In a buyer's market, the smallest of processing hiccups can cause a lender to lose a potential borrower, which is why lenders place a premium on developing new digital delivery strategies.

Today, loan officers receive important documents and reports from third-party sources by fax or email, and the documents often arrive only after the loan officer has parted ways with a borrower. American Pacific Mortgage plans to remedy this problem by deploying a tablet app over the next few months. The app can return documents and reports during a loan officer's session with a borrower.

"The goal [of the app] is to get loan officers out in the field engaging with customers where the customers happened to be. And you can't haul a big laptop everywhere you go," says Leif Boyd, American Pacific's senior vice president of production.

Boyd oversees the 114-branch network at American Pacific, which is licensed in more than a dozen states, mostly in the western U.S. The Roseville, Calif.-based retail mortgage lender offers a mix of conventional, alternative, 80/15/5 jumbo, high debt ratio, second mortgage, construction, investor, FHA, flex 97 percent and VA mortgage loans among its products.

American Pacific would not disclose the name of the tech company that provides and supports the app. Loan officers will use the app to send forms to a data storage unit the tech partner operates. The tech partner then delivers the forms to vendors that return the requested information (such as a credit report) to the data storage unit.

Loan officers can then access these documents using the tablet app. In the case of a delay or longer processing time on a vendor's end, the tablet app can provide an alert when the results are ready.

Loan officers can also use the application to populate mortgage application forms, save loan data and transfer that data to their loan origination system. Borrowers can sign loan applications directly on the tablet's screen.

"The credit checks are among the most useful reports in the field," Boyd says. "You can view the borrower's application on the spot and review the credit report with the customer in near real time."

American Pacific has more than 450 loan officers, and has been gradually migrating more of its automated capabilities to the browser and native iPad and Android apps.

In addition to document access, tablets are a vital new tool for mortgage lending, Boyd says. Tablets enable loan officers to reach customers remotely with interactive content tied to properties and financial information. This reverses a trend of shifting the mortgage application process away from personal engagement between loan officers and borrowers.

While mobile phone apps are useful for small chunks of information, the tablet is necessary for a fully automated and one-on-one experience, Boyd says.

"The personal computer in its traditional sense leashed loan officers to their desks. The loan officers are at their best when in the community with borrowers and referral partners," he says.