Techniques - Generate Leads in Tough Times
Brad Finkelstein, Origination News, February 2009
Among the hottest ways for
mortgage originators to connect with potential clients is Zillow Mortgage
Marketplace. Spencer Rascoff, its chief operating
officer, said the system allows consumers to get an unlimited number of quotes
back from the originator.
At the same time, the
consumer remains anonymous to the quote provider until the consumer elects to
make contact. There are some 4,000 originators who participate in the Zillow
When the service first
started, for the first six months, mortgage originators had to provide those
quotes to consumers by making their calculations by hand.
While there are now several
automated interfaces originators can use, among the first arrangements was one
created with LoanSifter, a pricing and pre-approval engine operating out of
Little Chute, Wis. The service has information from
both correspondent lenders and wholesale lenders, covering some 120 investors.
Craig Doriot, chief
technology officer of LoanSifter, said it prices the leads very accurately and
it is seamless, so the customer doesn’t know the lead is auto-generated.
The consumer gets feedback
immediately, LoanSifter president Bruce Backer said. “The loan officer
doesn’t even see it. It just comes into LoanSifter, it gets quoted and
pushed right back to Zillow and it gets presented as being from the loan
officer.” The loan officer is immediately able to work on the lead, but
no longer has to do the legwork to prepare the quote.
Mr. Backer said one
LoanSifter client was on Zillow for several months, quoted 2,500 leads,
hand-quoted them all and got seven new loans. The client was happy and would
have continued using Zillow without LoanSifter, he added, because he got seven
loans he wouldn’t have had.
But by using the automated
service, the client is able increase productivity and can respond to more
Zillow-generated requests. More importantly, they can issue quotes from all of
their investors. Even just doing quotes from a small number of investors by
hand can be difficult and might not even be the most competitive.
“Zillow has done a
really nice job in being able to make it really consumer-friendly. They have
given the loan officer a way to describe himself or
herself and describe what differentiates them. It is using those types of tools
that we find help the loan officer be effective with Zillow,” said Mr. Backer.
Mr. Doriot told the story of
one loan officer who said his goal was to be one of the first in front of the
customer (consumers are more likely to respond to the quotes they receive
quickest). That LO said it is difficult to be first if calculations have to be
made by hand.
Zillow added that by using
the automated products, it eliminates the possibility of error in making the
said approximately 60% of the quotes that are returned to consumers are created
through engines like LoanSifter. Other partners included Mortech
and Leads 360.
Zillow has done lots of consumer
research around the product and he said that users love the anonymity the
service provides. “Our research tells us they hate the old lead
generation model where their name and contact information is offered up for
sale to the highest bidder,” he said.
The company also created the
system to counteract bait and switch. And there is an e-Bay style feedback
system that allows consumers to comment.
Among things that can be
tracked on the Zillow website are loan quotes per loan request. On the day the
interview was conducted, that number was 8.5. Mr. Rascoff
added that just a few months ago, the number of quotes was approximately half
completely reinvented the traditional lead generation model by empowering the
consumer and the lender and turning lead generation on its head,” he