The home-buying process has changed drastically in the last decade, with buyers happy to self-serve as they look for homes and home loans. That process of self-education often lands them in an unusual space: loan call centers, which used to be the choice for homeowners looking for refinance loans, not first-time homebuyers reaching out for a purchase loan.

“In a borrower’s homeownership journey they are realizing that the biggest impediment is not finding the right house, it’s finding what loan or how much they qualify for,” said Rick Arvielo, co-founder and CEO of New American Funding. “In their self-discovery, they are winding up in our call centers, and we realized they are looking for much more than just information on a loan.”

New American Funding has responded by integrating data on neighborhoods, including amenities, crime stats and school performance, to provide a resource that adds even more value to their loan qualification services. Most potential buyers already have an idea of the area they want to live in, so New American Funding can hone in on houses they can afford in neighborhoods that offer the right mix of amenities.

The next step was to help homebuyers find the right real estate agent.

“Your average buyer, when they are on this homeownership journey, they run into many people that are capable of facilitating real estate needs —at open houses, at their kid’s soccer game or a friend of a friend. They have a lot of interaction and then it’s kind of whichever person they run into at the right time in the process that gets the business,” Arvielo said.

But finding a good fit through that method is mostly a matter of luck, and might be more about whether the homebuyer likes an agent’s personality, rather than looking at their expertise, Arvielo said. On the other hand, as a large retail lender, New American Funding has significant data about real estate transactions and can identify agents based on the types of loan programs they regularly do or the kinds of buyers they typically serve.

“There are all kinds of things that matter in this process that a buyer typically doesn’t get or understand. As we’re figuring out ways to provide value in the process, we have a great view into agents: who’s better off on price, who does more transactions than other people, who works the most with first-time homebuyers versus more luxury homebuyers,” Arvielo said. “All these nuances impact the experience.”

This service also benefits real estate agents, who are referred to a borrower who has been fully underwritten upfront, and has specific neighborhood-level information.

“It seems like within the current environment, everyone is trying to disrupt the Realtor and what they do and earn. We want to be careful never to do that — we rely very heavily on them and want to be adding value to their process,” Arvielo said.

Supplying this enriched service through a call center experience matches the buyer’s expectation for one-stop fulfillment of all their needs, while building a true relationship.

“Buyers prefer this proactive process because it results in them working with the right agents and getting in the right homes quicker,” Arvielo said.