Some mortgage servicers are going on-line to price their portfolios for sale, but the industry isn't exactly storming the Web just yet.
The Internet presents some promise to those who want to sell servicing but find it difficult to arrive at a fair price. But privacy issues and the desire to complete transactions face-to-face are slowing the development of an on-line market.
"Lenders are using the Internet more and more, but I don't know how much business is actually being transacted over it," said Gerry Risi, senior vice president of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based CoreStates Capital Markets.
The complexity of servicing sales would seem to argue for computer- based, on-line solutions, Mr. Risi said.
Such factors as the age of loans and their maturities and the sensitivity of a portfolio to interest rates might affect the sale price. In addition, some mortgage banks may be willing to pay much more than others for servicing packages depending on how efficiently they can service the loans.
Determining when to sell presents similar problems.
"With every variable, there's a story," Mr. Risi said.
Some servicers have become visitors to a Web site created by MIAC Risk Management Services, New York.
Michelle Carpenter, an associate at MIAC, said lenders can send portfolio data to MIAC by electronic mail. MIAC then runs the data through its valuation models and creates a pricing summary. After that MIAC contacts the company to find out if further pricing analysis is needed.
Brokers said security is not a major concern with the MIAC service, because the portfolio data transmitted usually only includes loan numbers, not names and addresses of customers who receive the loans.
MIAC's Web page also allows users to access the services of Cohane Rafferty Securities, a Harrison, N.Y.-based servicing broker and investment banker.
Another mortgage investment banking firm, Beverly Hills-based Hamilton, Carter, Smith & Co., publishes rule-of-thumb benchmark information for different types of servicing portfolios on its Web site. Ms. Carpenter said MIAC is working on developing a similar benchmark of servicing information for its Web page.
Ms. Carpenter would not say how many of MIAC's customers are using the service, but she said some companies have completed transactions after using the pricing service to evaluate their portfolio.
Larry Charbonneau, president of Charbonneau-Klein, a Houston-based servicing broker and investment banking firm, was skeptical. He said his company doesn't use the Internet at all when working with lenders to price a portfolio.
Mr. Charbonneau admitted that figuring out how much servicing is worth can be a challenging endeavor, especially since it is difficult to predict the rate at which customers will prepay their mortgage loans.
Still, he added, coming up with a price for a servicing portfolio is not the most difficult task for investment bankers in the mortgage industry.
"Evaluating servicing portfolios is far easier than putting value on a production unit. That's what we typically struggle the most with," he said.