Fannie Matches Freddie, Makes Desktop Underwriter Free

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Fannie Mae will no longer charge mortgage lenders to submit loans to its Desktop Underwriter automated underwriting system, the government-sponsored enterprise announced Tuesday.

The decision follows a similar move by Freddie Mac, which stopped charging fees for its Loan Prospector AUS earlier this month. Fannie Mae will also roll out an update to EarlyCheck, the loan-level data verification portal it launched in 2010. The update will improve data standardization to make it easier for lenders to submit loans for sale, according to a Fannie Mae press release.

"We want to continue to provide value to our lenders and we don't want technology fees to get in the way of lenders using our technology to its full potential," said Andrew Bon Salle, Fannie Mae executive vice president for single-family business. "That is why we have introduced tools such as Collateral Underwriter, EarlyCheck and Servicing Management Default Underwriter at no cost to lenders or servicers, and why today we are also eliminating our DU fee."

When Freddie announced it was getting rid of AUS fees, lender speculation immediately jumped to whether Fannie Mae would follow suit. At the time, Fannie was noncommittal about any changes.

Fannie had charged $30 to use Desktop Underwriter, though it gave a $5 discount if the GSE ended up buying the loan, according to David Lykken, managing partner of the consulting firm Mortgage Banking Solutions. Some groups, including the Mortgage Bankers Association, also had deals in place with the GSE to reduce their usage fees.

The new no-fee policy extends to Desktop Underwriter, as well as Desktop Originator, a version of Fannie's AUS used by mortgage brokers. And like Freddie, Fannie Mae will no longer charge lenders a fee to use its AUS to interface with the Federal Housing Administration's Technology Open to Approved Lenders, or TOTAL, Scorecard, a Fannie spokesperson said via email on Tuesday.

TOTAL Scorecard works in conjunction with an AUS to evaluate borrower creditworthiness. In addition to Loan Prospector and Desktop Underwriter, Calyx Software and MeridianLink provide AUS interfaces to TOTAL. The FHA does not charge lenders to use TOTAL Scorecard, but AUS vendors that provide an interface to it do typically charge a fee ranging from $15 to $30 per submission, said Lykken.

The GSEs' AUS technologies were instrumental in introducing statistical modeling to residential mortgage finance when they were first made commercially available in 1995. In 1996, only 25% of lenders were using AUS technology, but that rate soared to 90% by the end of 2000, according to estimates by mortgage technology market research and consulting firm MORTECH LLC. In addition, a 2010 MORTECH study estimated that Fannie and Freddie generate a combined $200 million to $250 million per year in AUS fees.

Fannie also said it is developing a new platform for lenders to deliver loans that's designed to be easier to navigate and includes better reporting capabilities. The portal is expected to be available for use later this year.

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Mortgage technology Compliance systems Underwriting Secondary market Originations GSEs Risk management