When it comes to buying a home, the generation that grew up in the Great Recession — and lived through the subprime meltdown and foreclosure flood — has a hard time trusting the advice of a mortgage professional, especially when they are 23 years older. Lenders must seize the business opportunity in front of them and create the next generation of mortgage professionals by recruiting a younger, more diverse, gender-balanced workforce, to reach the emerging millennial home-buyer market.
Trust doesn't come easy to the newest generation of homebuyers. Only 19% of millennials say most people can be trusted, compared to 40% of baby boomers, a recent Pew Center survey shows. To reach the emerging market of young homebuyers successfully, lenders must be willing to make commitments to the millennial market. The typical real estate agent is 57 years old, up from 52 in 2008, and the average age of a mortgage loan officer is 54. The median age of first-time homebuyers is 31.
The most successful loan officers of the boomer generation built a book of business by winning the trust of one customer at a time. They proved their value and created customers for life who turned to them to finance their next home, to refinance, to finance a vacation home and finally to buy a retirement home when it was time to downsize. Today many of those trusted professionals have become leaders of our industry, and have so much to offer those young professionals working their way up into the ranks.
But times have changed, and not necessarily for the better. Roughly seven-in-10 Americans, spanning all generations, recognize that today's young adults face greater economic challenges than their elders did when they were first starting out.Included on the list of challenges might be tough lending standards, soaring rents that make it hard to save for a down payment, high levels of student loan debt and FICOs that reflect debt incurred because it's hard to live on the lower-than-average incomes most young people earn today.
So where are these loan officers who are looking to lay the foundation for their future success by turning renters into homeowners one at a time? Millennials officially became the largest age group of homebuyers last year, accounting for 32% of all home sales and 68% of first-time buyers.
And the largest generation in American history is looking for someone they can trust to guide them through the maze of regulations and help them make the right decisions so that they can get the best possible deal on a mortgage.
Today's savvy loan officer must employ technology to make the process of applying for and closing a home mortgage as easy and smooth as possible, with scenario calculators and other tools that facilitate the collection and submission of documentation. Real estate agents need to provide comprehensive and accurate information about the home-buying process — not marketing messages — delivered through phone apps, websites and social media platforms.
Most important, today's lender must find a way to integrate two completely different generations of workers and consumers into one flow that works for a diverse ecosystem of employees and customers.
Lending professionals are a mortgage company's most valuable asset and they need good training and support. The next-generation mortgage loan officer has to serve next-generation consumers. And the next generation of homebuyers is here, right now and in front of us all.
Paul Anastos is the president of MortgageMaster, a division of loanDepot.