Diana Mulhall

Prabhakar Bhogaraju Appointed FinLocker’s Executive Vice-President, Head of Strategy & Product Development

Prabhakar Bhogaraju Appointed FinLocker’s Executive Vice-President, Head of Strategy & Product Development

Bhogaraju will be responsible for sharpening FinLocker’s go-to-market strategy and oversee the product development of the FinLocker financial well-being app

FinLocker, a leader of next-generation, digital, consumer-permissioned personal financial assistance tools, announced today that Prabhakar Bhogaraju (PB) has joined FinLocker as the company’s new Executive Vice-President, Head of Strategy and Product Development.

PB brings over 20 years of mortgage technology and consulting experience, with the past ten years in executive leadership positions at Fannie Mae in product development, data management, and digital business architecture.  During his tenure at Fannie Mae, PB was instrumental in development of Core Underwriting, Pricing, and Loss Mitigation systems, a number of Fannie Mae’s Single-Family Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), as well as customer facing Business Intelligence, Reporting and Analytics solutions.

PB also brings extensive experience in customer engagement, design thinking, digital business strategy, and product development to FinLocker. He represented Fannie Mae on the boards of the Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization (MISMO) and the Financial Data Exchange.

“It’s an exciting time for me to be joining FinLocker,” said Bhogaraju. “Consumers are looking for intuitive and secure solutions that help to save for a home, buy a car, send their kids to college, save for retirement, and achieve other personal financial goals. My role will be to realize FinLocker’s mission of helping consumers achieve financial well-being and do so on their terms…not those of advertising and marketing businesses”.

In his role as Head of Strategy and Product Development, PB will oversee all aspects of our business strategy, as well as product design and development, by integrating functions across Eric Bloomquist, our Chief Product Officer, and Mike Brown, our Head of Development.

“PB is joining FinLocker at a critical juncture in the company’s development,” said Henry Cason, FinLocker CEO. “Working with PB at Fannie Mae for ten years, I saw first-hand the impact of the system processes he developed and executed to streamline the delivery and management of data services for mortgage lenders and their consumers. The backbone of the FinLocker platform is the secure storage and transfer of consumer permissioned data for financial transactions initiated through the FinLocker platform. Empowering consumers to control what data they share, when they share it, and to whom they share it, can not only reduce friction by streamlining loan applications and processing, but it can also help to establish an additional layer of trust between the consumer and their lender. Our goal is to provide consumers with a positive lending experience so they will become a customer for life with the mortgage lender or financial institution who provided their FinLocker.”

Tips To Find Your First home

7 Tips To Find Your First Home

If you’re looking to find your first home in a city or neighborhood with a low inventory of affordable starter homes, how do you decide what you want and what you need, and buy that home for a price you can afford? Check out these tips to find a home you’ll love – for now.


1 – Organize Your Wants Vs. Needs

Before you start looking at homes, make a list of needs and wants. If you are single or a couple, you might want a larger home to grow into, but a smaller home might meet your needs for the next few years.

When you’ve created your lists, use the filters on one of the online real estate websites to see if what you want is affordable in your preferred neighborhood. If a 3 bedroom/2 bathroom home in a hip downtown neighborhood is what you want but can’t afford, decide if a 2/1 in the same neighborhood will meet your needs for the next few years.


2 – Don’t Bust Your Budget

Buy a home you can afford. Having a less expensive mortgage will enable you to pay off student loans, car loans, take a vacation each year, and save for your next financial goals.

Get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a home loan before you start house hunting. Your mortgage lender will review your finances and let you know if you need a higher credit score or down payment. They’ll also provide a realistic budget, so you can confidently place an offer when you find a home.


3 – Consider Old Vs. New

Do you see yourself in a beautiful older home or a more modern, chic abode? An older home may require more maintenance, but new homes are often built in neighborhoods further out of town. The asking price for a newer home in the same neighborhood will likely be higher than for older homes of the same size.


4 – Rushing In Vs. Dragging Your Feet

It may be necessary to make an offer fast when you find a home you like. Ideally, you can take a few days to revisit the home at night and at different times of day to see if the neighborhood is safe, has more traffic on the weekday vs. weekend, etc.

House hunting can be time-consuming and losing out because someone made an offer can be heartbreaking. Buying a home is a high-cost investment, but you must have the confidence that you will be prepared to place an offer when you find a home that meets your needs.


5 – Real Estate Agent Vs. Buying On Your Own

The prevalence of real estate websites can make it seem easy to find a home. A real estate agent has “fiduciary” responsibility to their clients, so they are legally obligated to put their clients’ best interests first. They will only get paid – by the seller’s commission – when you buy a home. When it comes time to make an offer, understanding purchase agreements and all of the other associated documents, they’re usually worth their weight in gold.

If you decide to buy on your own, consider hiring a broker for a smaller one-time fee to simply review your contracts before signing.


