessary. During the audit process all information, including data elements and documents, should be in one central location, preferably online.
  • Budget: The system should also include customizable financial data elements in addition to the mandatory and one-click budget plan in customizable forms.
  • Auto-population: The CMS should automatically populate various government standard forms such as Form 710, 4506ĖT form and 4506-EZ form.
  • Data storage: Data elements and documents must be stored in a secured environment. The CMS should be accessible through a Web browser anywhere the Internet is available.
  • Direct-to-consumer portal: The system should provide a customer portal that counseling agencies integrate directly into to provide better customer service.
  • Additional counseling types: Counselors need a system that allows them to assist homeowners with other counseling types, such as rental, pre-purchase etc.

Ultimately, client management systems give counselors a means to improve their efforts to assist homeowners and lenders/servicers who work with counselors using these systems will find it more convenient to be able to receive information quickly and mitigate loses more efficiently.

Pramod Karachur is a project manager at IndiSoft LLC. He can be reached at pramod.karachur@indisoft.us.

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