With mortgages available at the tip of our fingers, the overall homebuying experience is changing, and builders and lenders need to adapt quickly to stay competitive
BY SERGIO FLORES
The trajectory of the homebuying experience is changing—from the initial search of a new home to post-purchase.
At the 22nd Annual Eliant Homebuyers’ Choice Awards 2018, many presenters spoke of the numerous ways in which the homebuilding industry is changing — cultural shifts that are affected by ever-changing technology and consumers. Dan Hanson, Chief Retail Production Officer for loanDepot, noted that the number one lender for homebuyers isn’t loanDepot or a big bank, it’s Quicken Loans.
A quick Google search will show that Mr. Hanson is correct and along with Quicken Loans’ slogan, “Mortgages Made Simple.” It’s short, to the point, and brilliant. Personally, as a 25-year old Millennial, the housing market is a few years away for me, but, from what I’ve learned from this job, navigating the homebuying experience is bound to be overwhelming – from the mortgage, to the warranty, to every other step. Thus, companies that make the process simple will have an advantage, like Quicken Loans. I think Hanson was trying to illustrate that the most successful mortgage companies now do business primarily through a screen interface, not necessarily in person, and that is a game changer.
When I am ready to buy a house, though, I know the first place I’ll go to: Google. Sure, I’ll get referrals from my parents and my more successful friends that are already on their second house, but despite those recommendations, nothing will deprive me of my right to google.
The internet’s convenience is something you simply cannot beat — and, as Quicken Loans has already discovered, it is invaluable. You begin by simply gathering all necessary information to plug in to their online form. But wait, it’s even easier now — just snap a picture or put your employer’s code and bam, it fills it in by itself.
Long gone are the days where one would go to the bank in his best suit, with a manila folder and a winning smile. Technology has made everything faster and simpler — and that’s not only where the homebuying experience is already going, but it’s what Millennial buyers will expect. Anything less than a seamless transition into homeownership will unnerve the fragile Millennial and result in a lost client.
Another way the internet is affecting the industry is through reviews. Again, Google comes in handy. The first thing I do before trying a new product, a new restaurant, or a new employer is go online. What’re people saying about this company? How do they treat not just their customers, but their employees, too? One of the first things that stood out to me from Quicken Loans was that they were recognized by Fortune as one of 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2017.
I would like to think that, even before prominent websites like Yelp and Glassdoor, a company’s reputation affected whether or not a customer would want to conduct business with them. Today, everything about a company is much more transparent, thus, companies are held to much higher standards than before.
Over the next five years, 66.1 percent of millennials are expected to enter the housing market. It is important that we differentiate between Millennials born in the 80s, and those born in the late 90s and early 00s. John Burns of John Burns Real Estate states that this is especially key when discussing the millennial buyer, as there is quite a discrepancy in the ages between the baby millennial and the older millennial.
Surprisingly, Millennials are considered to be the best educated generation, with almost 35 percent of 25-29 year olds holding a degree — a distinction, though, that has come at a heavy cost: student loans. A study from the National Association of Realtors and nonprofit American Student Assistance revealed that student debt is inhibiting Millennials from entering the housing market. On average, the study found that Millennials have a seven-year delay due to debt. Seven years is a long time. It’s time that the recovering housing market does not have to waste, especially for this large bracket of builders.
Smart builders, like Lennar, are cognizant of these concerns, and are finding ways to address them. Lennar’s homebuilder’s subsidiary mortgage lender division, Eagle Home Mortgage, announced in late 2017 a new program catered to the Millennial buyer. Their Student Loan Debt Mortgage Program offers borrowers as much as $13,000 that can be used to pay off student loan debt. Borrowers can direct up to three percent of the purchase price to pay their student loans, but only if they also purchase a new home from Lennar. That three percent, however, will not add to the price of the home or to the mortgage balance.
The way business is conducted is changing, and will only continue to change. The next generation is already forcing a cultural shift in the homebuying trajectory, and the best builders, lenders, and building professionals will adapt.
Sergio Flores is Senior Editor for Builder and Developer magazine. He may be reached at email@example.com.