It’s no secret that the mortgage industry is continuously evolving, with speed and convenience taking precedence.
Last year, I wrote a piece about consumers’ demand that mortgages be easy to transact – anytime, anywhere they want and at the best possible prices. Today, the evolution of the mortgage industry continues to center on the behaviors of a digitally minded, at-your-fingertips consumer experience. A fast, transparent and personalized homebuying process is rapidly becoming the new normal, with consumer expectations continuing to rise.
The mortgage process has historically been considered daunting for many homebuyers. But the traditionally long and siloed mortgage process of making it from homebuyer to homeowner is no longer sustainable. Mortgage consumers expect a well-packaged, one-stop shop and single point of contact that allows homebuying to fit comfortably into their lifestyle, not the other way around.
The mortgage industry has made progress on many fronts, but modernization and technology advances have still left much to be desired. For technology to truly serve the mortgage consumer in the best possible way there must be a platform that connects every piece of the process in one place.
Start from the end
Technology has streamlined much of our daily lives, and consumers expect the mortgage process to be no exception. When a homebuyer is ready to apply for a mortgage, they want the application process to be relatively simple. These days, technology has advanced the process to the point where mortgages can be started at home on a computer or via a smartphone, with most anyone being able to fill out the application in several minutes.
While these technologies have made significant advancements – even cutting out some parts of the process altogether – homebuyers are still waiting months to close on a property and customer satisfaction is nowhere near where mortgage professionals and homebuyers would like it to be. And in many cases, the homebuyers still need to interact with many different vendors, with significant wait times, uncoordinated efforts and are asked to submit the same documents again and again. The home inspection, appraisal and title searches, closing disclosure review, and everything else in between, remain a long and unpleasant experience.
When compared to innovation such as Amazon, Expedia and Airbnb, the mortgage industry is still in search of the one breakthrough that knows how to connect all the disparate parts for homebuyers.
We must think end-to-end
On New Year’s Eve in 2009, a group of friends were looking to hire a private driver to make several stops throughout the evening. Realizing the night’s notoriety for taxi demand, a driver would eventually charge the friends a hefty bill of over $800, which didn’t sit right with passenger Garrett Camp.
Using this experience as motivation, Camp would later go on to found Uber and kick-off a revolution in the ride-hailing industry. This single experience led to a company now valued in the billions.
We have also seen similar impact in the consumer retail industry with Amazon, travel with Expedia and the hospitality industry through Airbnb. All of these companies have an end-to-end technology platform, providing the right level of information to the customers, in real time, that takes the customer experience to a whole new level of satisfaction.
The mortgage industry has seen many newcomers in recent years. A lot of these entrants focused on the front-end, mortgage application process. Other startups have created new, digital experiences but in single use cases, such as eClosing. Moreover, none of these new entrants connect all the dots. The key pain-points in the mortgage industry, for the most part, remain unresolved.
We have seen a small number of innovations that attempt to connect the broader mortgage ecosystem and reduce the number of disjointed processes, using technology such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and advanced analytics. Unfortunately, due to technology immaturity, non-uniform industry standards and difficulties in gaining agreements among all participants within the mortgage ecosystem, we are still scratching the surface of what is possible.
The Uber of mortgage
Throughout the mortgage industry, many stakeholders are using their own platforms, making the processes siloed. There is a real need to unite each of these platforms through a single, jointed application. This type of collaboration could be groundbreaking for the mortgage industry.
So what exactly would this end-to-end solution look like? The blueprint for what would satisfy consumers throughout the mortgage process might already be in the hands of ride-hailing customers — The Uber app.
For mortgage professionals across the industry, one of the leading advantages of a single application is information sharing. But because there are so many layers and moving parts within the mortgage process, many companies will often ask for varying degrees of the same information or documents, focusing on different risk points, resulting in a poor customer experience and low satisfaction.
Such collaborative technology, however, could be resolved by joint-partnership, industry standardization and new technology integrations that can provide better automation, security and information sharing.
As mentioned above, another key gap in the mortgage industry is lack of real-time information, something that has become the new normal when it comes to eCommerce. For example, simple things, such as mortgage application status, are surprisingly lacking in this day and age. In addition, homebuyers desire access to upfront pricing, status and approval updates, continuous knowledge of the next steps in the process and even reminder notifications.
Similar to the Uber app, mortgage professionals and homebuyers are looking for an app that can communicate to all parties where the mortgage application is in the process and that offers access to all of the necessary information, including property history, credit reports and homebuyer information. This is the key feature that we have come to love about Uber – all the information about the ride at your fingertips, in real-time and in one place.
Another major feature in Uber that appeals to consumers but is not yet available in the mortgage space is transparency in consumer options. Uber provides consumers with price transparency, various car types to choose from, the driver’s rating, when and where to meet the driver, a map of the route to the destination and the time you will arrive.
On the contrary, during a mortgage application, the vast majority of homebuyers do not know, nor are informed of, the options that they may be entitled to, such as the choice of their title insurance company. Unlike other successful industries that were disrupted, the mortgage process, by and large, still does not offer up-front information and choices.
This often results in surprises in mortgage costs, as well as extends the time to close a mortgage.
To provide homebuyers the type of upfront choices and options that Uber offers, a mortgage app would need to provide all of the homebuyers’ options upfront, as well as offer an explanation of each option and the cost associated with it. The app would provide instant status updates to all parties involved. It would find the closest and most effective way for processes such as closing a mortgage and finding a notary, and the entire process would be clearly illustrated in real-time, similar to the map that Uber provides, so that the homebuyer and all parties involved will know exactly where they are at in the process, what the next steps are, what appointments need to be made, which people need to be seen, and finally, the time needed to complete the application.
The problems that we see today in the mortgage industry are decades old problems. We know that a revolution must happen in order for the mortgage industry to evolve. We know the problems and we have the advantage of also having learned what has not worked. We should avoid wasting precious money, time and resources, further delaying our progress.
We also have the opportunity to witness how other industries have been able to successfully revolutionize and reinvent themselves, leveraging technology and focusing on end-to-end solution and customer needs.
If we are able to come together as an industry, connect the missing pieces, collaborate within the eco-system and utilize today’s advanced technologies from an end-to-end perspective, we are poised to execute the straight-through mortgage process and digitally transform the mortgage industry.