Norwest Mortgage Inc., Des Moines, introduced an all-electronic appraisal support service that it says will shorten loan approval time and cut down on paperwork

Valuation Information Technology, a new division, will send lenders' orders to appraisers and deliver their reports by computer.

Software developed and used by the division delivers appraisal reports, maps, signatures, and photographs electronically. No other appraisal management company can provide these services entirely without paper documents, Norwest said.

Norwest will use the new electronic system to provide collateral assessment services for Freddie Mac's new automated underwriting system, Loan Prospector, which Freddie announced last week was commercially available for mortgage lenders.

"Our ability to electronically deliver any piece of the appraisal package gives us a tremendous advantage in helping Freddie Mac, and our other customers, to make credit decisions faster and at a reduced cost to the consumer," said Diane Ringler, vice president of Norwest's appraisal services.

"The speed, accuracy, national coverage, and EDI capability give us a competitive edge when providing services to our customers, and Freddie Mac recognizes this," Mr. Ringler added.

Norwest has been eager to acquire mortgage assets. Its recent acquisitions include Directors Mortgage, a large privately held company in California, and a $9.6 billion servicing portfolio from Barclays American, New York.

The company has also been trying to build ancillary income from its mortgage business. It has developed a substitute for title insurance but has had problems receiving approvals in individual states.

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