General Motors Corp.'s commercial real estate lending unit has entered the field of online loan brokers by creating a subsidiary named MortgageRamp.
Charles E. Dunleavy Jr., president and chief operating officer of GMAC Commercial Mortgage Corp. in Horsham, Pa., said in an interview Wednesday that it is "highly possible" MortgageRamp will become an independent company to which his company "would be just another customer." Even now, he said, the site is not partial to any lender.
Like other sites that have sprouted up in the last year, MortgageRamp will take information on a property from a borrower or broker, screen it for potential problems, and then match it with offers from lenders, using lender criteria in its database. If the user wants to pursue a deal with a lender, MortgageRamp will send the lender a package of information.
GMAC Commercial Mortgage trumpeted MortgageRamp's opening with full-page ads that ran 15 straight business days in The Wall Street Journal. GMAC has invested $25 million in the Web service, which will compete with independent startups like Loopnet, Capitalthinking, and Redbricks for the attention and dollars of real estate pros.
MortgageRamp is developing a program to license its service to community banks. A borrower would go to a Web site that has the community bank's name, but MortgageRamp would handle everything behind the scenes. "Because we're not a depository institution," Mr. Dunleavy said, community banks are "not too nervous about us claiming their customer."
Mike Greco, chief operating officer of MortgageRamp, said the site has several features that make it superior. For one thing, people will be able to phone a MortgageRamp representative for assistance during business hours - something most of its competing sites do not offer.
"It's important to have access to a human being," Mr. Greco said.
MortgageRamp also claims to have a better system of filtering loans that are unsuitable or not ready to be submitted to lenders. GMAC conducted focus groups with lending executives who have used the other sites, and found that they have been "getting garbage," Mr. Greco said.
To prevent that, MortgageRamp has both an electronic "scrubbing" system, which can quickly find if there is something peculiar about a loan request and move it into a "parking lot," and a staff of seasoned real estate analysts who vet loans manually. For now MortgageRamp's underwriters will examine every loan that comes through, even those that the computer program does not find fishy; eventually, Mr. Greco said, once the electronic filter has proven effective, the staff will only have to inspect loans that have been flagged.
MortgageRamp also boasts the ability to translate deal information into any format the lender wants. Other sites, Mr. Greco said, simply mail a package in a standardized format that the lender then has to manually translate into its own protocol. With MortgageRamp, "everything's there" and the lender "can make a decision in less than an hour."
At the moment MortgageRamp.com only has a questionnaire that a lender, broker, or borrower can fill and be contacted later by a representative. Nevertheless, the service has a pipeline of $150 million of loan requests from borrowers who filled out the form. At the end of the month users will be able to punch deal information directly into the site.