Hometown Lenders Optimizes Construction Lending Operations with Land Gorilla

Hometown Lenders is a mortgage company with branches across the country. Because of their multiple locations, it was difficult to manage construction and renovation loans uniformly across all branches without using a software technology solution. Hometown used spreadsheets to track budgets, disbursements, and percentage of completion. Because of the manual process, utilizing spreadsheets made it difficult to catch mistakes and very often was not seen until the end of the construction project.

In 2020, Heath Quick rejoined Hometown Lenders as COO and was instrumental in revamping the construction department. To better manage the programs, construction lending veteran, JoAnn Callen, was brought on as their Construction, Renovation Specialist & Closer. Together, Heath and JoAnn began envisioning a more streamlined process for Hometown, particularly as it pertains to their inspections.

“I look like a hero when I quote a 3-5 day turnaround but we deliver in a fraction of that time.”

JoAnn Callen
Construction, Renovation Specialist & Closer

It’s simple to show the ROI of Land Gorilla.

“When I joined Hometown Lenders, I audited the entire draw process and discovered the inspections process was a problem area,” said Callen. “Branches would have to use the original appraiser for progress inspections. It wasn’t an easy process. We would average a two-week turn time on draws because we were waiting 5-7 days for the appraiser to get back out to the job site. Then we had to wait for their report and hoped it included all the information we needed.”

Additionally, some branches simply weren’t trained in draw management or the inspection process. “I was the back-stop for every construction and renovation loan,” said Callen. “I was tracking down inspections and communicating with each borrower, contractor, or builder. It was manual and overwhelming. That’s when I said, ‘It’s time to use Land Gorilla.’”

JoAnn had previous experience using the Land Gorilla platform and Heath spearheaded the approval and utilization of Land Gorilla to streamline the construction loan draw process. During this time, Hometown decided to pause their two-time close construction loan program, but maintained their renovation lending. With a focus on renovation, Hometown could revamp their processes for more efficiency and growth.

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“When I joined Hometown Lenders, I audited the entire draw process and discovered the inspections process was a problem area”

JoAnn Callen
Construction, Renovation Specialist & Closer

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Hometown had an eye on streamlining their inspections process. They were experiencing painfully slow turn times and a messy communication system. Hometown frequently had to do a lot of leg work just to get accurate up-to-date information.

“Previously we would have to contact builders to tell them there was an issue with the inspection, but we didn’t have visibility into it so we didn’t know what went wrong,” said Callen. “We just knew we didn’t have it, and we had to be apologetic.”

“We had discussed a few different options to better systemize our inspections, but I said no, we need Land Gorilla,” continued Callen. “Our investors have Land Gorilla as an approved partner. If we send an inspection report to our warehouse bank, they don’t question it because Land Gorilla is so thorough. When we were using appraisers for inspections, they frequently wouldn’t complete the inspection report correctly and it would cause problems and delays. When our investors see a Land Gorilla inspection, they know all the information for the inspection will be included and the draw can continue without a setback. Land Gorilla knows what we need, and our warehouse bank agrees. We asked for a lot of things other inspections/ draw software companies didn’t do, but Land Gorilla could accommodate us.”

“One of the biggest reasons we chose Land Gorilla is the time factor,” said Callen. “We save so much time with Land Gorilla inspections because they are quick and easy. As soon as an inspection is requested through Land Gorilla, I get an email notifying me of the request. Sometimes with Land Gorilla I get the draw inspection back before I get my title work back— which is crazy. Because of the automations and visibility I know every step of the way what is going on.”

Hometown quickly began to see the time saving benefits of Land Gorilla inspections. “I can’t count how many times I got back the inspection report and said, ‘But I just ordered it!’” continued Callen. “I look like a hero when I quote a 3-5 day turnaround but we deliver in a fraction of that time. Our customers always respond with, ‘Thanks JoAnn, that was really fast.’ It feels so good to tell people their funds are ready early. With Land Gorilla we love being able to deliver quickly and tell people their money is ready for them before they expect it to be.”

“Hometown quickly began to see the time saving benefits of Land Gorilla Inspections.”

Remote Inspections

When Hometown decided to utilize Land Gorilla inspection services, they were quickly captivated by the remote inspections product. A remote inspection offers an easy way to document the progress of work on a property without the need for an inspector to physically visit the property. This is especially useful for properties in remote areas of the country, where it’s more difficult for an inspector to visit in a timely manner.

