Sam Vida is the President and Co-Founder of Rocket Homes where he leads the day-to-day operations, production, and implementation of large-scale projects that drive the company forward.
He has led Rocket Homes from a small business, focused on bridging the gap between clients and real estate agents, to a national company that provides an end-to-end solution for consumers looking to buy and sell a home anywhere in the country.
Vida spoke to MReport about the findings in Rocket Home’s latest Neighborhood Trends Report, the importance of giving power to the buyer, and simplifying the homebuying process.
How important is it to the housing industry that Rocket Homes’ Neighborhood Trend Reports gives consumers increased knowledge when buying and/or selling a home?
If you zoom out and look at the last couple of decades, with the proliferation of the internet, and the access to data making massive strides, consumer expectations have dramatically changed. Ensuring the public gets what it needs through a trusted brand is important, and the companies that do it really well survive, thrive and continue to evolve.
Many in the real estate space—our sister company across the street, Rocket Mortgage, is a leader in this—are innovating and making what has historically been a grueling process, something that is easy for everyone. Think about the launch of Rocket Mortgage—obtaining a mortgage used to be such a hassle, now it‘s evolved into a simple, transparent and digital process.
The impetus around Neighborhood Trend Reports was finding ways to turn data in the MLS into meaningful, understandable—not intimidating—information for the consumer. With this, we can answer the questions consumers have or anticipate the questions that they're going to have.
You just launched your Neighborhood Trend Reports, please speak more about your upcoming product release, Property Reports.
We will be launching Property Reports very soon. We are aiming for summertime.
Homeowners and buyers want to know a lot of the same things. To satisfy that need, Property Reports will take the data from our Neighborhood Trend Reports down a couple of altitudes, to a specific address. It is a very precise search area that delivers contextual information about the market around that house, instead of the standard data points found on other home search sites.
Our Property Reports deliver ultra-unique insights like: what types of homes are selling in a mile radius of the address, which similar homes are selling, how a certain type of home is trending in my market and what neighboring markets are doing with homes similar to mine.
Our research has clearly demonstrated homeowners want to know what's going on with the biggest asset they own, their home. They could be interested in learning about what's going on in their area without any interest in selling their home.
So, we're going to be delivering what we believe is one of the more valuable solutions in the industry.
How vital is it for the growth of the housing and mortgage industry to simplify the processes for the consumer through technology?
It's insanely vital now more than ever.
I'm more a student of the real estate industry, but I believe what I'm about to say follows for the mortgage industry as well, the amount of investment that has come in over the last few years is at record levels. That is a testament to the fact that there's a known opportunity.
A lot of people that have bought or sold a home will remember it as one of the most important financial decisions in their life. They will also remember some of the challenges and stresses that were involved. There are so many things that are in the control of the consumer and there's a lot of things that aren't, but there is clearly a lot of opportunity to streamline and simplify.
We believe in innovating with technology and we take it very seriously. Our actions speak louder than our words. Our sister company Rocket Mortgage is simplifying the mortgage experience and Rocket Homes is simplifying the real estate experience. Homebuyers can work with two separate companies or bring those concepts together to form a single end-to-end mortgage and real estate experience with one unique account. And we are just getting started, so be on the lookout for more Rocket innovation.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the housing market?
When my family and friends asked me this because in my social circles I'm the real estate guy even though there are people that know the real estate market far better than I, my answer is—there's not one answer. I say that because real estate is hyper-local and we've been on a run here for the last three, four, five years with home prices ebbing and flowing.
But I will tell you there are markets that have really slowed down. The area that I live in, for example, has seen appreciation skyrocket. Now, over the last six or seven months, we've seen it slow down. My area transitioned from a sellers' market toward more of a neutral market, but that’s not representative of the nation.
I have family and friends in California who are still seeing prices skyrocket because the supply is so low. The demand is insanely high and wages out there have followed, so people can still afford it.
The fact that we're seeing such immense diversity around the market nationally says that overall—I don't want to say there is a cooling, but I think it's taken the temperature down a notch in terms of supply and demand.
What's interesting, however, is supply is still historically low. I'm really curious to see in Q1 and Q2 what affordability looks like and also if buyers that were on the fence are going to jump back in. There are a lot of big variables and depending on the market you're in, the answer to your question is very different.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge facing the housing and mortgage industries over this coming year?
I think the laws of supply and demand always win. Supply is still at record low levels in much of the country and demand is very high, but we really want to keep an eye on affordability. There may be a transition in the second half of the year as it relates to these indicators.
We want to keep demand hot, but we have to see what happens here based on the most important variable: time. People might get priced out of markets—we've seen that before in California and in a lot of other markets. I'm seeing it in some pockets of metro Detroit as well. The macroeconomics in this industry is going to be very important in 2020. It's either going to continue the current trend or this might be a pivot year in terms of a little bit of cooling.
From an industry evolution standpoint, it goes back to the amount of capital being injected into the marketplace. Being able to decipher signal versus noise is going to be very important. The companies, like Rocket Homes, that are consumer obsessed will do really well.
There's a lot of innovation in the market right now—iBuyers are an obvious example. I have to ask myself though, “Can it continue to last and be sustainable in a balanced market where interest rates are higher and appreciation has slowed?” Time is the only thing that will tell.
There have been a lot of innovations injected into the marketplace. Now, in 2020, we're going to begin to see which companies have built a sustainable model, and which ones have not. That's a big thing that we will see come year-end.