If two new electronic systems for originating home loans are successful, the way mortgage lenders and borrowers find each other could be changed significantly.

GHR Systems of Wayne, Pa., and Smart Mortgage Access of Hinsdale, Ill., are two new entrants in the growing field of computerized loan origination systems. The systems are networks that will allow lenders and homebuyers to hook up directly at real estate offices.

An amendment to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1974 that took effect Jan. 1 allows real estate brokers to receive fees for processing applications. It also permits lenders to pay referral fees to employees of other companies owned by the same parent.

Linking Lenders to Agents

This is expected to open the field to computerized loan origination.

GHR Systems, founded by two Wharton School professors, has designed the MARS Independent Network, a loan origination system that will be open to all real estate companies and lenders.

Under the system, real estate professionals will be able to provide consumers with an array of loan rates and payment scenarios. The real estate agent, using the computer system, will handle the loan application and be able to monitor it as it moves toward approval.

Pacts and Partnerships

Real estate agents and lenders participating in the system will make agreements to work together, according to Gerald Hurst, vice chairman and co-founder of GHR, so that an agent may, for instance, end up working with four lenders.

A standardized fee will be disclosed to the borrower at the point of sale.

GHR already has commitments from three lenders for the program.

Whereas GHR will train real estate agents and provide and maintain an infrastructure through which they will work with lenders, Smart Mortgage Access wants develop partnerships with realty companies to provide point-of-sale mortgage service.

Smart Mortgage Access, targeting real estate offices with 35 to 40 agents, will seek partnerships that would employ a mortgage counselor to handle originations. Each partnership will offer the loan products of 10 to 15 lenders, according to David Buckman, executive vice president of Smart.

As with MARS, the mortgage counselor will receive a standard fee, to reduce the possibility of steering.

A unique feature is that the Smart system will undertake to process, underwrite, and close the loan, presenting the lender with a finished product.

The loan counselor will pre-qualify the loan and complete the application at the point of sale, passing the documents on to an independent provider, which will underwrite and close the loan. The loan would then be delivered to lender.

Mr. Buckman said he believes that the system will help to level the playing field, from the point of view of mortgage providers. "It's getting harder for loan officers to get through the door at real estate offices, and this is one way to get access."

Housing Aide |Inscrutable' at Hearing

WASHINGTON -- The hearing last Friday on the regulations for the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act wasn't quite the donnybrook that everybody expected.

Mortgage bankers seemed more preoccupied with sizing up Nick Retsinas than with the substance of the testimony. Was the new assistant secretary of housing, who presided over the hearing, with them or the other side?

While industry representatives spoke their minds on the controversial rules, everything remained civilized and orderly. The session even ended a bit ahead of schedule.

A Careful Listener

Jacketless in a sea of blue suits, Mr. Retsinas was almost like a psychotherapist in his noncommital demeanor.

Listening carefully and taking notes, he perked up when the combatants lapsed into plain English. But he gave no clue as to how he felt.

Norman D. Flynn, past president of the National Association of Realtors, drew Mr. Retsinas' attention when he likened the dispute over the legitimacy of referral fees to a "family spat" between realty brokers and mortgage bankers.

|Looked Us in the Eye'

Warren Lasko, executive vice-president of the Mortgage Bankers Association, said he found Mr. Restinas impressive but "inscrutable."

"He looked us in the eye. He clearly seemed to be listening," said Mr. Lasko. "He's got a good technique for not showing his hand."

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