6 – Offering Too Much Vs. Low Ball Bid

If there are several offers on the home you love, it’s easy to get sucked into a bidding war and end up paying more than the house will appraise at and your mortgage lender will finance.

If the house has been on the market for a while, is outdated, or requires repairs, there is often an opportunity to make an offer below the asking price. Be prepared for the seller to reject your offer or make a counteroffer; use this opportunity to negotiate.

A real estate agent can look at comparable sales to ensure your offer is reasonable for both the house and the location.


7 – Have An Exit Strategy

Starter homes aren’t meant to be your forever home. You’ll probably make a few compromises on size or location to purchase a home that meets your current needs. Before you make an offer on any home, you need to think about its resale value or rental potential. A home in a good neighborhood, school district, or near transportation has good resale value. Keeping the home maintained while you live there will help you to get top dollar when it’s time for your next purchase.

As a first-time homebuyer, the home you end up purchasing probably won’t be your dream, forever home. And that’s OK! If you lose a home in a bidding war, or it takes longer than expected to find a home within your budget, don’t lose faith. Discuss your wish list and needs list with your real estate agent. He/she can help you decide if your expectations are realistic or suggest other neighborhoods to help you buy a home that meets your current needs.

Adapting Business For 2021

Planning Your Pivot: Learning From 2020 To Prepare For 2021

Many of the mortgage lenders and originators who successfully transformed their business almost overnight in March 2020 had a record year in 2020.

2021 is expected to be another year of change. Now is the time to identify what strategies elevated your business in 2020 and prepare to pivot to 2021.

Will Skype and Zoom meetings replace more of your face-to-face meetings long term?

Did electronic document signing prove popular with your buyers?

Permanently offering both electronic or in-person meetings and document signing to clients will demonstrate that you value their time and understand their preferred communication method.

How will you pivot to grow and nurture your pipeline in 2021? 

Research indicates that many first-time homebuyers still prefer to work with a local lender. But now that younger borrowers are spending even more time online and don’t need to walk into a branch, how will you pivot to generate new leads?

Whether from real estate agents or past clients, referrals have always provided a significant source of an originator’s leads. Social media is an easy way to stay connected with past clients and offers a low-cost solution to attract new leads. How will you pivot your marketing strategy to stay top of mind and nurture the prospective homebuyers while they get mortgage-ready?

Adopt a high tech and high touch approach to pivot your business in 2021.

FinLocker helps originators reduce the friction of mortgage preparation and the mortgage application process for originators by giving borrowers the tools to control their mortgage preparation.

The borrower uses the FinLocker tools to save their down payment and closing costs, reduces debt, and improve their credit. When a borrower is confident they are mortgage-ready, they can take a short readiness assessment inside the app and decide, based on the results, if they meet the qualifications to proceed with their mortgage application and notify their originator of this decision from the app.

FinLocker reduces the friction often associated with document collection because the borrower can securely upload and save their personal and financial documents to the app, then share those documents directly with their lender directly from the app. The information is delivered to the lender as a MISMO file, which can be transferred directly to the originator’s LOS for processing.

Successful mortgage originators are personable, resilient, and creatively adapt to market fluctuations.

To be successful in 2021 and beyond, originators need to provide the younger generations of homebuyers with high tech tools and solutions they need for mortgage prep and complements your personalized communication.

Profile of a Founder Peter Esparrago

The Tech Tribune: Profile of a Founder: Peter Esparrago

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Peter Esparrago (co-founder and executive chairman) of FinLocker, which was honored in:
Tell us the origin story of FinLocker – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

The mortgage industry has always been a laggard in applying technology compared to the other financial services sectors. FinLocker was started with the goal of automating the very manually intensive and high-cost mortgage application and underwriting processes by accessing consumer-permissioned financial data from the source and applying analytics.

Based on customer feedback, FinLocker has evolved by moving its technology capabilities much earlier in the homeownership process, to when the consumer is still just dreaming of buying a home. FinLocker provides the tool and resources to help them achieve their dream by providing real estate search, mortgage and homeownership education, credit report and monitoring, financial account management, budgeting, mortgage readiness, streamlined mortgage pre-approval, and more.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

FinLocker is a B2B2C. FinLocker sells its white-label platform to financial institutions, which they provide for free to their consumer customers. One of the biggest challenges is to serve and satisfy two “masters” – the financial institution and the consumer. Both have their own needs and objectives, and it was challenging to balance in the early years of our startup.

The mortgage industry is very compliance-driven, and businesses are very slow to change their processes and adopt new technologies. By demonstrating our platform to mortgage lenders, they could see the value to their business and their consumers.

What does the future hold for FinLocker?

