The Benefits Of A Realtor Network

The mortgage industry is in the midst of a significant generational shift. According to a recent report by PropertyShark, 87 percent of Millennials plan on buying a home in the next five years, with Generation Z following close behind at 83 percent. Yet with these new trends come new challenges for financial institutions. Today’s homebuyers have high expectations when it comes to the loan origination process and so far, digital mortgage players are beating traditional banks to the punch.

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To stay competitive, lenders must provide a seamless digital platform that encompasses every step in the homebuying process, including finding a Realtor. By building a “Realtor network” of trusted real estate professionals, mortgage lenders can create a homebuying experience that caters to modern consumers’ needs and builds client loyalty.

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Realtor networks have a few key benefits for financial institutions. The first and most obvious benefit is the potential to increase transactions and reduce customer acquisition costs via referrals. Three quarters of companies say referrals are their lowest-cost method of acquiring new customers. That number jumps to 82 percent among those who are using a SaaS-based referral marketing system. As an added bonus, referred customers have a 16 percent higher lifetime value than other customer types, opening the door to repeat mortgage transactions.

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With a Realtor network, financial institutions can refer leads to high-quality local agents with the skills and expertise best suited to their needs. In turn, when a homebuyer is ready to discuss financing, agents can point them back to the referring lender, creating a cycle of trust and efficiency.

Realtor networks also help reduce the frustration of dealing with various stakeholders during the homebuying process. Despite improvements in the digital home search and discovery process, buyers looking to take the next step must coordinate with lenders, Realtors and other professionals separately, resulting in a disconnected and inefficient purchase experience. 

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Bringing Realtors into the fold allows financial institutions to integrate all of these separate interactions, creating a seamless, end-to-end platform that keeps leads in their ecosystem, helping them convert more of those leads and close more deals.

Realtor Networks and Machine Learning

Nevertheless, these benefits represent only part of the value of Realtor networks for lenders. To unlock their full potential, financial institutions should pair these networks with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize their nurturing efforts.

Using machine learning algorithms, loan originators can monitor homebuyers’ interactions with both lenders and Realtors to determine which behaviors are most closely associated with purchase intent, helping them identify the highest-value leads on their platforms. Machine learning can also provide insight into the most effective timing and message for communicating with homebuyers at various stages. Realtors and loan originators can then use this data to optimize and personalize the marketing tools they’re already using, enabling them to work better as a team, delivering the right message, to the right person, at the right time.

In addition, financial institutions can implement AI to increase productivity. By suggesting follow-up actions and automating tasks in their CRM of choice, AI tools can help realtors and loan officers move deals forward faster and provide best-in-class customer service with ease.

Combining the power of professional referrals with state-of-the-art software enables lenders to create a digital homebuying platform that benefits financial institutions and real estate agents alike, all while delivering a superior consumer experience.

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Gaining Traction With First-Time Homebuyers

First-time homebuyers are key players in today’s housing industry, where they comprise 46 percent of homebuyers. In Q4 2018, first-time buyers took out about 56 percent of purchase mortgages.  [Source:] Sixty six percent of first-time buyers are Gen Z and Millennials. According to Freddie Mac, by 2020 more than 50 percent of first-time homebuyers will be Hispanic.  [Sources:

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To better serve first-time homebuyers, mortgage professionals need to consider new buyers’ challenges, preferences and specific needs and tailor their customer service accordingly. 

Challenges Facing First-time Buyers 

Today’s first-time buyers are in a market where starter and trade-up inventory grew between 2018 and 2019, but more inventory doesn’t necessarily mean better affordability. Starter home prices rose 12.4 percent over the past year. People who buy a starter home can expect to pay 37.7 percent of their income on a monthly mortgage payment—exceeding the recommended 30 percent maximum of household income for housing costs. New buyers need guidance regarding down payments, determining the best type of mortgage or lender, and even finding a home within their price range and time frame. [Sources:]

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Misconceptions about down payment requirements may prevent some potential homeowners from even considering buying a house. Sixty two percent of Americans mistakenly believe you must put down at least 20 percent to purchase a home. In reality, 32 percent of current U.S. homeowners put down five percent or less on their home, according to census data. [Source:] Several national loan programs and special programs for first-time buyers have low (or even no) down payment requirements.  