“We have had instances of projects in remote areas and we were having a hard time getting the appraiser back out there to do a draw inspection in the middle of the pandemic,” said Callen. “Because of this, the builder wasn’t paid for far too long, and we had to use our operating account and not our warehouse line to front the money, because our warehouse line wouldn’t front the money without an inspection. Land Gorilla remote inspections have been specifically beneficial for Hometown.”

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Partnership, Training, and Support

Hometown has found a true partner in Land Gorilla. “If I have problems or issues or something comes up, the Land Gorilla team will help me immediately,” said Callen. “I’ve had other experiences that were much more difficult. For example, when I was dealing with AMCs, we needed different login credentials for each and it was always a hassle and I didn’t have time for that. If I have a question or I want to add something like a specific verbiage, we get it taken care of quickly.”

“Land Gorilla has great training; I receive a lot of support,” continued Callen. “In the beginning they walked me through the first three or four inspections— how to work the portal. And now with draw administration, I will still get a lot of support from my Customer Success Manager (CSM). Anytime I have a question about the software or a functionality I think we could use, I speak to my CSM and I know the ideas are taken seriously.”

Hometown works closely with their CSM at Land Gorilla to help them utilize the software to the betterment of their loan programs.

“Working with Land Gorilla, they are able to tell me best practices, they are able to inform me what they usually see in the industry, and how we can improve our processes,” said Callen. “I was speaking with my CSM the other day and they were able to confirm a change I was proposing was correct. I was able to take my proposal confidently to management, and back up my statement with the fact that Land Gorilla sees other lenders doing this same thing. For example, I felt there should be a change in our closing disclosures, but I didn’t have the industry knowledge to back up my assertion. I spoke with Land Gorilla and they confirmed the change in our CD would benefit us in the long run.”

“Working with Land Gorilla, they are able to tell me best practices, they are able to inform me what they usually see in the industry, and how we can improve our processes.”

JoAnn Callen
Construction, Renovation Specialist & Closer

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Draw Management and OneSite

Because inspections on their renovation programs are going so well, Hometown has been able to launch construction-to-permanent lending. “We decided to come back into construction lending because we saw the writing on the wall,” said Callen. “We knew mortgage rates were going to go up and the inventory wasn’t going to be strong, which would decrease our purchase and refinance volume. To offset that, we wanted to get our construction loans up and running, and we felt confident we could succeed with Land Gorilla.”

Hometown is looking forward to seeing a drastic improvement in the draw process surrounding communication. Just like with inspections, communications were an issue during the draw process. Instead of getting random disconnected emails, all the communication for a specific loan file will be housed in Land Gorilla software. If the Hometown team has any questions regarding that loan file, it is all there in one place. They no longer have to bounce between different spreadsheets and programs to find information.

With the launch of their CTP program, Hometown will be using Land Gorilla’s builder and borrower portal, called OneSite. This mobile and web application allows builders to submit draw requests, access the budget of record, upload documents, and communicate with the lender, anywhere and anytime. It eliminates the risk of data entry errors, inaccurate budgets, and over funded draws.

“Our builders are telling me they are getting more contracts, so we are rolling out our construction program as we speak,” said Callen. “Utilizing OneSite will be huge. The client can just log onto OneSite and see all their information right there and know what the numbers are and there won’t be many questions from them because it is all clear in the software.”

“We are beta testing three branches and they are so excited to be using it,” continued Callen. All 90 of our branches are excited about beginning to use the software. We will get the proper training to the people who need it, we will make sure we have the right people in place and if we need to hire we will do so.”

Any Hometown team member who has permissions in the software is able to access the loan file and would be able to understand exactly what needs to be done on the loan that day.”Even if I am taking time off for some reason, someone can easily step in my place,” said Callen. “We didn’t have that before.”

“Utilizing OneSite will be huge”

JoAnn Callen
Construction, Renovation Specialist & Closer

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According to Callen, it’s simple to show the ROI of Land Gorilla. “The software will save us time, keep us organized, and provide great communication tools,” said Callen. “When our competitors are slow on inspections and slow to fund draws, we will not be slow. We believe these loan programs will allow us to thrive when others are struggling to find business.”

“I think it gives our management team peace of mind that I can tell them with 100 percent certainty that we can do construction loans effectively and efficiently now,” said Callen. “Before, we didn’t have that trust because it was a mess and we didn’t have the right tools in place. Now we are digitized and we can lean on Land Gorilla’s expertise in the construction draw process if we ever need help. I’m not left on my own to figure this out. Land Gorilla is not just a software solution, but they bring industry expertise and there is always someone available. I feel confident about our construction and renovation programs. Land Gorilla empowers me to say, ‘I’ve got this, I know what I’m doing, I can train people, I can handle this’.”