FinLocker will continue to expand its market-leading technology capabilities to support consumers’ entire homeownership journey. Connecting lenders with consumers when they first start thinking of buying their first home, FinLocker can help consumers improve their credit, save for their down payment and closing costs, get mortgage ready to be strong applicants for mortgage approval, obtain insurance, and perform other home-related services. As homeowners, they can continue using FinLocker to help them to maintain their credit, start new savings goals, and keep them engaged with their lender so they can leverage their home equity for other financial needs, and more.

FinLocker started by first focusing on the mortgage industry. However, FinLocker’s customers utilize their FinLocker for all types of consumer financial transactions like auto loans, insurance, student loans, credit cards, consumer loans, and more.

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Missouri?

The St. Louis tech startup ecosystem began to develop a “critical mass” around the 2012-2014 timeframe, when key entities like Cultivation Capital (early-stage venture capital firm), SixThirty (fintech accelerator), T-Rex (startup space), Capital Innovators (tech accelerator), Arch Grants (startup funding), Yield Lab (ag accelerator), Arch Angels (angel investors), Stadia Ventures (sports accelerator), and more came into the picture. St. Louis is now recognized as one of the top tech startup ecosystems in the country.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

For entrepreneurs aspiring to do a startup: have a simple idea that is easily explainable, but you must have a legitimate “secret sauce,” be able to clearly identify your customer and have a large enough market that can support one revenue stream. Once you have identified your product or service, work with your initial customer(s) to co-develop your product or service.

Originally published in The Tech Tribune

Home Buying Myths Busted

5 Common Home Buying Myths Busted

There is so much to consider when buying your first home. Advice often pours in from well-meaning parents and friends, which can contradict what you’ve read in your online research and received from your mortgage lender and real estate agent. What we do know is that licensed mortgage lenders and real estate agents are the professionals you should turn to for specialized advice and who we have turned to debunk these five homebuying myths.

1. You must have a 20% down payment.

While a 20% down payment can keep you from paying private mortgage insurance on a conventional home loan until you have obtained 80% equity, you can qualify for a home loan with a much lower down payment.

With a good credit score, you can purchase a home with a conventional mortgage with a 3% down payment. FHA home loans will accept a 3.5% down payment. VA home loans and USDA home loans have a zero down payment requirement, but they have additional lending criteria.

2. The down payment is the only money that needs to be put down to qualify for a home loan.

Saving for a down payment is often the focus for first-time homebuyers, but more funds are required to cover additional fees and closing costs. Homebuyers are responsible for the cost of the home inspection, home insurance, property taxes, and closing costs which are approximately 4% of the purchase price. If you get pre-qualified for a home loan with a reputable mortgage lender, they will provide a home budget and estimate your additional costs.

3. You must have a high credit score to qualify for a home loan.

The average FICO® score on all loans closed in February 2021 was 753, according to the Origination Insight Report by Ellie Mae. While lending criteria have tightened this past year, and a higher credit score will help you receive a lower interest rate and loan terms, don’t despair if your credit score is less than perfect. There are still many mortgage loan options for home buyers with lower credit scores.

Here’s a guide to the minimum credit scores for the four most common home loan programs. Each mortgage lender will have their own lending criteria.

  • Conventional loans usually require a 620 minimum credit score, but a higher credit score can help you to receive the lower “advertised” rates.
  • Depending on your down payment and debt-to-income ratio (DTI), you can qualify for an FHA home loan with a 580 credit score, and maybe even lower with a higher down payment. Still, most lenders will require at least a 620 credit score.
  • Most lenders require a minimum credit score of 640 for a USDA loan, though some may go as low as 580.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t technically have a minimum credit score to qualify for a VA home loan, but most lenders will require a minimum credit score between 580 and 620.

4. There’s a perfect time of year to buy a home.

Spring is often seen as the best time of year to buy a home. It is often the most competitive time to search for a home, which can drive up prices. Warmer weather is more conducive to house hunting, and families want to get settled in a new home before the new school year. Winter, particularly around the holidays, is often less competitive but usually has less inventory. Additional factors such as interest rates and location can also impact the market any time of the year.

The best time to buy a home is when you are financially prepared. You have been pre-qualified with a mortgage lender and have received a home purchase budget. A mortgage lender will provide a savings goal for your down payment and closing costs, review your credit score and credit report, and advise what your debt-to-income ratio should be. Ideally, you will have some additional savings to cover moving, furnishings, your first few mortgage payments, etc. When you have met these criteria, then that is the perfect time to buy your home.

5. You do not need a home inspection.

Home inspections are optional. If you are buying a home in a competitive market, it might be tempting to waive your right to a home inspection to make your offer look more attractive to the seller, but this could be a costly mistake. The home inspector works for you and will identify any potential issues with the property before committing to the purchase.

A licensed home inspector will provide a complete report of the home’s condition, such as the foundation, electrical wiring, plumbing, age and condition of the roof, HVAC system, etc. If the home inspector identifies any issues during the home inspection, you can use the report to request the seller to make the repairs or to negotiate a lower purchase price for you to make the repairs before purchase.

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