Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both announced Monday that they would purchase loans underwritten on systems other than their own.
Fannie Mae's plan is to allow lenders using its using its electronic network, MornetPlus, to pay one fee to Fannie Mae for access to any underwriting engine.
Freddie Mac plans to create an Internet-based system with mortgage wholesalers and software vendors that will allow originators at points of sale to choose an automated underwriting system.
Franklin D. Raines, chairman and chief executive officer of Fannie Mae, and David W. Glenn, president of Freddie Mac, announced the plans at the Mortgage Bankers Association's annual secondary conference.
Lenders welcomed the new openness. The agencies' insistence that lenders use their own systems had provoked an outcry in the mortgage industry. Some larger lenders have developed programs of their own, at great expense.
Donald E. Lang, president and chief executive officer of Pacific Financial Services Inc. in Torrance, Calif., and president of the MBA, applauded Fannie's movement toward open architecture and the company's recognition that the mortgage banker "is central" to the housing finance system.
Todd A. Householder, a senior vice president at National City Mortgage, Miamisburg, Ohio, said Freddie's Internet-based system offered "efficient access precisely because of the Internet." The National City Corp. unit is one of two dozen lenders and four point-of-sale software vendors supporting Freddie's initiative.
Freddie Mac's objective is to give brokers and wholesalers access to automated underwriting at the point of sale, Mr. Glenn said. He also announced that Freddie has created a new version of its automated Loan Prospector underwriting system that will be Internet-based.
"It is only at the point of sale that the full potential of automated underwriting can be realized," he said, adding that this type of system will allow for the approval of a broad range of borrowers with less documentation.
Mr. Raines said Fannie's approach is like Disneyland's, in that visitors pay "a single entry price, and then all the rides are free."
Mr. Raines also extended an invitation to Freddie Mac to put Loan Prospector on the Fannie network. He said if Freddie agreed, Fannie would put its automated underwriting system on Freddie's Goldworks system. The audience greeted this idea with applause.
Fannie Mae also said that Countrywide Credit Industries Inc. will offer its automated underwriting system and that First Union will offer its automated underwriting system for jumbo loans on Fannie's network.
Both executives acknowledged a need for greater cooperation between their companies and lenders, and attempted to allay lenders' fears about the growing influence of the government-sponsored enterprises while profit margins in mortgage banking are shrinking.
Mr. Raines reiterated that Fannie will not originate mortgages, and Mr. Glenn said that "1999 is a time when we must forge a direction together, for we cannot afford one that splits us apart."