Meeting First-Time Homebuyers’ Needs

Educate borrowers. With its plethora of loan products, unfamiliar jargon, and complicated forms, the mortgage application process can be intimidating, particularly for first-time buyers. Many consumers lack confidence in their personal knowledge of the mortgage process. Only 34 percent of survey respondents rated their knowledge about the mortgage process as above average or excellent. [Source:

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Not surprisingly, first-time homebuyers are less knowledgeable about the mortgage process than repeat buyers. One Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) survey assessed consumer knowledge about mortgage-related concepts such as discount points and mortgage insurance. Only 28 percent of respondents understood the difference between the interest rate on a mortgage loan and the loan’s annual percentage rate (APR). Repeat homebuyers had higher mortgage market knowledge than first-time homebuyers.  [Source:]

Consumers rely heavily on lenders for information about mortgages.  According to the National Survey of Mortgage Borrowers (NSMB), 70 percent of borrowers used their lender or broker “a lot” to get mortgage information. [Source:] Lenders and mortgage brokers can play a significant role in helping determine the type of mortgage the consumer chooses. The NSMB found that up to 70 percent of borrowers choose their lender or broker beforedeciding on the type of loan. Lenders can clarify the process and assist in loan product selection by defining terms, explaining the pros and cons of various loan products and using mortgage calculators. Lenders should inform borrowers about special loan programs designed to make the home-buying process easier for qualified first-time buyers. The FHA, USDA, VA and other agencies offer loan features such as low or no down payments, low credit requirements, down payment assistance and/or closing cost assistance. [Source:

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Provide a digital mortgage experience. In today’s digital, “I-want-it-now” age, borrowers want the mortgage process to be quick, easy, and transparent. Accordingly, mobile or online services are important to borrowers when obtaining a mortgage or making mortgage payments. Sixty-one percent of respondents to an American Bankers Association survey consider mobile and online services very important or somewhat important. [Source:]. Fannie Mae’s National Housing Survey of 3000 people revealed that 72 percent of respondents prefer to complete their mortgage application online, while 66 percent want a fully digital mortgage process. [Source:]. The percentage of homebuyers who apply online (versus merely expressing a preference to do so) is somewhat lower but still significant. According to a JD Power survey of homebuyers, 43 percent applied digitally in 2017, up from 28 percent in 2016. [Source:

Mobile access is particularly important for Hispanic borrowers. Because they use smart phones to shop, communicate and socialize more than any other U.S. demographic, Hispanic Americans are considered ‘super consumers’ of mobile.[Source :]Indeed, 77 percent of Hispanic consumerscheck their bank account balances and pay bills on mobile devices. [Source:]

Mortgage professionals should use loan origination software and mortgage servicing software with web applications and digital imaging to expedite the loan application process, provide online access to loan information, allow online payment, and go paperless.

Remember the human touch. Borrower-facing web applications allow borrowers to apply for a mortgage and manage their loan with limited human interaction, facilitating the mortgage process.  However, as the mortgage process becomes more automated and less personalized, borrowers may perceive that they’re receiving inferior customer service. Surveys show that, although borrowers want a digital mortgage experience, they also want to interact with real, live mortgage professionals. Even millennials, known to prefer technology, still want personal assistance when paperwork and terminology get complicated. [Source:]. The next generation of borrowers—Gen Z—may prefer face-to-face communication instead of technology. In one worldwide study, 53 percent of Gen Z respondents indicated a preference for in-person communication over tools like instant messaging or video conferencing. [Source:] Borrower-facing web applications should complement mortgage professionals—not replace them. 

