Arthur Matuszewski, VP of Talent at Better.com, to speak at engage.talent Feb. 6

Attracting younger workers is crucial to the future of the mortgage industry, but many companies are struggling to connect their company’s values and culture with Millennials and those in Gen Z. That’s why we’ve asked Arthur Matuszewski, vice president of talent at Better.com, to speak at HousingWire’s engage.talent summit Feb 6.

Matuszewski will join James Hecht, executive vice president of national retail lending at Caliber Home Loans, and Haley Parker, area business development manager at Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp., to discuss The Impact of Company Culture on Attracting and Retaining Top Talent.

Better.com takes a unique approach to origination, and we sat down with Matuszewski to find out how the company is attracting younger workers and why it plans to double hiring this year.

HousingWire:  Where do mortgage companies struggle in connecting their company’s values or culture with younger workers?

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Arthur Matuszewski: Homeownership is both a critical component of our customers’ lives and one that is difficult for Millennials and Gen Z as many are saddled with student debt, shrinking incomes and rising living costs, particularly in major metro areas. Our goal is to align our employee experience with our customer experience and demonstrate to both that the work of giving everyone a home they love is critical, meaningful and engaging when approached from a process of mutual trust, rapport and discovery. 

HW: What are some hallmarks of the company culture at Better.com?

AM: We endeavor towards a company where a combination of heart, horsepower, humility and hustle can unlock possibility. We’re about creating meaningful work alongside meaningful relationships where you can do your best work while enabling more customers to live in a home they love. 

HW: What makes you excited to recruit people into this industry?

AM: Mortgage is a filing cabinet industry – everybody wins when you can provide a better product at a better price with a better experience. The work is meaningful and the challenges of transforming an industry impacting the lives and communities of so many of us are legion. We’re excited to write a new playbook for how consumers interact with credit, and the main drivers of that are our people.

HW: What do you think the next year looks like for mortgage recruiting?

AM: We hired 1,000 people in 2019 and we’re expecting to roughly double that number over the next year. The realities of the market are cyclical, and we’re expanding our other business ventures to reduce our exposure to some of that volatility and ensure our people are at their highest and best use regardless of what’s going on in the industry. 

HW: Why are you excited to speak at engage.talent?

AM: Homeownership is fundamentally a human business, empowering the talent that powers all of our interactions is critical. Talent itself is changing an environment of ever-increasing specialization and liquidity and it’s even more critical to create engagement that reduces confusion, drives autonomy and purpose and gives people meaning. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to gain insight from Matuszewski and other experts at the engage.talent summit Feb. 6. Register here.

No. 1 originator Shant Banosian to speak at engage.talent

Amy Volas to headline engage.talent summit

Brian Covey to speak at engage.talent

Christine Beckwith to emcee engage.talent summit

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Top originators share the key to retention at engage.talent summit

Locking in a top originator is only half the battle when it comes to recruiting in the mortgage industry. It’s one thing to get new talent in the door, but it’s a completely different challenge to keep them there. With today’s high-stakes environment, the conversation around retention is just as vital to a company’s success as recruitment, making it a hot topic for discussion at engage.talent in Dallas on Feb. 6. 

The Recruiting and Retaining Top Originators panel features three of the highest producing originators in the industry, including the No. 1 originator in the nation, Shant Banosian, vice president of lending at Guaranteed Rate. In 2019 alone, he closed 1,906 units and funded $914 million in loans. 

The panel will also feature Movement Mortgage’s Mortgage Loan Officer Jennifer Micklos and loanDepot’s Branch Manager Sean Johnson, who has been ranked in the top 1% of originators since 2012. These three will share their perspective on how companies have supported them as industry-leading producers. 

While the industry is working together through events like engage.talent to attract more outsiders into the industry, companies still tend to look within the industry to hire their dream team, poaching top talent from their competition. Whether it’s through company-wide recognition, providing the right tools they need to compete or creating a culture they feel connected to, it’s extremely important for companies to intentionally find ways to empower their talent to succeed. 

