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To stay relevant, lenders must cultivate a reputable online presence

Lenders need to embrace their changing role in the mortgage process in order to appeal to tomorrow's homebuyers

HousingWire sat down with Andy Peach, president and CEO of Waterstone Mortgage, to discuss the future of mortgage lending and home buying. Peach has more than 30 years of experience in the industry and is responsible for all aspects of Waterstone Mortgage’s business and corporate functions, collaborating with the executive management team to chart the course for the company’s future success and growth.

HousingWire: What do you think the future of home buying looks like? 

Andy Peach: In a word… different. We live in a world where more people have cell phones than electricity, cars and running water. So it only makes sense that home buying will be increasingly mobile-device enabled. According to recent survey data, 80% of Millennial and Gen X homebuyers found their new home via a mobile app. To stay competitive, mortgage lenders must have an online presence that allows them to stay in the forefront of the homebuyer’s mind – and that allows them to create an engaging, transparent and streamlined loan process for their customers.

In the near future (if not already), home financing processes and workflows will be managed by integrated databases and decision systems, with the customer giving online consent and approval. Homebuyers want information that is easy to understand and immediately available, but they also value human interaction, clear communication and the guidance of a home loan expert.

HW: How do you anticipate borrower behavior changing as the home buying process evolves?  

AP: In the home buying world, the order of events is shifting. Buyers are looking online before engaging with an agent. It’s also becoming more common for buyers to research lenders online and start the pre-qualification or pre-approval process before engaging with an agent.

These changes in behavior require lenders and loan originators to connect with prospective customers earlier in the process and via new methods. Cultivating a reputable online presence is essential for lenders and loan originators who want to stay relevant with tomorrow’s homebuyers.

HW: How do you think the role of the lender may change in the next 5 to 10 years? 

AP: For years, we have talked about the impact we would see when a new generation of tech-savvy homebuyers entered the market. Now, with Millennials representing nearly 40% of homebuyers in 2019 – and becoming the biggest force in the marketplace – that time is here.

Lenders need to provide this new generation with the tech-enabled convenience and communication they crave, while also promoting the “human” factor of building a relationship with a trusted and relatable loan professional. Lenders who can combine the best of old and new ways of doing business will provide the most attractive experience for homebuyers seeking mortgages.

HW: What can or should lenders be doing now to prepare themselves for the ways in which their business may change in the future? 

AP: First, loan originators need to ramp up their online presence, especially via social media. Every potential customer is online, most likely using their smart phone or mobile device on a daily basis, and loan originators need to be there with them.

Second, lenders need to move quickly toward integrated data-driven processes. The early influences of data-driven processes are already shaping the business, as the GSEs are now rolling out tools, but the early adopters are doing much more. Soon, the shift toward these processes will accelerate at a mind-boggling rate, and lenders need to be ready.

HW: Some lenders may be concerned that increased technology use in the mortgage industry will put them out of a job in the future. How would you recommend lenders approach technology with the future in mind? 

AP: Change will happen, whether you participate in it or not. Companies and people have to transform faster than the rate of change around them if they want to continue to be relevant. Consequently, the first thing we need to do, as lenders, is to get comfortable with the fact that change will happen… and embrace it.

Then, we need to find smart and cost-effective ways to deliver a better experience for customers, as well as more efficient ways to help our loan originators and support teams. In the best case, you can achieve both of those benefits by adding the right technology solutions.

HW: How is Waterstone Mortgage preparing for the future? 

AP: We are hyper-focused on modernizing the way we do business, in a variety of different ways. Our team is updating our automated income and asset verification capabilities, adding new automation and tools to our appraisal management process and implementing a new electronic documents solution to complement our existing online and mobile tools for homebuyers and Realtors.

Additionally, our marketing team is providing resources to help our loan originators develop strong, personalized online presences so they can effectively connect with potential customers earlier in the home buying process.

HW: What excites you most about the future of mortgage lending? 

AP: Mortgage lending has always been exciting to me because, at its core, this business is about helping people and families purchase a home and maximize the value of their home. As lenders, we get to help people move into the places where they will create memories that last a lifetime. The future is even more exciting, because we have the opportunity to further improve and modernize the processes that make the home buying experience more convenient and enjoyable.

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