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Zortgages From the Big Z

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Zillow debuts

Zillow made it’s entry into the Zortgage sphere this week with a new tool to provide a more transparent mortgage loan search process to consumers. On Zillow, a consumer can provide their personal financial information and remain anonymous to lenders who respond and provide quotes. Jonathan Dalton provides full coverage right here on Agent Genius.

Zillow takes this transparency to a new level. Lenders are ranked by consumers based on their experience and everyone can see the quotes that have been given. Yes, competitors will be able to look over each other’s offerings openly. Sounds kinda cool, huh?

So I gave it a whirl

I thought it did, so I gave it a whirl. It’s been about 40 hours since I submitted a proposal for a refi. I got one response. Just in case you are thinking it might be because nobody wants to lend me money, that is not the case. So the first thing Zillow needs to do is achieve some sort of critical mass of mortgage lenders offering services. With nothing to compare my proposal to from Zillow, I don’t feel like I got the information I was hoping for. Of course, the product is new, so I am sure they will fill this gap quickly.

Filling out the Zillow questionnaire was easy, but there was one question I wasn’t quite sure I answered correctly. I used to be a commercial loan officer in a bank way back in the neolithic era before credit scoring, so I am more educated than the average consumer, but still far from an expert on mortgage loans. I also had questions about the quote that I received, so I would definitely have to contact the lender to get clarification. I had said I would be interested in information about 3 different products (5 year arms, interest only and 30 year fixed) but the quote only contained one of these options.

To get a quote from Zillow, you need to know your credit score, and you have the benefit of not having a lot of different lenders pulling your credit and potentially pushing it down a bit because of the inquiries. That is a nice benefit.

What I’m going to do

For now, I will be going the old fashioned route with my refi. I will use a local, trusted broker who works just down the street. I won’t worry that his friends have signed on and given him all 3 of his high ranking scores because I already know him. A year from now, when Zillow’s site is more populated, I imagine I will have a completely different experience.

I think it will be interesting to watch in the coming months to see how consumers and mortgage originators embrace this new system. Critical mass is key. That should come with time. What remains to be seen is if consumers will be left feeling confused or empowered after they get their quotes.

Final little after thought rambling around in my head: Will Zillow do something similar with Realtors? Will some of us chose to place our CMA’s and Marketing Plans out there for prospective sellers? Will our competitors then be able to see our proposals? Would that be a good thing?

Writer for national real estate opinion column AgentGenius.com, focusing on the improvement of the real estate industry by educating peers about technology, real estate legislation, ethics, practices and brokerage with the end result being that consumers have a better experience.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. David G from Zillow.com

    April 4, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    Hi Maureen,

    Thanks for kicking the tires! Who’d a thunk we’d get 5,000 loan requests in the first 2 days! Our lender count has trippled and there are more lenders in the queue for confirmation right now than there are quoting loans on the site. Applications will be processed through the weekend. Good news is that quotes are finally catching requests. Lots of opportunity for LO’s right now; I was just forwarded an e-mail from a broker that locked rates on two Zillow loans today. It’ll be interesting to see how the Marketplace has balanced out by this time next week.

  2. Benn Rosales

    April 4, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    Benn from agentgenius.com =]

    David, congrats on the kickoff.

    Maureen- outstanding article and thanks for being so constructive.

  3. Maureen Francis

    April 5, 2008 at 7:01 am

    David G – I will give it another chance in a week or two. Glad to see you are getting a good response.

    Benn 🙂

    and thanks to the person who made my post look good.

  4. Bill Lublin

    April 5, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Maureen – Thanks for standing on the watchtower 🙂
    I guess we need to wait and see, but I really don’t see methods of reaching the consumer through the disintermediation of service professionals as automatically the best thing. For many years I explained to buyers that the lowest offering doesn’t always equate to the best mortgage or the best real estate experience. But I guess we need to wait and see what the consumer thinks of the process and if the process proves succesful on its own merits.

  5. Maureen Francis

    April 5, 2008 at 10:18 am

    You are right Bill. I know I need more than I got from my first Zillow mortgage experience. Some of that is the newness of the offering. But I think far more of it is the service and expert advice I need about my own unique financial situation. I am inclined to think that the average consumer will find the information they receive a bit overwhelming and challenging to determine the best option.

  6. John Lauber

    April 5, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    I think for things like this, you just need to talk to someone face to face. Thanks for taking a front line view of the process. We definitely need to keep an eye on how this develops.

  7. Robert D. Ashby

    April 12, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Maureen,

    A quick look at ZMortgage makes it seem like a great thing. While I will say they took a step in the right direction, there are still many ways that ZMortgage is flawed. First, it fuels the “lowest rate and fees” game and that can actually cost borrowers more over time in reality. It also pushes the “lowballing” and “bait and switching” tactics.

    I will likely do my own review of Zillow’s new tool once I have had a chance to truly play with it and even post some quotes to see what happens, but I can see it has a long way to go to be a truly beneficial platform in my opinion.

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Economic News

Is the real estate industry endorsing Carson’s nomination to HUD?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Ben Carson’s initial appointment to HUD was controversial given his lack of experience in housing, but what is the pulse now?

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NAR strongly backs Dr. Carson’s nomination

When President-Elect Donald Trump put forth Dr. Ben Carson’s name as the nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, NAR President William E. Brown said, “While we’ve made great strides in recent years, far more can be done to put the dream of homeownership in reach for more Americans.”