Joel Epstein, host of The bigJOEL Show podcast and a top producer himself before becoming a sales coach for the country’s biggest companies, will moderate this elite panel, as they break apart the difference-making factors that cause talent to stay or move companies. 

HousingWire’s engage events are built upon a commitment to sharing tools and tips that businesses can use to elevate their platform. These leading panelists are providing just that and sharing the game-changing reasons that they’ve witnessed help attract and keep top talent on their team.  

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from the industry’s top originators on how to look beyond recruiting and win in the battle of retaining top talent. Register here for the engage.talent summit.

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Here are 5 renovation mistakes to avoid for resale

Homeowners may want to tap the breaks on those trendy white Carrara marble countertops if they’re looking to get a return on investment for home renovations.

That’s according to a recent report from NerdWallet, which pulls from Remodeling magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value report when stating, “An upscale kitchen renovation recoups just 59% of its cost in added value.”

Next on the list is one that’s more likely for the average home seller: DIY painting. The report cites data from Opendoor asserting that a low-quality paint job can result in the seller losing out on as much as $1,700. This may be bad news for the 47% of homeowners who stated at the beginning of last year that they were more likely to take on a project than hire it done. 

And while various HGTV shows may have homeowners ready to bust down some walls, the NerdWallet report advises against it in regard to an expanded master suite. If the renovation results in the loss of another bedroom, sellers could end up with their home listed at a lower price point. 

The last two items on the list may not be as surprising. Plush wall-to-wall carpeting and the addition of a swimming pool could end up costing homeowners. According to the report, carpet as the main flooring in a home drops its value by almost $4,000. A swimming pool, on the other hand, may deter buyers who are turned off by the potential maintenance. 

However, these warnings may be needless in 2020, as a recent report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies stated that U.S. homeowners are expected to spend less on renovations and repairs over the next year. 

That said, Arizona-based iBuyer Offerpad recently released a feature that allows homebuyers to customize their homes before moving in. Let’s just hope those homebuyers take a look at this list first.

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California’s median home price jumps 10% to $615,090

The median price for a single-family home in California jumped 10% in December, the biggest year-over-year gain in more than four years, as low mortgage rates and a shortage of homes for sale boosted competition for properties.

The state’s median home price was $615,090, more than double the U.S. median, according to the California Association of Realtors. Home sales rose 7.4% compared with December 2018.

“California experienced an unusual jump in its median price at the end of the year when the market is supposed to cool down,” said CAR Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. “The surge in price is a byproduct of the imbalance between supply and demand as market competition continues to heat up.”

The supply of homes for sale, measured as the amount of time it would take to sell off existing stock, shrank to 2.5 months from 3.5 months a year earlier.

The Los Angeles metro area saw the biggest jump in home prices, up 10% from a year earlier to a median of $550,000. Sales surged 16%, CAR said.

The next-biggest jump was in the cheapest area of the state. The Central Valley, an inland swath that runs about 450 miles from Bakersfield to Redding, had a median price of $342,000 in December, a jump of 7.7% from a year earlier, according to CAR data. Sales rose 12% in the same period.

The Inland Empire, east of Los Angeles, had a median price of $385,000, up 7.2% from a year ago, and sales were up 13%, the CAR report said.

The San Francisco Bay area, the most expensive region, had a median price of $908,750, up 6.9% from a year ago. Sales jumped 16% in the same period.

The Central Coast, stretching from Los Angeles to San Francisco, had a 2.2% drop in median price to $700,000. Sales surged up 42% as buyers rushed to snap up the lower prices, CAR said.

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People Movers: Evergreen Home Loans, Green Street Advisors and Vacasa

People movers are about the latest in business professionals making waves in the housing and mortgage industries.

Mortgage lender, Evergreen Home Loans, named Chuck Iverson as its new executive vice president of production.

