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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.

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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?

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Written By

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.

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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