Let's Make Home Happen

May 2018, Volume 6 Issue 11

Home Counselor Online™ – The Next Generation

Fannie Mae recently announced a plan to deliver Home Counselor Online™ (HCO) users a new dynamic client management system (CMS) with state-of-the-art functionality and an improved user experience. Best of all, counselors are guiding its development. The Office of Housing Counseling sat down with Joe Weisbord, a Fannie Mae director who works with counseling agencies; Cheryl Peterson, an HCO product specialist at Fannie Mae; and Lyndsay Burns, director of housing counseling programs at the Housing Partnership Network, to discuss HCO’s retirement and next steps.

Why retire HCO?

Weisbord: HCO has been around for more than 15 years. During that time, technology has continued to advance. We were considering how to update HCO when a group of housing counseling industry leaders (Housing Partnership Network, National Foundation for Credit Counseling, UnidosUS, and HomeFree-USA) came together on the need for a new technology platform. We agreed there was a need for standardization and technology integration to integrate counselors more fully into the mortgage process. Since then we’ve worked to design a system that will offer more than HCO.

What new features can we expect?

Burns: The new CMS will offer all of the functions essential to housing counselors—the ability to track case information, set up appointments, and submit compliant HUD-9902 reports. But it will also offer new functions requested by counseling agencies such as dashboard reporting, automatic activity reminders, and the ability to manage relationships between multiple clients, cases, and households.

Peterson: The new system will use Salesforce technology and have an updated look and feel. It will require fewer clicks to complete tasks and enter case information. One of the big things we’re working to accomplish eventually is access to Fannie Mae’s Desktop Underwriter® (DU®) to enhance the ability of counselors to assess mortgage readiness.

Who’s designing the system?

Burns: Housing Partnership Network is collaborating with multiple industry leaders and a technology vendor to develop the new platform. While the CMS will be our flagship product, we do not plan to stop there. We’re really excited about the opportunity to work with Fannie Mae and its lender partners to better serve clients.

What will it cost to use the tool?

Burns: A collaborative of counseling organizations will ultimately own and operate an independent social enterprise to offer the tool for the benefit of the counseling industry. They’re working to design a fee structure so the CMS will be accessible to organizations of all sizes and still generate sufficient revenue to provide high-quality user support, training, and system enhancements. To learn more about the collaborative new social enterprise, contact burns@housingpartnership.net.

When will it be available?

Peterson: A phased migration to the new system will begin in late 2018; however, the current HCO system will not be retired until all training and migration activities are complete.

Find more information about the transition at Fannie Mae’s website or email inquiries to Housing_Counseling_Inquiry@fanniemae.com.

People entering data into system