A new capability has been added to Freddie Mac's electronic network for mortgage lenders.

Users of the company's GoldWorks capability will be able to verify employment of mortgage applicants on-line through a service called the Work Number for Everyone. It is being provided by Talx Corp., St. Louis.

"As we move toward conducting more business electronically, important services like the Work Number help speed up the loan approval process and reduce costs for lenders and homebuyers," said Jim Cotton, Freddie Mac's vice president for marketing.

The service can supply salary history as well as employment verification, Freddie Mac's announcement said. Dow Chemical, McDonald's, Sears, Proctor & Gamble, and other large employers were listed as among the participants, along with the Internal Revenue Service and other government units.

The two companies said the system would reduce verification time to minutes, from days or weeks, and the cost to pennies, from $3 to $6 per name when done manually.

When authorized by borrowers, lenders will be able to complete the verifications quickly from their computer terminals.

Automation of mortgage processing has been a major trend in the industry as lenders and the housing finance agencies seek to reduce the cost of making a loan. Underwriting, appraisals, and title services have already been brought under one software umbrella.

Freddie, formally the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., said about 125 lenders and vendors now use Goldworks, which has been available commercially for less than a year. Appraisals, credit reports, and title services are also available on the network, and users can also distribute or receive rate sheets, mortgage applications, and other information to each other.

In another development, Fannie Mae announced it was providing its counseling software for prospective homebuyers to Philadelphia's 25 counseling agencies.

Fannie said that it was now supplying the software to 200 agencies nationwide, as well as to its lenders.

The program is aimed at helping families with low and moderate incomes to understand the homebuying and mortgage process, Fannie said.

Fannie Mae, formally the Federal National Mortgage Association, said the city's office of housing and community development would offer the software in conjunction with a program that provides up to $1,000 to help families pay settlement costs.

The software, called Desktop Home Counselor, is part of Fannie Mae's MornetPlus network.

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