Contour Software Inc. is taking mortgage loan processing to the Internet.

The Campbell, Calif., company has formed Contour Processing Services to give borrowers, lenders, realty agents, underwriters, wholesalers, and insurers access to loan files over the Internet.

Industry experts say such access helps small brokers compete with larger rivals. As long as the presentation is simple and elegant, they say, it offers an easier and cheaper way to process loans.

"Everyone has the opportunity to process and get data in a timely manner and compete with people who have large closing shops," said Ina Bechhoefer, president of Real Estate Solutions Inc., a consulting firm in Washington.

The system "shows a good understanding of the possibilities" available to the industry, said James W. Horne, technology initiatives director for the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Many people in the mortgage industry are turning to the Web to expand their businesses. They use the Internet for everything from loan applications to rate quotes to processing.

For example, Lion Inc., a Mercer Island, Wash., subsidiary of Plenum Communications, maintains an on-line data base with wholesale lenders' fees, rates, and product information. It plans to offer more Internet-based services in the next year.

Contour is focusing on its customer base-small brokers, said Jeff Lebowitz, principal at SSP Associates, Chevy Chase, Md. The system will appeal to this clientele because it will let them give customers a higher level of service, he continued.

Contour Processing Services uses a scaled-down version of Contour's Loan Handler loan processing software. After entering borrower information and scanning loan documentation, the loan originator electronically sends the application to the service on the Internet. The borrower's virtual loan folder is created and available on the service's Web site. The service also orders a credit report, preliminary title report, and appraisal. After processing, the loan is submitted to the mortgage lender of choice.

The service is designed to eliminate the need to photocopy and mail copies of the loan package to several parties. Loan folders may contain 200 pages.

"CPS can actually process loans better, faster, and cheaper than mortgage departments can do it themselves and, at the same time, greatly increase their customer service capabilities," said Scott Cooley, Contour's president and chief executive officer.

The service, which starts at $295 for three packages, has so far signed up two small brokers.

Mike Justice, head of Justice & Justice Financial, Plano, Tex., said he bought Contour's software because he had heard it was the best in the business. Since his is a new, one-person shop, he decided to let Contour handle his processing, though he did not know about its Internet feature. He is not sure how much he will use the service.

"Until the Internet gets faster, people don't have the patience to wait on it," he said.

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