The following is a print feature that first appeared in MReport's January 2015 issue, available now.
In a market cycle where the purchase loan is king and prospects are few, lenders must tailor their marketing strategies toward tech-savvy homebuyers who'd prefer to work through the process themselves. The old adage "fish where the fish are" has never been truer. But now the fish—so to speak—have gone digital.
The current generation of first-time homebuyers has grown up with a computer in their homes and a cell phone in their hands. The level of service they expect is far, far different than that of any previous generation. To survive, lenders have no choice but to meet those expectations head-on. Just consider the numbers.
It should come as no surprise that nearly 60 percent of the country's adults have a smart-phone, according to the Pew Research Internet Project. Narrow that down to 35, the average age of first-time homebuyers, and the figure shoots up to 74 percent. Nor should it come as a shock that the National Association of Realtors (NAR) finds that 92 percent of homebuyers start their search online. When they do, they'll stumble upon seemingly countless websites offering online applications for pre-approval—catnip to digital do-it-yourselfers.
These are your first-time and move-up buyers, those who will be on radar for the next decade. These prospects think they know all the answers before engaging any mortgage professional in the process. If they could, some would probably try to edge them out altogether.
To stay in the game, you'll need to provide the right information at the right moment and be available at all times to direct—and, if necessary, to correct—their homebuying experience. To do that, lenders not only need to know prospects better, they must learn how to work harder and smarter.
For example, Fannie Mae's research on borrowers shows that those with higher incomes are using technology to shop for mortgages twice as often as borrowers with lower incomes. That same study also indicates that all borrowers anticipate using technology significantly more in the future to shop for a mortgage.
There are a number of strategies that lenders—especially smaller operations with limited resources—can immediately employ to be relevant to the first-time, digitally minded borrower. Here are few.