New twist on rate sites draws broker concern

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Brokers are already fearing the loss of “client ownership” with the launch of a new website by the people behind RateHub.ca – specifically a web portal helping calculate and arrange the closing services of lawyers and appraisers.

“MyClosingCosts.ca,” is designed as a first-stop, one-stop shopping site for those who have already secured a broker and/or lender, and are now looking for the best price on lawyers and appraisers.

But for mortgage brokers, the new website is potentially another tool that could erode client loyalty, much as rate sites have already been accused of in the past.

“If I just pass along clients to a website, I lose the value of a relationship,” says Patrick Smith, a mortgage agent with Dominion Lending Centres Altra in Toronto. “I am fairly new to the industry, so I don’t have those relationships established yet.”

RateHub.ca founder Alyssa Richard wants to reassure brokers that MyClosingCosts.ca has been specifically designed to not refer or link those using the site to RateHub.ca.

“We kept mortgages out of it purposefully so mortgage brokers could use it without fearing that they will lose clients,” says Richard. “We respect the fact that they don’t want to send them to RateHub. We’ve had the site up and running for about a month now, and the brokers and real estate agents who have been using it love it.”

For Smith, he can appreciate the value of a website that provides real-time costs from lawyers and appraisers operating in the area.

“The value (of MyClosingCosts.ca) is tremendously obvious,” Smith told MortgageBrokerNews.ca, “and credible information is always valuable. Having those calculations available without having to think about it would be great.”

Andrew Lee, a broker with True North Mortgage for the last two years, has been using MyClosingCosts.ca and can only find an upside to what the website has to offer his clients.

“I’ve referred a few clients already, and so far so good,” says Lee, whose background includes 10 years in the industry on the lending side. “I think this is more of a benefit to brokers.”

Lee – who has also been using RateHub.ca for over a year now – finds that today’s customer is going to the web first for information.

“Maybe the older generation – 50 and above – are a bit wary of using these sites, but I’m the type of person who does a lot of research online,” he says, “and consumers are too, comparing different quotes and services before even picking up a phone.”

Closing costs can range from 1.5 to 4 per cent of the purchase price of a home, and for many homeowners, the extra fees can come as an unexpected an unwelcome surprise.

“We provide quotes from home inspectors and real estate lawyers in the area, so you can find the best prices with local service providers,” says Richard. “Once the client has found a home inspector and real estate lawyer, request a call-back, or visit their site for more information.”

The online calculator will summarize the cost of a client’s property, and then the client can download a PDF of the report, she adds.

“It is an apples-to-apples comparison on costs,” says Richard, “which is so important for the client.”

Smith does wonder how the fee structure from some lawyers would be affected if the leads are rotated around a pool of available professionals.

“Some lawyers have a certain fee up to a certain amount of disbursements,” he says. “If this site generates the lowest fee available, like RateHub, then I would wonder how that fee structure would be affected.”

Richard says that those quotas from lawyers have already been factored in.

“We force them (lawyers) to in some cases quote a flat fee,” she says. “We had one client tell us on Facebook about a $120 administration fee for another paper clip and two staples. We tell the lawyers – and appraisers – to factor in an average and to charge that amount for everyone.”

  • Bob on 2013-06-20 9:04:33 AM

    Once again, - it is not all about the lowest costs for these services. ( Just like it is not all about the lowest mortgage rate ). Buying a house is , for many Canadian's, their largest financial purchase. You are willing to risk this getting stuffed up to save a hundred dollars? I have been a broker for 12 years and I can't tell you how many times I have had to hand hold law offices thru the closing process. I even had a law clerk call me and ask how I wanted the mortgage registered!! In every case where I had to help, the law office in question was offering a lower price than most.
    I would never recommend a client only seek out the lowest cost supplier for these essential services.

  • Jason Nugent on 2013-06-20 9:15:20 AM

    Working twice as hard for the same money, seems to be the wave of the future. One day clients will wake up and there won't be a mortgage broker industry anymore because there's no money in and they will be paying posted rates again.

    It's a race to the bottom.

  • Frank on 2013-06-20 11:58:25 AM

    I dont agree that this will be the new way to do business, whether its a mortgage or a lawyer or any other service provider. Nothing beats working with a circle of professionals that you know and trust.

    If you are constantly looking for the cheapest service provider then sites like this will make the search easier, that is all. Ive been investing in Real Estate all my life and only work with people with whom I have a relationship and trust to get the job done. Surely there must be others like me?

  • Bob on 2013-06-20 12:07:54 PM

    Hi Frank,

    Yes, there are many people like you and I. We believe in the relationship not the lowest price. That is why I am still here after 12 years. There will always be those that the only value proposition they have is the lowest price.

  • Dan on 2013-06-20 12:25:08 PM

    Good luck closing monoline lender's deal thru FCT/FNF with the cheapest lawyer working from basement - kiss your client good buy when this lawyer refer client to big bank because he/she is not on(or even worse has been cut off from) monoline approved list...

  • Blair Anderson on 2013-06-20 1:12:46 PM

    At the risk of a shameless plug, there is an online alternative to finding professionals where the focus is not on price or rate. www.MortgageResource.ca offers professionals the opportunity to keep clients on the right message by using social media to educate and promote yourself at the same time.

    It's how we choose to use the internet that matters. It can be a great tool, but for the sake of our profession, lets stay on message please!

    If you haven't registered yet at www.MortgageResource.ca, join today and help yourself and Canadians looking for the right information.

  • risk manager on 2013-06-20 7:54:24 PM

    Too many people seem to have forgotten that the lawyer should be as important throughout the entire purchase transaction as the Real Estate Agent or Mortgage Professional (be they broker or banker).

    More often than not nowadays, it seems like the lawyer is simply an afterthought to the transaction; someone to "close" the purchase. Whatever happened to the concept that the lawyer should always review the offer to purchase before it is signed?

    I would much rather start the home buying process with a lawyer I trust implicitly, who can then refer me to a RE Agent and/or Mortgage Professional THEY trust, than the other way around.

    The last thing anyone who calls themselves a professional should be doing is allowing the customer to sign the purchase agreement and THEN start looking for a lawyer to close.

    On the other hand, if you HAVE already entered into a binding agreement without consulting with a lawyer first, you may as well choose the cheapest lawyer as possible, because there is nothing they can do to save you from yourself!

    Remember, you get what you pay for!

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