Countrywide Surveyors is due in December to deploy a web service built on Microsoft's .net platform which links directly to mortgage lenders' IT systems to streamline mortgage applications.
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The system, which combines a mobile application used in the field by surveyors and a back-office IT system, aims to reduce the manual work involved in processing mortgage applications.
Bill Ashworth, head of IT at Countrywide Surveyors, the UK's largest residential survey business, said the company has been in discussion with providers of mortgage system software to support the web service in their mortgage applications.
Earlier this month, the first broker went live with an application that supports Countrywide Surveyors' web service. "The mortgage lender's system calls our system via a web service and uses XML to transfer information," said Ashworth.
The electronic request for a property survey from the lender's system is forwarded to one of Countrywide Surveyors' 140 offices, based on the property's postcode. There administrative staff co-ordinate with the homeowner and surveyor to book an appointment via a portal that links to Countrywide Surveyors' Microsoft Exchange e-mail server.
In the field, surveyors use a tablet PC equipped with an O2 datacard running a mobile application. The application, written using Visual Basic .net, synchronises appointments with the company's e-mail server and allows the surveyor to input data directly into the tablet PC.
The application collects data on the property, captures photographs using a connected digital camera and allows the surveyor to submit a completed survey instantly as an electronic form over the O2 network.
Formscape, the document processing application, collects the data from the Visual Basic .net system and converts it into a printable form in the format required by the mortgage lender. Ashworth said, "All data collected is synchronised with the back-end system over GPRS."
In the previous system, a surveyors collected data on a paper field sheet which was was transcribed into Countrywide Surveyors' Quest system.