– Real-time data provides highly sought-after insights into competitive position, market trends and risk mitigation strategies during uncertain times –

The transition from 2019 into 2020 proved to be more difficult for mortgage lenders than in past years. In the switch of a year and the blink of an eye, the world changed dramatically.

The first quarter of 2020 ushered in a sea of change, including a worldwide pandemic, national and state stay-at-home orders, significant economic challenges, business shutdowns, record unemployment, and more.

Yet, despite it all and fueled by a lengthy period of historically low rates, today’s lenders generated a record number of mortgage rate locks in the first quarter — production levels rarely experienced in our industry.

As the federal government continued to provide stimulus and assistance to consumers, businesses and the economy as a whole, the challenging market volatility experienced in Q1 of 2020 did not subside in the second quarter. Nor did the heavy mortgage volumes.

Mortgage investors and servicers changed pricing, product eligibility requirements and underwriting standards at a record clip, further multiplying the complexities facing mortgage lenders. Now, as many states begin to open back up and start their economic engines, opportunities and challenges are once again shifting.

No matter what comes next, successful mortgage lenders have learned that maximum market transparency is the key to anticipating and understanding rapidly changing conditions.

Real-time data and comprehensive analytics are at the heart of market transparency, providing highly sought-after insights into competitive position, market trends and risk mitigation strategies amid these uncertain times.

Although Optimal Blue did not initially develop its actionable data and analytics products with a global pandemic in mind, they serve as a perfect fit for what lenders need in this volatile and dynamic environment.

The largest single source of rate lock data, Optimal Blue provides the mortgage industry with information on pricing and key transaction variables 60 to 90 days before closing data is available.

Updated daily, Optimal Blue’s rate lock data is deep and comprehensive, including a robust set of transactional data elements such as loan product, property type, LTV, FICO, geographical location, borrower demographics and more.

Representing over one-third of all mortgage loans completed within the industry every year, Optimal Blue’s platform locks more than $1 trillion of mortgage loans annually.

Optimal Blue’s actionable data and analytics products provide clients and partners with highly granular, early insights across the entire mortgage market. Delivered in raw data form and through a visually compelling analytics tool, Optimal Blue has drawn particularly strong interest from a diverse array of companies, including mortgage lenders, mortgage investors, investment firms and industry regulators.

In addition, attention has grown across public policy think tanks that study the mortgage industry, such as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), as well as risk analytics and consulting firms for residential loans and MBS, and mortgage insurance providers like Genworth. Optimal Blue’s data and analytics enable users within those companies to:

1. Benchmark against the competition.

In today’s highly competitive industry, lenders need to not only understand their position relative to their competition but also have access to the tools that provide visibility into those specifics. Optimal Blue’s data and analytics products provide that sought-after transparency.

Lenders that use Optimal Blue’s Product & Pricing Solution can leverage Optimal Blue’s Competitive Analytics to more effectively analyze the competition, understand overall market composition, create competitive comparisons in real time and effectively evaluate how their margins measure up — both as a whole and at the more detailed, MSA level. This can help inform smarter lending strategies and decisions moving forward.

“Lenders that utilize Competitive Analytics are far better equipped to make agile decisions and take appropriate action, particularly in times of market uncertainty and fluctuation,” said Rick Allen, vice president of Business Transformation at Optimal Blue. “Their ability to remain nimble is in large part due to their use of a real-time, transactional data set as opposed to surveyed or aged data.”

For lenders that are not using Optimal Blue’s Product & Pricing Solution, Optimal Blue’s Market Analytics product enables any lender to benchmark their production against the broader market in a variety of different ways, including loan types, rate and price, FICO, LTV and more.

2. Focus marketing efforts.

When analytics are broken down at the geographical level, lenders gain visibility into new opportunities, have the power to better refine their outreach efforts and make more effective use of marketing dollars.

Optimal Blue’s Competitive Analytics product analyzes transactional mortgage data on over 350 MSAs across the country, offering visibility into local loan volume, pricing and other trends. Each granular filter enables the lender to hone into specific loan programs and assess trends across various timeframes, and due to the diversity and extensive reach of Optimal Blue’s network, data is available on a wide range of scenarios.

Lenders can then leverage this data to identify high-potential markets and better allocate financial and human resources. It can also cut down on wasted ad spend.

