WASHINGTON - Two of the nation's largest mortgage bankers have agreed to test Freddie Mac's automated underwriting system.
Countrywide Funding Corp. and Prudential Home Mortgage said last week that they were looking for ways to integrate the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp.'s system into their loan-making process.
Neither company was specific about how it plans to use the Freddie Mac system.
But their decision is notable because top executives at both companies have long been critical of the technology programs at Freddie Mac and at Fannie Mae, the Federal National Mortgage Association.
The executives have argued that agencies' systems would devalue their own substantial investments in technology.
But last week's decision suggests that with Freddie's system on the market, and Fannie's to follow, large lenders - just as much as smaller counterparts - are likely to sign on.
Mary Blue, senior vice president of agency relations at Prudential, said her company would explore "what additional strategic benefits" Freddie Mac's system could yield.
Ralph S. Mozilo, executive vice president of underwriting and compliance at Countrywide, said his company would probably wait for the next version of Freddie Mac's program before it is "fully involved."
But he said Countrywide plans to use both Freddie Mac's underwriting system, as well as Fannie Mae's, once that is available.
Prudential and Countrywide emphasized that they will continue to use and develop their own artificial intelligence programs simultaneously. Both companies are large investors in jumbo home loans, which the agencies do not buy.
Executives at Prudential suggested that over time, loans may be directed either to the systems of one of the agencies or to Prudential's own system, depending on who is most likely to invest in the loans.
Alternatively, loans may be underwritten by multiple systems, and then placed in "the path of least resistance," according to Doug Rossbach, senior vice president of marketing at Prudential.
Pete Maselli, a Freddie Mac vice president, said that one incentive to use Freddie's system would be that loans it approves require fewer supporting documents than conventionally underwritten loans.
Mr. Mozilo of Countrywide said his company would continue to base its decisions of where to sell a loan on price, rather than technology.