Prior to joining Evergreen Home Loans, Iverson took a break in his career to spend time immersing himself in the technology aspect of the industry, he said. He was also the chairman of the California Mortgage Bankers mortgage innovation conference, and will do so again this year, he said.

“So many companies sell their mortgages after they originated them. But Evergreen is servicing the majority of their customers, because our vision is to have a long term customer satisfaction experience, not just during the initial mortgage origination, but through the life of the loan,” Iverson said to HousingWire. “We believe that by doing that, we can build a powerful consumer brand and just have the best experience for consumers in the industry.”

Before that, Iverson was at Sierra Pacific Mortgage for 22 years, where he also served as the executive vice president of production.

Iverson started his almost 28 years in the industry as an originator, working his way into top producer status and then management at Sierra Pacific Mortgage.

Real estate research, data and analytics provider, Green Street Advisors, appointed Jeff Stuek as its new chief executive officer. Stuek is replacing Craig Leupold, who will be stepping down after 12 years as president and CEO, and more than 26 years with the company. Leupold will continue to serve as a strategic advisor to Green Street.

Before he joined the company, Stuek served as president for North America of TravelClick.

Stuek was at TravelClick for seven years, and has more than 20 years of leadership experience in general management, sales, strategy and business development, capital markets, operations and finance.

Stuek will lead Green Street as it prepares to accelerate its organic growth, invest in product innovation and pursue strategic acquisitions, according to a release.

Vacation rental management platform, Vacasa, appointed Jeff Flitton as its new chief technology officer. Flitton was previously the company’s vice president of engineering.

Flitton, who joined Vacasa in 2017, will focus on expanding machine learning applications as Vacasa develops new products and services to meet the needs of the company’s more than 21,000 homeowners and two million guests per year.

Flitton began his career with Lionsbridge, a leading language translation company, and spent several years with both AmeriBen and Balihoo. He joined Vacasa in 2017 as director of software development and was promoted to vice president of engineering the following year.

Flitton will be replacing Tim Goodwin, who is leaving the company for a new opportunity.

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What happens when you don’t respond to social media comments

One of the quickest ways to destroy any goodwill or positive mindshare that you have with your network is to not respond to their social media comments. 

As real estate agents and loan officers, you’ve worked so hard to get people to notice you, to follow you, to pay attention to what you have to say and to keep coming back for more. All of that can goodwill can disappear in a fraction of a second if you make someone feel like you’re ignoring them.

Dustin-Brohm
Dustin Brohm, Columnist

When you don’t acknowledge that somebody interacted with your content and sent a message or left a comment, the sender only assumes the worst. They assume you’re not a real person, business or brand. To them, you’re just another profile pushing out stuff with no real person real behind it.

Or, they think that you are too busy for them. I mean, if you can’t even respond to a short Instagram comment or answer a simple question on a Facebook post, how could you ever have time to guide them through the complicated home buying process while giving them the personal attention they deserve?

Worse, they may simply think you’re a jerk; that you’re not approachable or relatable and that your only goal and intent on social media is to talk at people, with no intention of letting them talk back. They think you only care to push out content in one direction.

See, that’s the thing about “social media.” People expect you to be social. That’s how it works. They expect you to reciprocate being social if ever they socialize with you. Especially on content that is clearly part of a marketing or advertising campaign! Failing to respond to questions or comments on one of your Facebook Ads? Pfft. Epic fail.

Need an example of what it feels like to a consumer when they reach out to or interact with, a businessperson or brand that they like or respect?

Here’s a simple analogy for you: You’re sharing an elevator with someone. You don’t know them, and they don’t know you. But you briefly make awkward eye contact. Then you say “Hello” or even “Hey, I like your shoes.” 

Their response? Silence. They say nothing. They completely ignore you. You know they heard you, but they act like they didn’t. How do you feel? 