3. Understand borrower segments.

Borrowers can vary widely from one market to the next, in profile and in behavior. Actionable analytics can help lenders better grasp these market-level nuances, offering insights into borrower credit scores, LTV, DTI, loan amounts, property types and more. Further, they can even spot trends related to loan use which can inform better investment, hedging and resource allocation decisions.

AEI Housing Center produces a weekly research product focused specifically on the mortgage industry, called the “AEI Housing Market Nowcast” (formerly the Flash HMI Report). Released every Monday, the Housing Market Nowcast provides much-needed and timely insights on the single-family residential housing market convulsing from the effects of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Using newly acquired data from Optimal Blue, the AEI Housing Center is now able to provide near-real-time market indicators on purchase loan rate lock volume, home price, credit, and cash out refinance trends,” said Ed Pinto, resident fellow and director of the AEI Housing Center.

“After extensive historical analysis of Optimal Blue data going back seven years, we have concluded that this rate lock data tracks closely with that which is reported in our National Mortgage Risk Index (NMRI), covering 99% of the agency market. As a result, today’s Housing Market Nowcast will provide an advanced look at tomorrow’s housing market as today’s rate locks will become next month’s home purchases and mortgages.”

4. Predict and leverage industry-wide trends.

Optimal Blue’s Market Analytics product enables users to better understand ongoing market tendencies, including trends in refinancing, specific loan products, home price trends and mortgage volume as a whole.

Because of its frequency, depth and overall position in the mortgage process, Market Analytics users gain an early indication of closing volume months before it occurs. Confidently understanding the mix of business that the industry will close in future months can be an immense benefit to lenders and other firms, such as mortgage insurance companies, that provide valuable services to the mortgage industry.

“In order to remain a committed, long-term provider of relevant products and services to the mortgage industry, it is imperative that Genworth closely monitors the trends, hotspots, and overall mix of business within industry,” said Kevin McMahon, senior vice president of Customer Solutions at Genworth. “Because Optimal Blue’s data and analytics products leverage actual mortgage rate lock data, our company has early and very detailed insight into industry closing activity, months before it occurs.”

5. Fine-tune MBS and MSR analytics to effectively mitigate risk.

With access to loan-level pricing, rate and loan data that covers over one-third of the market, lenders can improve predictive modeling efforts and reduce risk. Various studies using Optimal Blue’s Mortgage Market Indices (“OBMMI”) or custom indices derived from Optimal Blue’s Market Analytics product have shown the increased precision of using a more granular and accurate primary rate input, which can significantly improve prepayment modeling and estimates of refinance propensity.

The depth and granularity of Optimal Blue’s data may also help lenders and risk analytics and consulting firms for residential loans and MBS, like Andrew Davidson & Co., Inc. (AD&Co.), produce more vigorous prepayment forecasts in the future. Because the data is based on actual rates locked by consumers and fully reflects all risk-based pricing adjustments, it is proven to be more precise than the static risk-based spreads that many firms use for MBS and MSR analytics. A more accurate primary rate input results in a better prepayment prediction, which helps drive improved buy/sell and pricing decisions.

“Accurate and timely market data should be a part of every modeler’s toolkit,” explained Sanj Chatterjee, director of Modeling for Andrew Davidson & Co. “Optimal Blue’s rate lock data helps us monitor the evolution of rates on a continuous basis, especially for FHA, VA and jumbo prime loans.”

Making the case for data & analytics

Data and analytics that enable participants to benchmark against the competition and understand the impact of trends as early as possible are status quo in most every industry. While this level of granular business intelligence has always been important, conditions are now changing at such a pace that it would be incredibly difficult for any lender to keep up without it.

Being able to make informed decisions amid rapidly changing conditions, and doing so in near real time, leads to more effective and more profitable results — making actionable data and analytics a critical ingredient of success over the long haul.

“Operating in today’s volatile mortgage market without the right data is like taking a road trip without your GPS,” Allen concluded. “You might find your way with a lot of trial and error, but it won’t be the best or most economical path forward by any means.”

This piece was originally featured on HousingWire.com.


Robert J. Brandt
Vice President, Marketing & Strategic Alliances
(469) 609-5585

– Offering the Industry Sophisticated Insights into Trends, Volumes & Mix of Business –

Optimal Blue, the leading provider of secondary marketing solutions and data services in the mortgage industry, recently announced the release of their Market Analytics solution. At a time when the mortgage industry is experiencing unprecedented origination volumes and dramatic rate volatility, Optimal Blue’s Market Analytics provides the industry extreme market visibility by leveraging the most comprehensive database of primary mortgage market data available today.