To better serve first-time homebuyers, lenders need to provide an efficient digital mortgage experience, supported by interaction with mortgage professionals who can educate buyers about the mortgage process and help them choose the right loan products. Satisfied borrowers may be more likely to recommend the lender and/or servicer who helped them successfully navigate the complicated mortgage process. Millennials and Gen Z borrowers are early in their careers and likely to purchase several more houses in their lifetime. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to become a trusted lending source for future transactions. 

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Managing Escrow Tax Cycles

A critical function for every mortgage servicer is ensuring real estate taxes are disbursed timely and without error. With more than 22,000 taxing jurisdictions across the U.S., managing and paying taxes can be overwhelming. These challenges are often compounded by a lack of tools necessary to manage tax cycles efficiently and to be able to clearly determine overall status at any point within the tax cycle. The prevalent process in the servicing world today is fraught with inefficiencies, guesswork, and needless penalties, which often become borrower complaints.     

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Today, servicers rely on open-item report(s) generated from their mortgage servicing system to provide visibility to the upcoming and current tax cycles. However, they often discover their system report(s) fall short in providing the required data and functionality.  The report(s) must be converted to a usable format, such as spreadsheets or database tool, and then compared each day to determine what needs to be processed.  On top of that, these tools are often used to monitor status, assign work to team members, and generate management reporting. This cumbersome process is largely inefficient, prone to errors and may lead to late or missed tax payments.  

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Managing tax cycles can be further complicated by the servicer’s own complex business rules for processing tax payments. Real estate owned (REO) properties, loans in foreclosure, or loans in Bankruptcy are a few examples that may require special processing procedures. Many servicers use specific codes/fields to identify these loans and each code often represents a separate and specific business process that must be followed. Some servicers send these pending tax payments to their default teams for review before a disbursement can be made. Servicing systems often lack the functionality that allows a servicer to segregate the loans with these special conditions from the main population to ensure those specific processing procedures are followed. Without this functionality, servicers often default to using emails to distribute the work, adding to the cycle management nightmare.       

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On top of all of this, taxing jurisdictions often add another level of complexity. Within the thousands of agencies across the U.S., there are a myriad of requirements that must be followed within the tax payment process. If not, servicers risk the timeliness and accuracy of completing the tax payments by their due dates. For example, in Texas some jurisdictions offer a discount if taxes are paid early while others do not. In Wisconsin, servicers are required to allow borrowers to select from multiple payment options and/or due dates. In these situations, a servicer needs a tool that allows them to segregate the work based on agency requirements and/or borrower options.   

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Today’s methods for managing escrow tax payment cycles are long overdue for change. Servicers need tools that allow them to efficiently manage their tax cycles. The technology is available that can help servicers more effectively navigate these issues. These tools provide status updates in real time and give a servicer the ability to assign and segregate the work by state, agency, business rules, severity and staff’s tenure or expertise. The next step is to use that technology to affect the change that companies need that consumers want.   A solution to age-old problems managing escrow tax cycles should be at the top of every servicer’s list in 2019. Living with these deficiencies should no longer be the norm. These tools are available to those servicers who not only want a better way, but also want to have more efficiently run tax cycles with fewer late or missed payments, as well as an overall better borrower experience.

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Disruption In Lending – Hailing A Mortgage

The ride-hailing industry demonstrates the speed and  impact of disruption. Disruption occurs quite quickly, and the transformation affects all  industry participants (including lenders!). Let’s take a dive into the ride-hailing industry and see how one company’s innovative adoption disrupted every taxicab in our major cities. 

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In 2015, Uber arrived on the scene and ridership of yellow cabs fell precipitously in Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, and Boston. Taxicabs saw competition as never before and two years later, Uber’s ridership surpassed the New York Yellow Taxi ridership. LYFT and other ride hailing services entered the market to capitalize on Uber’s market expansion success. As shown below, more individuals  turned to Uber for transportation. 

