Housing Wire recently released some surprising information: in 2018, realtor use has hit a new record high. Today, 90% of all homebuyers are using realtors, and the data gets even more startling from there: 91% of Millennials opt to use a realtor, compared to 94% of Gen X-ers, and only 81% of Boomers.
What? Haven’t consumers, particularly the newest generation of home buyers, been pushing us down the digital path? Well, not so much. The data provide further proof that Millennials are not edging away from human interaction — at least not when it comes to home lending.
This is still surprising, however, given that Zillow currently clocks 188 million monthly visitors viewing realty listings who likely haven’t yet contacted a realtor. Zillow functions primarily to put information about sale and rental properties directly into the hands of consumers. People visit Zillow to peruse properties, seek out more information on specific listings, and even to get connected with real estate professionals — 2 million of which are currently listed on the site. Zillow’s popularity has been booming, paving the way for the company’s purchasing their competitor, Trulia, for 2.5 billion in February of 2015.
I ran across the firm when it purchased my former client Mortech. I found the company’s management to be very well informed for a company that we might typically think of as a mortgage industry outsider. Of course, Zillow is primarily a real estate play.
Despite its success at signing up real estate agents and even mortgage originators, Zillow is a good example of a business that is clearly looking ahead to the self-service real estate sales world. But will we ever really see it? It’s clear that consumers want to be able to access and review information at their leisure. They want access to as much data as possible. But that’s just part of the story.
Housing Wire’s information on rising Realtor use by consumers undercuts the theory that home buyers want a completely digital experience. This has serious implications for the mortgage business. The trend for both home sales and finance is that consumers want to work with a trusted professional.
Leaders at Mortgage Cadence have shared their insights into borrower trends, and what they have found is that borrowers today desire real, face-to-face communication with their lenders.
Millennials in particular want just as much human-to-human connection as previous generations, and having a lender who can walk them through the homebuying process in the role of a mentor is a huge factor. As Mortgage Cadence expresses it: consumers don’t want to feel like they are in the dark, they want open lines of communication and a high-touch, nurturing relationship with their lender — particularly first time buyers.
More people today are utilizing and seeking out information on the internet than ever before. That’s true. But that includes 92% of home buyers who are currently seeking information on Realtors online.
Consumers today want the ease of digital channels. They want information that is easy to find and understand. They expect communication to be instant and personal, and they want to walk through the whole process with a trusted professional.
This suggests that spending time and money on tools that cut real estate agents and loan officers out of the equation will be a wasted effort. At least for now.