At the time of nomination, the National Association of Realtors (the largest trade organization in the nation) offered a positive tone regarding Dr. Carson and said the industry looks forward to working with him. But does that hold true today?

The confirmation hearings yesterday were far less controversial than one would expect, especially in light of how many initially reacted to his nomination. Given his lack of experience in housing, questions seemed to often center around protecting the LGBT community and veterans, both of which he pledged to support.

In fact, Dr. Carson said the Fair Housing Act is “one of the best pieces of legislation we’ve ever had in this country,” promising to issue a “world-class plan” for housing upon his confirmation…

>>>>>Click to continue reading…<<<<<

#CarsonHUD

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Economic News

Job openings hit 14-year high, signaling economic improvement

The volume of job openings is improving, but not across all industries. The overall economy is improving, but not evenly across all career paths.

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Job openings hit a high point

To understand the overall business climate, the U.S. Labor Department studies employment, today releasing data specific to job vacancies. According to the department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLT) for April, job openings rose to 5.38 million, the highest seen since December 2000, and a significant jump from March’s 5.11 million vacancies. Although a lagging indicator, it shows strength in the labor market.

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The Labor Department reports that the number of hires in April fell to 5 million, which indicates a weak point in the strong report, and although the volume remains near recent highs, this indicates a talent gap and highlights the number of people who have left the labor market and given up on looking for a job.

Good news, bad news, depending on your profession

That said, another recent Department report notes that employers added 221,000 jobs in April and 280,000 in May, but the additions are not evenly spread across industries. Construction jobs rose in April, but dipped in professional and business services, hospitality, trade, and transportation utilities. In other words, white collar jobs are down, blue collar jobs are up, which is good or bad news depending on your profession.

Additionally, the volume of people quitting their jobs was 2.7 million in April compared to the seven-year high of 2.8 million in March. Economists follow this number as a metric for gauging employee confidence in finding their next job.

What’s next

If you’re in the market for a job, there are an increasing number of openings, so your chance of getting hired is improving, but there is a caveat – not all industries are enjoying improvement.

If you’re hiring talent, you’ll still get endless resumes, but there appears to be a growing talent gap for non-labor jobs, so you’re not alone in struggling to find the right candidate.

Economists suspect the jobs market will continue to improve as a whole, but this data does not pertain to every industry.

#JobOpenings

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Economic News

Gas prices are down, so are gas taxes about to go up?

Do low gas prices mean higher gas taxes are on the way? Budgeting for 2015 just got a bit more complicated, if some politicians have their way.

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Gas taxes and your bottom line

Many industries rely heavily on time in their vehicle, not just truck drivers and delivery trucks. Sales professionals hop in their vehicles throughout the day, as do many other types of professionals (service providers like plumbers, and so forth). For that reason, gas prices and taxes are a relevant line item that must be budgeted for 2015, but with politicians making the rounds to push for higher gas taxes, budgeting becomes more complicated.

Gas prices are down roughly 50 cents per gallon compared to a year ago, which some analysts say have contributed to more money in consumers’ pockets. Some believe that this will improve holiday sales, but others believe the timing is just right to increase federal taxes on gas. The current tax on gas is 18.40 cents per gallon, and on diesel are 24.40 cents per gallon.

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Supporters and opponents are polar opposites

Supporters argue as follows: gas prices are low, so it won’t hurt to increase federal gas taxes, in fact, those funds must go toward improving our infrastructure, which in the long run, saves Americans money because smoother roads mean better gas mileage and less congestion.

Gas taxes have long been a polarizing concept, and despite lowered gas prices, the controversial nature of the taxes have not diminished.

While some are pushing for complete abolition of federal gas taxes, others, like former Pennsylvania Governor, Ed Rendell (D) tell CNBC, “Say that cost the average driver $130 a year. They would get a return on that investment” in safer roads and increased quality of life, he added.

The Washington Post‘s Chris Mooney points out that federal gas taxes have been “stuck” at 18 cents for over 20 years, last raised when gas was barely a dollar a gallon and that the tax must increase not only to improve the infrastructure, but to “green” our behavior, and help our nation find tax reform compromise.

Is a gas tax politically plausible?

Mooney writes, “So, this is not an argument that a gas tax raise is politically plausible — any more than a economically efficient tax on carbon would be. It’s merely a suggestion that — ignoring politics — it might be a pretty good idea.”

Rendell noted, “The World Economic Forum, 10 years ago, rated us the best infrastructure in the world,” adding that we “need to do something for our infrastructure, not in a one or two year period, but over a decade.”

Others would note that this rating has not crumbled in just a few years, that despite many bridges and roads in need of repair, our infrastructure is still superior to even the most civilized nations.

Regardless of the reasons, most believe that Congress won’t touch this issue with a ten-foot pole, especially leading up to another Presidential campaign season starting next year.

“I think it’s too toxic and continues to be too toxic,” Steve LaTourette (the former Republican congressman best known for his close friendship with his fellow Ohioan, Speaker John Boehner) tells The Atlantic. “I see no political will to get this done.”

Whether the time is fortuitous or not, and regardless of the positive side effects, many point to a fear of voters’ retaliation against any politician siding with a gas hike, so this matter going any further than the proposal stage is unlikely.

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