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And it’s not over…. Companies like Uber and Lyft continue to innovate and reshape their business model. As mentioned in the book Strategically Transforming the Mortgage Banking industry, “Your Business model works until it doesn’t.”  Uber like many other businesses, has to be innovative and move forward or face the new disruptors and risk being left behind like  taxi cabs, block buster, retail stores etc. For this reason Uber partnered with Daimler and researchers at Carnegie Mellon to work on autonomous cars” (Marketwatch). LYFT has partnered with Waymo and General Motors with the mission to tap into the autonomous car space of the ride hailing industry. 

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Uber’s Advanced Technology Group is solely focused on implementing self-driven cars to cut down cost on each ride significantly, in part by having self-driven cars on the road 24/7. Innovator Elon Musk announced Robotaxis a week before Uber went public. Musk’s goal is to capture the growing profits in ride-hailing industry with self-driven cars. Tesla wants to find a way to increase margins by automating and competing based on price. Today’s cost per mile is $2 to $3, but with Tesla’s ‘The Tesla Network Robotaxi,’ Musk expects a cost of less than 18 cents per mile.  And by the way, this is not a good time to be a legacy taxi cab medallion lender.

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Ride hailing disruption has a direct parallel in the mortgage industry; mortgage bankers are finding ways to drive profitability in a turbulent market. Mortgage bankers are reshaping their business model, ultimately automating, eliminating, outsourcing, or optimizing their current operations. 

Similar to Uber and LYFT, companies like Quicken have reshaped their business model and are looking for ways to lead innovation. In this case, every ride hailing company wants to be like Quicken, who has successfully created an online platform, reducing/eliminating manual efforts of loan officers (taxi drivers) and enabling loan officers to focus more on their customers by implementing disruptive technology- resulting in #1 in Customer Satisfaction for the ninth consecutive year.

 The compensation model for LO’s remains stagnant, and loan officers are still given 120-150 basis points regardless of the size of the loan. As David Stevens, former President & Chief Executive Officer of the MBA noted in Strategically Transforming the Mortgage Banking Industry: “Loan Officers make a couple of hundred basis points for a one-time origination without any obligation or risk downstream for performance or duration risk…” He continues, “If you are building this from scratch, you wouldn’t build the model the way it works today.” 

In today’s highly competitive mortgage market with fluctuating rates and increasing costs, it’s essential for mortgage lenders to know loan officer, branch, and product profitability. But how?  Lenders need a solution that quickly analyzes data and searches for patterns that drive profitability and reduce risk. Teraverde’s Coheus Profit Intelligence Platform is the first of its kind to provide actionable intelligence to drive profitability  and help   mortgage bankers to make effective decisions. Like Uber and LYFT; it’s essential for mortgage lenders to identify areas in high demand. Uber utilizes demand concentration and applies surge charges to increase profitability. Lenders are using Teraverde’s Coheus solution to visually identify product concentration, revenue leakage per area, all the way down to the loan level. Lenders can visualize big data from multiple sources and access visual analytics from a cell phone or desktop. Coheus lets users look at revenue, costs, and profitability by product, loan officer, channel, and branch through easy to use graphical interfaces. This delivers high-powered industry insights, superior workflow management, which allows executives to go beyond cost per-loan to make strategic decision in a timelier manner to drive profitability.

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Median Home Prices Reach A New Peek

ATTOM Data Solutions released its Q2 2019 U.S. Home Sales Report, which shows that U.S. single family homes and condos sold for a median price of $266,000 in the second quarter, up 10.8 percent from the previous quarter and up 6.4 percent from a year ago — reaching a new median home price peak.

Meanwhile, the report also shows that homeowners who sold in the second quarter had owned an average of 8.09 years, reaching a new peak, up 3 percent from last quarter and up 4 percent from Q2 2018. Homeownership tenure averaged 4.21 years nationwide between Q1 2000 and Q3 2007, prior to the Great Recession.

