Deeper Thoughts
What To Do When Things Are “Kind of OK”

At ICE Experience 2024 in Las Vegas, Harvard economist and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers didn’t mince words.

When ICE Mortgage Technologies President Tim Bowler, asked, “What is the Fed going to do in 2024?” Summers answered, “Not much.” Bowler paused. The audience chuckled. When Bowler prompted Summers to elaborate, he added with a shrug, “Things are going to be kind of OK. The Fed won’t be cutting rates any time soon.”

Bowler gave a startled laugh, then turned to ICE Sr. VP Jonas Moe and joked, “Hey, is it too late to get another speaker?”

It made for a fun moment to the opening session of ICE, and the conversation that followed was full of pointed insight and valuable takeaways.

But that first joking interaction really stuck out.

The Allure of Good News

People like good news. Everyone would much rather hear that demand is up, that there are enough homes for sale to meet that demand, that home prices are attainable, and that the Fed is charting a stable course back to those 2–3% rates from the refi boom.

But that’s just not the reality. Sure, we’re starting to catch whiffs of a turnaround, and the 2024 Spring Market has seen demand go up. Moreover, technology is consistently improving, making game-changing solutions more and more available to street-level lenders. AI offers exciting possibilities.

You get it.

But the point is that the market at present is neither awesome nor terrible. Like Summers said, things are just “kind of OK.”

The Question of Responsibility

The shrug-worthy “OK-ness” of the current market raises an important question, especially for those of us in the business of selling mortgage technology and curating housing data.

The question is this: What is our role—that is, our responsibility—when it comes to projecting market outcomes, diagnosing current trends, and speaking to the inherent volatility of our economy?

The answer is as simple—and as disappointing—as Summers’s answer was at the ICE General Session.

Our responsibility is to tell the truth.

But wouldn’t it be more fun to tout exciting statistics, focus just on the good news, talk smack on our competitors, and paint a picture of the housing market in which we, the brilliant technology providers, have solved everyone’s lending challenges before they even occur?

Sure, that would be way more fun to say.

No Good News?

But don’t worry, it’s not as if there is no good news right now. Those of us who have made careers out of helping lenders use technology to solve problems and avoid risk have lots of things we’re proud of, and that we’d like to shout from the rooftops.

In 2023, only one in every 17,000 LodeStar quotes resulted in a cure. Our average support ticket resolution time—from first contact to final solution—was 1.75 days. We’ve saved lenders a lot of money (and headaches!), we protect them from risk of tolerance cures, and we provide a quality of customer service that we’re so proud of.

Plugging your own accomplishments is hardly a sin.

But no one technology company—not a small, privately-held company like LodeStar, or even a massive, publicly traded conglomerate—can single-handedly change the entire housing market.

And it’s our job as industry leaders to be upfront about that.

While this all might seem obvious, it remains a constant challenge for technology providers communicating with the mortgage lending community to accurately portray our solutions in context.

The Importance of Context

Let’s take LodeStar’s Closing Cost Calculator as a case study…

We integrate directly with your LOS to provide accurate closing cost data from all 3,000+ counties in all 50 states at the click of a button. We’re the fee experts, and we remove the hassle of disclosing your LE and CD.

Now, here’s the context…

To get the most out of our solution, you, the lender, need to communicate your specific needs with us during the sales and onboarding processes. You need to involve your team in the onboarding process, provide sufficient training, and manage your team to ensure consistent adoption. You need to monitor the setup we provide and communicate with us if you need any changes.

And in addition to all that, you need to practice ethical and efficient staffing practices. You need to communicate and follow up with your clients. You need to decide which automations to implement, and how to reorganize your staff accordingly. You need to weigh market analysis and projections to determine the best strategy for a given market. You need to discern which products and services to focus on amid the ups and downs.

Which is all to say one simple thing: there are no silver bullets in our, or any, technology industry.

The Importance of Clarity

Let’s bring this home.

One of our core values at LodeStar is Clarity. Both with our product’s functionality and with everything we publish—from our podcast, Lending Leaders, to our comic strip, “A Tale of Two Mortgages”—we aspire to be honest and straightforward. Sometimes that’s easy. Sometimes, especially when the market is just “kind of OK,” that’s tough.

But it’s the commitment that counts.

In times of feast, famine, and whatever it is we call the in-between times, that commitment doesn’t change. Mortgage industry thought leaders need to do their best to tell the truth, give the full context, and give up hawking silver bullets.

Here’s the cool thing, though. When you, whether as a vendor or a lender, make that commitment to your clients, something really special happens…

You forge a bond of trust.

And, at the end of the day, what could be better for business than a hard-earned reputation for trustworthiness and reliability?