“Optimal Blue sits atop a sea of unique mortgage data that may be used, in real-time, to understand changes in key measures such as rate spreads, loan volume, and home prices,” explained Scott Happ, CEO of Optimal Blue. “Optimal Blue is focused on helping our clients and the industry leverage this information to create greater market visibility and facilitate better decision making.”

Market Analytics leverages Optimal Blue’s mortgage rate lock data collected from one-third of all mortgages completed each year in the United States. Produced daily, Market Analytics provides a comprehensive array of transaction-specific data points that support several practical use cases, including:

    With access to the largest source of rate lock data nationwide, users can confidently analyze primary mortgage market rate trends that drive the performance of secondary market assets. Optimal Blue’s unique data can be used to build and tune portfolio models, including prepayment and valuation modeling for MBS and MSR portfolios.

    Users can effectively focus resources by gaining early insight into market activity that can help identify attractive geographies and demographics to offer products, direct marketing, or allocate capital. Optimal Blue’s market data can be analyzed at a very granular level, including by city, MSA, county, state, business channel, or institution type.

    Closely associated with the application date, the data serves as a leading indicator to the housing and mortgage lending markets. Users can leverage this powerful capability to accurately predict macroeconomic housing and mortgage metrics in advance of their release. This includes, but is not limited to, existing homes sales forecasts, home price trends and indices, industry refinance trends, and mortgage rate and volume trends.

Powered by Microsoft® PowerBI®, Market Analytics is preconfigured with several intuitive visualizations that help the user quickly identify the data points important to them. The raw data behind Market Analytics is also available to the user via Optimal Blue’s Market Data License. With Market Data License, users can seamlessly connect directly to their internal data warehouse, support custom analytics, and uniquely integrate Optimal Blue’s raw data with in-house visualization solutions.

Market Analytics and Market Data License join Optimal Blue’s already established suite of actionable Data & Analytics products including Optimal Blue’s Competitive Analytics, Enterprise Analytics, Enterprise Data License, and the Optimal Blue Mortgage Market Indices™ (OBMMI™).


Robert J. Brandt
Vice President, Marketing & Strategic Alliances
(469) 609-5585

– Week of March 30–April 3, 2020 –

A valuable report was recently introduced by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), titled AEI Flash Housing Market Indicators. Using actionable data acquired from Optimal Blue, the AEI Housing Center is now able to provide near real-time Flash Housing Market Indicators (Flash HMI) on purchase loan rate lock volume, home price, credit, and cash-out refinance trends.

Released each Monday, the Flash HMIs will provide much-needed and timely insights on the single-family residential housing market convulsing from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). While Optimal Blue data is used, AEI’s Edward Pinto and Tobias Peter are solely responsible for the analysis contained therein.

AEI is a public policy think tank dedicated to defending human dignity, expanding human potential, and building a freer and safer world. The work of our scholars and staff advances ideas rooted in our belief in democracy, free enterprise, American strength and global leadership, solidarity with those at the periphery of our society, and a pluralistic, entrepreneurial culture.

Click here to view the Flash HMI.


Robert J. Brandt
Vice President, Marketing & Strategic Alliances
(469) 609-5585

Optimal Blue recently co-authored an article with Andrew Davidson & Co., Inc. (AD&Co), a leading provider of risk analytics and consulting for residential lending and MBS, titled Market Volatility and the Anatomy of Mortgage Rates. This timely article examines mortgage market pricing dynamics and how they have been impacted by the recent extreme market volatility spurred by the global impact of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019).

These are unprecedented times for all of us in many ways, and the mortgage industry is no exception – record low rates, record high volume, overflowing pipelines, and the challenges of processing and closing a loan under tight restrictions on social interactions. Things are moving extremely fast! So fast, in fact, that the recent Fed announcement that the Fed Funds rate was reduced to near zero and would re-institute Quantitative Easing occurred after we finalized this article. Regardless, while the primary rate to 10-year treasury rate spread has tightened as a result of the Fed actions, the concepts still apply and the spread remains historically high.

In this article, Optimal Blue’s actionable data and insights on current origination activity was combined with the AD&Co secondary market and risk expertise, to explore the recent behavior and dynamics of primary market mortgage rates and their determining factors.

Click here to read the full article.