“As warmer weather brings a rush of house hunters to the market, the latest spike in median home prices marked the largest quarterly increase since the second quarter of 2015 and the third biggest increase since the market started climbing out of the Great Recession in 2012,” said Todd Teta, chief product officer at ATTOM Data Solutions. “However, in looking at historical trends, the second quarter of every year has always shown a quarterly increase, going as far back as 2005. So, with mortgage rates dipping to new lows, it’s no surprise that people were wanting to buy a home, even if prices were at their peak. We expect to see milder home prices in the coming quarters.”

Annual home price appreciations rising in Milwaukee, Boston and Salt Lake City

Median home prices in 133 of the 149 metro areas analyzed in the report (89 percent) saw an annual home price appreciation in the second quarter of 2019, led by Atlantic City, New Jersey (16.0 percent increase); Boise City, Idaho (14.0 percent increase); Chattanooga, Tennessee (13.9 percent increase); Mobile, Alabama (11.2 percent increase); Madison, Wisconsin (10.8 percent increase).

Those major metros with at least 1 million people that saw annual home price appreciations occurring in the second quarter of 2019 included: Milwaukee, Wisconsin (9.0 percent increase); Boston, Massachusetts (9.0 percent increase); Salt Lake City, Utah (8.7 percent increase); Columbus, Ohio (8.1 percent increase); and Birmingham, Alabama (6.3 percent increase).

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Prices in Denver, Austin, Dallas and Nashville 50+ percent above pre-recession peaks

Median home prices in 110 of the 149 metro areas analyzed in the report (74 percent) were above pre-recession peaks in the second quarter of 2019, led by Greeley, Colorado (87 percent above); Shreveport, Louisiana (81 percent above); Denver, Colorado (80 percent above); Austin, Texas (77 percent above); and Fort Collins, Colorado (76 percent above).

Including Denver and Austin, other major metros with at least 1 million people and with Q2 2019 median home prices at least 40 percent above pre-recession peaks were Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas (72 percent above); Nashville, Tennessee (71 percent above); San Antonio, Texas (58 percent above); Houston, Texas (54 percent above); and San Jose, California (54 percent above).

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Average home seller gains increase quarterly and annually

U.S. homeowners who sold in the second quarter of 2019 realized an average home price gain since purchase of $67,500, up from an average gain of $57,706 in Q1 2019 and up from an average gain of $60,100 in Q2 2018. The average home seller gain of $67,500 in Q2 2019 represented an average 33.9 percent return as a percentage of original purchase price.

Among 149 metropolitan statistical areas analyzed in the report, those with the highest average home seller returns in Q2 2019 were San Jose, California (85.0 percent); San Francisco, California (71.6 percent); Seattle, Washington (65.6 percent); Salem, Oregon (62.3 percent); and Salt Lake City, Utah (60.7 percent).

Average homeownership tenure drops annually in Tucson, Portland and Phoenix

Counter to the national trend which saw the longest homeownership tenure to date, the average homeownership tenure in Q2 2019 decreased from a year ago in 28 of 108 metro areas analyzed in the report (26 percent), led by Merced, Colorado Springs, Vallejo, Springfield and Bremerton.

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Among major metropolitan areas that have a population of at least 1 million and where tenure decreased in the second quarter of 2019. The longest average times sellers lived in their homes were in Tucson, Arizona (8.88 years); Portland, Oregon (9.04 years); Phoenix, Arizona (8.17 years); San Francisco, California (10.26 years); and Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida (7.85 years).

Share of cash sales decrease annually

All-cash sales represented 25.0 percent of all single family and condo sales in Q2 2019, down from 27.7 percent of all sales in the previous quarter, and down from 26.9 percent of all sales in Q2 2018.

