McClair Mortgage Corporation, Flint, Michigan, does things differently. It is one of the few independent mortgage brokers in the country functioning on Linux, a Unix-like computer operating system, instead of Microsoft[R] Windows[R], the most universal of operating systems. [??] To be so independent-minded, McClair needed to find loan origination software that could operate on Linux. It turned to a cross-state neighbor--Mortgage Builder Software Inc., Southfield, Michigan. [??] It's not that Mortgage Builder, a provider of loan origination system (LOS) software solutions, produces a Linux product. No, its technology is quintessentially Windows--but because a number of its customers do use Linux, the company created a way to effortlessly port its software system to Linux. [??] "Our system was built on the Microsoft platform," says Keven Smith, president of Mortgage Builder, "yet customers would come to me and say, 'I want to run on Unix or Linux, can you do that?'"
Obviously, that question was asked of other technology providers as well, but as Smith explains, the problem with other LOS platforms was that creating something that would run on Linux would mean an expensive and time-consuming rewrite of their existing systems. Many providers couldn't do it, leaving the Linux-system customers with the option to seek help elsewhere or switch to Windows.
That's not an easy choice, as Linux operators really like to use Linux. "We find Linux a much more stable environment to operate in," says John O'Leary, operations manager for McClair Mortgage. "We don't have as much downtime on the servers as with a Windows operating system. There is a lot more flexibility as far as development, according to our IT [information technology] staff and it is less expensive. We have guys on staff who understand Linux. It was their choice," adds O'Leary.
In 2003, McClair Mortgage opted to use Mortgage Builder's LOS because it could port its technology over to a Unix-based operating system, such as Linux, with what Smith calls "minimal effort." And that's exactly what Mortgage Builder did for McClair Mortgage, a mortgage banking firm that does both prime and subprime lending.
"Our software runs seamlessly on Unix, Linux and Microsoft-based systems," says Smith. "This gives customers such as McClair Mortgage the option to use its existing Linux setup instead of purchasing costly new servers just to run their LOS."
McClair Mortgage, which in 2007 only did business in a selection of "M" states--Michigan, Missouri and Minnesota--will do about 1,500 loans this year, or about $120 million in volume, and with very little in the way of glitches from its operating system.
"Since using Mortgage Builder, operations have gone very smoothly," says O'Leary. "About every two years we look at the market to see what is available, and then decide if we are still doing the right thing. We are still doing the right thing."
Because Linux-minded companies like McClair Mortgage use, or at least consider, Mortgage Builder, the company sometimes gets thought of as being Linux-based, which, as noted, is not at all correct. In fact, only about 2 percent of Mortgage Builder's customers use Linux.
It's all about customer service, says Smith. "If a customer comes to us and says, 'We would love to run Mortgage Builder on Linux,' I don't want to say to the customer, 'We don't run on Linux.' The Linux product is not the biggest seller for us, but we give them that service; we give them the flexibility to run on the operating system of their choice."
A break-out company
Officially, Mortgage Builder was born in 1998. Its origins, however, are much older.
Back in 1977, Glenn Liebowitz founded Glenn Computer Corporation to provide technology to mortgage servicers. That company eventually morphed into Southfield, Michigan-based GCC Servicing Systems, a mortgage servicing technology and service provider. …