Andrew Davidson & Co., Inc. (AD&Co) was founded in 1992 by Andy Davidson, an international leader in the development of financial research and analytics, mortgage-backed securities product development, valuation and hedging, housing policy and GSE reform and credit-risk transfer transactions. Since its inception, the company has provided institutional fixed-income investors and risk managers with high quality models, applications, consulting services, research and thought leadership, aimed at yielding advanced, quantitative solutions to asset management issues. AD&Co’s clients include some of the world’s largest and most successful financial institutions and investment managers. For more information, visit www.ad-co.com.


Robert J. Brandt
Vice President, Marketing & Strategic Alliances
(469) 609-5585

– Its PPE network now includes more than 2,000 clients –

Over the last two years, Optimal Blue has strategically acquired several companies, built an extensive API network, and invested heavily in automation and technology with one goal in mind: to create an entirely automated secondary marketing ecosystem for mortgage originators and investors, as well as the technology providers they rely upon every day.

Those efforts have established Optimal Blue’s product and pricing as the mortgage industry’s system of record — from leads at the beginning of the process to hedging and selling into the secondary market — approximately one of every three mortgages is facilitated by the company’s Digital Mortgage Marketplace.

Optimal Blue’s recent acquisition of LoanLogics’ PPE business unit, LoanDecisions, is just the latest in a series of strategic buys, including its purchase of Comergence in 2017 and Resitrader earlier this year.

Comergence enables Optimal Blue to offer a wide array of comprehensive due diligence and oversight capabilities, while the acquisition of Resitrader assets created the industry’s largest digital loan trading platform, allowing Optimal Blue to support more than $750 billion in transactions across its marketplace.

With the LoanDecisions acquisition marking the beginning of what seems to be a consolidation trend in the PPE space, Optimal Blue has expanded the reach of its PPE network to a client count exceeding 2,000+.

These customers are already in the process of migrating to the Optimal Blue PPE and the company will continue to expand its partnership with LoanLogics to automate correspondent loan transactions.

Essential to all of this innovation is Optimal Blue’s expanding universe of APIs, created over the last 18 months by a dedicated team of developers. The company has more than 50 customers using their APIs directly, with more than 40 vendors providing solutions that allow originators and investors to build a custom set of solutions that maximize opportunity at every critical inflection point throughout the mortgage process.

Originators are using Optimal Blue APIs for best execution product and pricing, loan and pipeline management, configuration, search results, and lock management, while investors are leveraging them for counter party oversight, NMLS verification, historical production, prospect marketing, compliance questionnaires, and FHA performance scores.

In September, Optimal Blue launched the latest in its series, a set of post-lock management APIs that enable users to easily incorporate worse case evaluations, change request submissions, and historical pricing for any loan or scenario.

Erin Wester, senior product manager at Optimal Blue, explained how the new post-lock APIs fit into the company’s initiative to fully automate everything within the Optimal Blue user interface via an API.

“We took a look at the API products we have today and some common use cases — how our clients are using them,” explained Wester. “With the post-lock APIs, users can now execute searches, create and manage loans, and submit lock requests. You can lock and register the loan through our APIs.”

The new offerings include APIs for change requests and APIs related to historical pricing results. The latter allows searching for a loan ID with a desired date and time, or even searching for a specific scenario based on a certain date and time.

Optimal Blue also recently introduced a direct data access option for its business intelligence suite, which provides users with a robust data that contains an extremely granular history of every change that has taken place within the Optimal Blue platform — including who requested a change and when, who accepted it, who denied it, etc.

The direct data access option lets users connect internal data warehouses, support custom analytics, and uniquely integrate to any in-house visualization solution. This includes data visualizations on locking analytics and change request analytics. For example, users will be able to see how many times a lock desk is having to touch a loan, as well as average cost and days per lock extension.

“The direct data access product is an automated way for the user to gain access to their organization’s unique raw data and run their own in-house, custom analytics,” Wester said. “This competitive and actionable insight is then reported to internal data warehouse solutions within the institution, opening the door for any mortgage professional to quantify and transform operational data into an advantageous asset.”

In reflecting on the previous year and the extensive progress that the company has achieved, CEO Scott Happ explained, “2018 has been a prolific year for Optimal Blue, both from an acquisition and product development perspective. Not only have we strengthened our offering with substantial new capabilities, we’ve expanded our network with scores of new client and vendor relationships.”

It has, in fact, been a noteworthy year for Optimal Blue, as the company continues to thrive in its quest to fully automate the secondary marketing function.

This piece was originally featured on HousingWire.com.


Robert J. Brandt
Vice President, Marketing & Strategic Alliances
(469) 609-5585