Among major metropolitan areas with a population of at least 1 million, those with the highest share of all-cash sales in Q2 2019 were; Miami, Florida (40.5 percent); Detroit, Michigan (36.7 percent); Birmingham, Alabama (34.9 percent); Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida (34.2 percent); and Jacksonville, Florida (33.9 percent).

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Institutional investor sales highest in Atlanta, Charlotte, and Memphis

The share of U.S. single family home and condo sales sold to institutional investors (entities buying at least 10 properties in a calendar year) was 2.2 percent in the second quarter of 2019, up from 1.9 percent in the previous quarter but down from 2.4 percent a year ago.

Among the metropolitan statistical areas with a population of at least 1,000,000 and at least 50 institutional investor sales in Q2 2019, those with the highest share of institutional investor sales in the second quarter were; Atlanta, Georgia (7.9 percent); Charlotte, North Carolina (6.7 percent); Memphis, Tennessee (6.4 percent); Birmingham, Alabama (5.6 percent); and Raleigh, North Carolina (5.5 percent).

Share of FHA buyers increase annually

Sales to FHA buyers (typically first-time homebuyers or other buyers with a low-down payment) represented 11.6 percent of all U.S. single family and condo sales in Q2 2019, up from 11.1 percent of all sales in the previous quarter and up from 9.9 percent in Q2 2018.

Among metro areas with a population of at least 1 million, those with the highest share of sales to FHA buyers were Riverside, California (18.6 percent); Indianapolis, Indiana (18.4 percent); San Antonio, Texas (18.2 percent); Providence, Rhode Island (17.8 percent); and Kansas City, Missouri (17.6 percent).

Share of distressed sales continuing downward trend

Total distressed sales — bank-owned (REO) sales, third-party foreclosure auction sales, and short sales — accounted for 11.4 percent of all single family and condo sales in Q2 2019, down from 14.0 percent in the previous quarter and up less than one percent from the same time last year.

Among 149 metropolitan statistical areas with a population of at least 200,000 and at least 100 total distressed sales in Q2 2019, those with the highest share of total distressed sales were Atlantic City, New Jersey (27.6 percent); Trenton, New Jersey (25.3 percent); Norwich-New London, Connecticut (22.2 percent); Erie, Pennsylvania (22.1 percent); and Macon, Georgia (20.7 percent).

Counter to the national trend of a slight annual uptick, 110 of the 150 metro areas (73 percent) posted year-over-year decreases in share of distressed sales. Those major metros with a population greater than 1 million that saw an annual decline were Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas (down 25.7 percent); Boston, Massachusetts (down 24 percent); Portland, Oregon (down 23.6 percent); Buffalo, New York (down 22.1 percent); and Tucson, Arizona (down 21.2 percent).

Realtors Need You

In the age of iBuyers realtors need you more than you need them. Ok, maybe that’s a bit harsh. Perhaps a better way to say it is that realtors can finally treat you more like a partner instead of someone that is just looking for a “hand out” / referral. 

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Lenders are now better positioned than ever to turn the tables on their agent “partners” due to two very unique factors:

1. The iBuyer Movement

What is an iBuyer? An iBuyer is a company that uses technology to make an offer on your home instantly. iBuyers represent a dramatic shift in the way people are buying and selling homes, offering in many cases, a simpler, more convenient alternative to a traditional home sale, according to Opendoor.  iBuyers are online real estate investors who seeks to reduce transactional property costs via digital tools, minimizing the involvement of real estate agents in favor of their own online listing services.  

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2. Automated Borrower Intelligence

This is a new strategy that is being utilized by some of the smartest lenders in the country— American Pacific, Movement, Fairway, Churchill, USA Mortgage, Annie MAC, PRMG and many more. Sales Boomerang first launched the concept in July of 2017; the idea of Automated Borrower Intelligence is to provide lenders automated real-time insights on the borrowers inside their database. 

