MReport July 2019

TheMReport — News and strategies for the evolving mortgage marketplace.

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24 | TH E M R EP O RT FEATURE Bridging the Customer Experience Here's how loan officers and real estate agents can work together to provide a cutting-edge customer experience in the digital era. By Whitney Blessington T echnology is transforming the housing industry, and the rate of change seems to have caught many professionals off guard. Today, mobile and online mortgage applications and preap- provals have become the norm. Increasingly, technology-based real estate companies such as Zillow and Redfin are providing an alter- native to employing a local real estate agent by giving consumers the ability to house search via their device from any location, at any time of the day. As a result, some in the in- dustry foresee a future in which technology will completely do away with the need for loan of- ficers and real estate professionals. However, this type of thinking misses the point of housing tech- nology completely. According to a 2018 report on homebuyer trends from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 86% of homebuy- ers contacted a real estate agent last year when looking for a home and 56% attended an open house. Although it is true the vast majority of today's homebuy- ers go online for information initially (93%, according to the NAR report), a clear majority still turn to real estate professionals for help before making a purchase and more than half still attend open houses. This makes it more important than ever for lenders to engage with real estate agents and, in turn, help them engage their tech-savvy clients. Maximizing Reach T he speed at which new tech- nology and regulatory reform are changing the way homebuyers find and purchase homes can leave even the smartest housing profes- sionals behind the times. One of the best ways to connect with real estate professionals, therefore, is to share information with them. In other words, be collaborative and help them provide the best experi- ence possible for their clients. Today's mortgage market underscores the shift toward a more collaborative environment between loan officers, real estate professionals, and borrowers. There are proven tools that loan officers can provide their real estate partners, including tried- and-tested methods such as lunch- and-learns, co-branded events, and workshops, but it's imperative to go beyond face-to-face interactions and also provide partners with strategies to maximize the mobile and online channels to reach new clients, including: Regular business support emails: Sending a weekly email tip designed to help boost an agent's business is a simple, but highly ef- fective way of maintaining engage- ment with existing and potential real estate partners. Examples could include the value of renova- tion lending to help first-time homebuyers turn a fixer-upper into a dream home or best practices for promoting and hosting workshops for first-time homebuyers to gener- ate new clients. Loan officers can also share recent blog posts about the resurgence (and importance) of jumbo loans or market trend reports that predict how interest rates will fluctuate. Anything that can potentially help real estate partners build their businesses will ultimately help loan officers cement those relationships and improve their own bottom line. Online educational resources: This gives real estate partners their own tools for working with more tech-savvy homebuyers. For example, millennial buyers with questions about mortgage loans will appreciate real estate agents who can give them access to an eBook that explains the loan process step-by-step and answers all their initial questions. When real estate professionals provide homebuyers with links to helpful articles and/or well-designed info- graphics to answer common ques- tions early in the process, it also creates a better overall experience for the buyer and tends to lead to an easier origination process overall. An established online pres- ence: To really help real estate partners capture more business from online homebuyer searches, lenders can advise them on how to easily set up a Google Business page. The entire process gener- ally takes less than 20 minutes, and when set up correctly (with visually appealing images, strong testimonials, and the right cross- links) they will enable real estate agents to more effectively capture some of the 93% of homebuyers searching online for homes and real estate professionals. There are many other strate- gies lenders are using to digitally engage real estate professionals, but adopting even one of the above can serve as a powerful tool to foster stronger relation- ships. Real estate partners will appreciate the frequent contact, as well as the useful advice, and be more inclined to send those help- ful loan officers referral business as they grow their own. Tech Tools That Work E mailed marketing tips, shared industry reports, self-help

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