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The New URLA – What’s the Big Deal?

Lenders will need to update their technology stack to comply with the redesigned URLA.

Suha Zehl
Insider
Suha Zehl
The new URLA

Back in 2016 (yes, five years ago), the GSEs first revealed the completely redesigned Uniform Residential Loan Application, which was soon after adopted by the CFPB as an approved application form. After many, and I mean many, repeated delays, for various reasons, the redesigned URLA, as it’s affectionately referred to, the GSEs published their revised timeline on April 14, 2020, for its implementation:

The redesign of URLA was fraught with challenges. Why? It was like herding cats. Seriously! Try to imagine a multi-year collaborative effort among lenders, technology solution providers, government agencies, mortgage insurance companies, document preparation companies, and many other industry stakeholders, each with their own agenda and timeline. See what I mean?

Several providers immediately jumped on the bandwagon and began the arduous exercise of unpacking, scoping, scheduling, and testing all the necessary tasks to ensure proper compliance and readiness. They developed a library of resources (guides, videos, training material) and supported their customers to ensure they are able to transition seamlessly and with minimal disruption to their operations.

Others, unfortunately, buried their heads in the sand, hoping that the deadline will be pushed again and waiting to the very last minute to address this major industry change which will most certainly impact the entire mortgage lending workflow.

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URLA Timeline Graphic Courtesy of Ellie Mae ICE

URLA Timeline Graphic Courtesy of Ellie Mae ICE

Paved With Preparation

With the March 1 implementation deadline now passed, and unless you and your team have been living under a rock, your roadmap to success is paved with preparation. This includes formulating a transition plan with clear goals and objectives, fully testing the new workflow to mitigate the risk of non-compliance and minimize disruption, and finally evaluating and refining the updated process as you measure the impact of the new URLA.

By now, the hope is that lenders have been testing their processes and technology solutions because, ultimately, the burden of compliance truly lies on their shoulders. It certainly does not lie on the shoulders of their LOS providers or on the shoulders of their doc prep partners. Yes, these third-party vendors have a responsibility to offer end-to-end support for the redesigned form and the underpinning updated AUS platforms; Desktop Underwriter (Fannie Mae) and Loan Product Advisor (Freddie Mac). However, it is the responsibility of each lender to coordinate and test the heck out of their systems and integrations to make sure they are ready to meet the requirements set forth.

Biggest Changes

First and foremost, the revised URLA is designed to reflect the changes in the way the mortgage industry operates as well as the evolution of customer expectations. The new version is not only an update to the physical version of URLA, BUT it also the corresponding dataset used by technology vendors (MISMO 3.4 anyone?).

The revised URLA will require lenders to request more customer information, 94 additional data points to be exact, bringing the total to 236 data fields. Some of these key data points include the following:

  • Modernized customer information: As customers become more digital-savvy, the revised form will now include fields for mobile phone numbers and email addresses. Customers may also be required to include additional information about their current housing expenses.
  • HMDA demographic data: The new URLA is designed with Home Mortgage Disclosure Act compliance built-in. Customers can supply this information while filling out their application. This will eliminate the demographic information addendum, saving customers from the headache of filling out yet another form and making compliance easier for lenders.

While these changes may seem trivial to the untrained eye, upon taking a deeper dive, one becomes acutely aware of the pivotal transformation these revisions will accelerate.

Why?

Lenders will need to update their technology stack to comply with the redesigned URLA, leveraging modern innovations in mortgage technology. In turn, this will yield a modernized and humanized customer experience that will delight the next generation of homeowners.

How?

To support industry changes and meet the ever-evolving customer expectations when it comes to the modern lending process, the redesigned URLA will promote several unexpected benefits for lenders and borrowers alike.

  1. The redesigned URLA was developed with the customers in mind, providing a customer-centric user experience. This in turn makes it easier for lenders to develop an intuitive online experience based on enhanced readability and ease of use.
  2. The redesigned URLA is steeped in simplicity, consistency, transparency, and clarity. Separating the customer and lender information on the form itself will avoid confusion and streamline the process, making it easier for customers to complete their own application from anywhere, at any time. This provides an exemplary self-service customer experience and presents lenders with the opportunity to reach more customers.

What's The Big Deal?

Hopefully by now, I have made the case for why these changes ARE a big deal for our industry and to the transformative impact they will have on everyone involved in the mortgage lending process. While adding and eliminating a few data fields to/from that mortgage lending workflow may seem insignificant at first glance. A closer look does reveal the deep ramifications of those changes and how they will reverberate through our industry, transforming the entire workflow into a seamless and delightful one for all of our customers.

I will leave you with this thought: by the time this article is published, the mandatory use-date will be upon us; and, as a primary stakeholder in the mortgage manufacturing process, whether you are a lender, a partner, or a provider, I hope you were ready!

This article was originally published in the Mortgage Women Magazine May 2021 issue.
Suha Zehl
Suha Zehl

Suha Zehl is chief analytics officer with Equity Prime Mortgage.

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