What type of insights are we talking about?  What if lenders could know when their prospects or customers have fixed their credit before they even know? Talk about striking while the iron is hot – this data turns the smartest lenders into the ultimate service provider by putting them in the right place at the right time.

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As a lender, have you ever wished you could know when an existing or prior customer is shopping you?  If a lender is dealing with a new lead and the deal goes cold, wouldn’t it be great to get a notification that this person is shopping that lender? How about knowing when a past customer is back in the market for a mortgage? These notifications can help lenders win back millions of dollars!

These are a couple of examples of how the smartest lenders are using data to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

With iBuyers growing quickly, agents are going to need better sources for engaging home buyers and currently the best option is to partner with a lender who is utilizing services like Sales Boomerang. Lenders who implement the Automated Borrower Intelligence strategy have a constant flow of new deals that range from new purchases to streamlines to cash out refinances, and the best part is that all these deals come right from their existing database. 

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Why should agents care? Because almost 50% of all these deals are purchase opportunities and lenders will need good agent partners to serve their client base. 

So what is the moral of this story? Lenders can now pick and choose the best realtors to partner with and realtors better keep their lender partners happy or they may find themselves in an unemployment line. 

Get Your Content Shared

In the article entitled “20 ideas for content that readers want to share” by Gina Dietrich, she says that it’s not easy to have consistently fresh blog content that people want to read and share. She’s right. That’s why a content development process is essential. You must create content to answer the questions your prospects and clients ask, and that content should be tied to keywords so, when they Google their questions, you pop up in search results.

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However, let’s say you’ve exhausted your list of questions that are asked—and you’re not feeling creative on priority keywords or phrases. How do you handle that? The truth is, when you blog consistently, you begin to see ideas in everything: what you read, TV you watch, even in discussions with your peers, clients or friends. My friends know when my notebook comes out, parts of our dinner conversation are probably going to be published (I always ask permission so there are no surprises).

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Still, every writer experiences writers’ block every now and then. Here are 20 tips to help you through your next dry spell:

1. Subscribe to SmartBrief.

The SmartBrief newsletters aggregate blog content every day (at least 10 articles) around one topic, such as entrepreneurship or social media. Pick a topic that you care about and have fresh ideas delivered to your inbox.

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2. Subscribe to Talkwalker Alerts.

A replacement for Google Alerts, Talkwalker Alerts are even better, provide more relevant results and are free. This will give you plenty of really good story ideas just from scanning those every day.

3. Read the comments.

If you have an active community on your blog or on one a social networks, read the comments. You will get story ideas just from what people say, such as perspectives you hadn’t yet considered.

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4. Pay attention to current events.

There is almost always something happening in the news that you can comment on for your industry.

5. Go through your sent mail.

Go through your sent mail to see what types of things you’ve sent to customers, prospects and vendors that could be used for content. Most communicators write emails to explain a sales process, a feature or benefit or an organization’s thinking. Use those emails to publish non-proprietary information online.

6. Create a trends manifesto.

You’ll find this happening in the blogosphere every year, beginning in October and running through January. Many organizations will publish their thoughts on the trends they expect to hit the industry in the next year or identify three words people will use to drive their success. The trends manifesto provides you with an opportunity to shine as a leader in your industry.

7. Connect to pop culture.

Lots of really successful content creators take current events, like a Royal baby or new Marvel movie, and provide lessons related to their field.

8. Open a debate.

When you disagree with other voices on the web, you might not feel “safe” to voice a differing opinion. However, this can be a missed opportunity. Giving people an opportunity to see two sides of something can work really well when executed carefully.

9. Identify positive progress.

Even though people love good train wrecks, they also want to know how companies in an industry are doing things well. Interview organizations in your industry and highlight the good things they’re doing through your blog content.

10. Take lessons from missteps.

It’s no surprise the bad case studies are shared over and over and over again. When you create your content, think about what you can add to the conversation with specific lessons for your industry or niche?

