Ten years ago, if I asked you if you’d get into a stranger’s unmarked car instead of a taxi, you’d think I was crazy. What if I said that on your next vacation, you’d find a stranger’s house and stay in their bed instead of a hotel? Or what about borrowing a person’s personal vehicle the next time you travel instead of a renting a car?
Yet over the last decade, Uber, Airbnb and Turo have completely disrupted the taxi, hotel and car rental industries. The amazing thing about all three of these companies is that their technology wasn’t revolutionary, but their idea and execution was. The question I often ask myself is, why hasn’t the mortgage business been disrupted?
A few different factors explain why it hasn’t happened so far. Our industry requires a personal touch. Hand-holding is an incredibly important part of our business, as any successful Realtor, mortgage agent or broker will tell you. Customers want to feel comfortable and need you to help guide them in the right direction.
The fact is, a home is the most expensive thing most people will buy in their lives, and a mortgage is usually the largest amount of money anyone will ever borrow. Getting a mortgage and buying a property are stressful – certainly more stressful than ordering a taxi or booking a hotel for your next vacation.
However, people are used to doing almost everything online. From ordering your groceries to signing legal documents, almost everything is done digitally these days. So, the question again has to be asked: Why hasn’t our industry been disrupted?
Any industry threatened with change feels fear. Would you want to replace yourself and your career with an app? I know I wouldn’t.
Our industry is also an old one, and many older brokers and agents are starting to retire. This is opening the doors to the next generation. A 23-year-old who has just finished university and decided to get licensed as a mortgage agent doesn’t know what a fax machine is. They’ve never used a rotary phone and have never known a world without the internet. This generation will demand technology.
Such a change is already visible in the way agents are advertising. Long gone are the mailers and billboards. Now, it’s all about Instagram/Facebook ads, video content and cross-promotional collaborations with other professionals.
I’ve seen many different platforms and tools aimed at trying to shake up the mortgage industry, but many of them haven’t been launched well. They also weren’t up to the standards that people are accustomed to these days. When every app and website is polished, fast and bug-free, you can’t expect people to look past an ugly, slow and featureless product.
It’s time to put ourselves into the shoes of a 25-year-old purchasing their first condo. Unless their parents take them, this buyer won’t set foot into a bank. The first thing they’ll do is head to Google – skipping past the Google ads because they know that they’re ads and instead heading to the best-reviewed businesses.
When comes to communication, Gen Zers hate talking on the phone, despite the fact that they always have one in their hand. Texting is the only way to communicate; FaceTime works, too, but only for short conversations. They will expect to sign things digitally and won’t be thrilled with paper copies. They’ll want responses quickly and delivered in an accessible fashion.
The relationship with a client might well be formed without ever meeting face-toface, as bizarre as that seems in our industry. Don’t forget that this generation is used to dating almost exclusively through apps like Tinder and Bumble. When you do meet, you’ll already have a nice foundation.
It’s now 2020. Thirty years ago, when I was only 5 years old, I imagined we would have flying cars and Star Wars-style bases on different planets by now. While I’m still waiting for both of those, what we do have is technology that’s changing, evolving and disrupting industries on a daily basis. It’s incredibly exciting to see – and as a tech geek, it’s amazing to watch as the masses adopt new forms of tech.
Our industry has been resistant, but those times are changing. Those who laugh at technology now won’t be laughing in the future.
Jason Geall is vice-president of Corwin Mortgage Capital, a private lending company in Toronto. He is a serial entrepreneur and dyed-in-the-wool millennial who was one of CMP’s Young Guns in 2019.