11. Avoid personal attacks.

If you can figure out how to write about an industry train wreck without attacking a person, it’s going to be pretty popular. It grabs attention and makes people want to read, comment and share.

12. Make a list.

People love lists. So much information coming at consumers these days, and lists make it easier to scan and read quickly. If you integrate lists into your blog content, you’ll find they quickly become some of the most shared posts on your site.

13. Offer free stuff.

People also love giveaways. It might be a book a friend has written, a collection of free eBooks or your own writing. Doing this helps you begin to qualify prospects.

14. Rank a competition.

The organization Run, Walk, Ride puts together a list of the charities that raise the most money every year. They highlight the ones you’d expect, but also show how well some of the up-and-comers are doing. It’s a win because they’re highlighting their peers (and competitors) and driving significant new-customer traffic to their site.

15. Identify and reward superlatives.

Just like People produces its “sexiest man alive” issue, you can do the same for your niche. It might be an app of the month or a productivity tool. Think about what your readers would benefit from knowing more about and start compiling lists of favorites.

16. Review a book.

If there is a classic must-read in your industry, doing something as simple as summing up the key points or penning a review can give you some easily shareable content. As a bonus, you might spark a conversation in the comments.

17. Go on a rant.

Get people riled up about something and give them something to rally behind. Everyone has a pet peeve or two—and you might find others who are ready to join you in your righteous crusade.

18. Interview industry experts.

Interviews work well because you’re giving people access to someone they wouldn’t otherwise meet. It could be the big keynote speaker at your industry’s annual conference, or someone you respect or admire. This can also work for formats other than the written word.

19. Answer a “Question of the Week.”

Let people ask you a question they find interesting. This is a great time to use those social listening skills.

20. Share a parable.

Make sure the story you want to tell makes a clear point.Now get started creating great content!

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New Solution Helps Real Estate Agents Succeed

According to the National Association of Realtors, seven in ten home buyers select the first real estate agent that connects with them. To help real estate agents quickly and intelligently connect with potential buyers, Equifax, a global data, analytics and technology company, today introduces Lead Accelerator, a new solution designed specifically to help agents become the first contact for prospective home buyers.

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“If 79 percent of Millennials use their phones at least three hours a day, you can guarantee they will expect a technology-driven home buying experience that is fast and intuitive. In order to meet this demand, real estate agents need sophisticated data and analytic tools at their disposal to move at lightning speed,” said Tyler Sawyer, vice president of rental and real estate, Equifax.

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Lead Accelerator leverages proprietary data and analytics to provide lead-specific insights via three unique modules:

>>The Personal Wealth module provides real estate agents with anonymized insights of a lead they have not previously met in addition to an overview of the lead’s likely financial capacity and estimated household income. Also, the Personal Wealth module includes visibility into the household economics, further helping real estate agents differentiate leads, match offers and deliver relevant marketing messages.

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>>The Property Value module uncovers property data to determine whether a lead is likely an existing property owner or a prospective first-time home buyer. For existing property owners, additional data is provided relative to property value, time-in-home, home equity and other property attributes indicating a buyer’s estimated financial health.

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>>The Propensity Score module identifies the likelihood that a lead will purchase a home within the next six months. Likewise, real estate agents can prioritize similar looking leads based on those most likely to convert and determine a preferred approach to contact.

“Lead Accelerator enables real estate agents to qualify leads faster using data to make prioritization decisions; utilize the propensity score to help understand a lead’s transaction likelihood; and convert more leads to closed deals by identifying and prioritizing top lead clusters, connecting the right buyer to the right home,” added Sawyer.

In an internal analysis of the solution, Equifax found that the top 10 percent of the propensity scores captured between 2.4 to 4 times more mortgage applicants than a randomly selected sample of equal size. As a result, real estate agents can expect improved productivity and a reduction in time spent with leads by as much as 75 percent.

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