It’s similar to that feeling when you hold the door open for someone and they just walk on through, saying nothing in response. No thanks, no nod. Not as much as a creepy wink! They won’t even acknowledge that you held the door for them. They just walk on through. We’ve all had that happen to us. It’s incredibly annoying. If we’re being honest, it pisses us off! And it should. People do not react well to being ignored.

So then why is it OK to ignore people on social media? (Spoiler alert: it’s not!) 

When you don’t respond to comments on your posts, you’re pretty much doing the same thing as the imbecile that didn’t acknowledge you for opening the door for them. You’re sending the message that you just don’t care enough to respond. That the time they spent to comment is not worthy of your time to respond. That your time is more valuable than theirs.

Now look, I completely understand it’s possible to miss a notification or three. It happens. I’ve certainly had emails, messages and notifications somehow get marked as read when they weren’t.

But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a pattern, a habit. People notice, for better or worse. They notice, and your network can tell whether or not you are respectful of those who engage with your content.

Remember, being social is expected on social media. If you’re treating it as a one-way message board, and you never consume, comment on or engage with anyone else’s content, then you’re not going to make many friends. You certainly won’t retain much of your current audience either. When people are made to feel ignored, they’ll go to someone else.

Make a conscious decision right now to respond to all of your comments. At a bare minimum, like or react to your comments. All of them. They took the time to comment. Take the time to respond back.

At the very least, it’s yet another valuable impression; an opportunity to be top of mind, even if for just a second. Those impressions add up, and eventually, if you’re doing it right, they’ll never forget you.

Even on that one special day every year when 100s of people you rarely ever talk to post happy birthday wishes on your Facebook timeline. Respond to all of them. Every. Single. One. What, you really won’t make time once per year to go through and thank every single person individually? Come on, that’s lazy.

Of course, you can make time. You’ve just chosen not to. Even your lack of response sends a message. Whether or not that’s the message you want to be sending is another story altogether.

Connect with Dustin on LinkedIn

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NAR: The most and least affordable metro areas in the U.S.

Three of the top five affordable metro areas in the nation during the third quarter were in Illinois: Decatur, Springfield and Peoria.

That’s according to a National Association of Realtors ranking that put Wichita Falls, Texas, at No. 4 and the Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa, metro area at No. 5.

At the bottom of the list, the nation’s five least-affordable metro areas were all in California: the San Jose-Santa Clara metro area was the worst, followed by the Anaheim-Irving area. The third-worst was Los Angeles, followed by San Francisco and San Diego.

Eroding affordability and tight inventory could leave some of the nation’s previously fast-growing metro areas unable to sustain economic growth because workers need a place to live, said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

“Even fast-growing markets could be hurt and unable to further expand because of weakening affordability conditions,” he said. “We must improve affordability by building more homes in line with local job market growth.”

The median sale price of a home in Illinois was $200,000 in November, below the U.S. median of $271,300 for the same month. In Calfornia, the median price was $589,770 in November.

Homebuilders who have been on the sidelines since the 2008 financial meltdown are just beginning to get back in the game. U.S. single-family housing starts likely will total 1 million in 2020, the highest since 2007, NAR said in a forecast last month

That’s far more than the 822,000 average of the last five years, and more in line with the 1.1 million annual average between 1958 and 2007, based on government data.

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How Umpqua Bank enhanced the customer experience using CoreLogic’s Property Tax Estimator

Automation is quickly becoming a key motivator for lenders to modernize their current processes. Whether it’s to improve communication or to streamline back-end operations, lenders have more tools and technology solutions to choose from than ever before to enhance the borrower experience. 

In this case study published in HousingWire’s Knowledge Center, Umpqua Bank explained how they selected CoreLogic’s Property Tax Estimator to transform their manual processes and provide a transparent and consistent system that reimagined their relationship with borrowers. 

THE PAIN POINTS

Historically, the method to estimate property tax for borrowers has been disjointed and inconsistent. Loan officer calculations can vary widely from person to person, with some seasoned loan officers calculating taxes off 2% of the appraised value while others choose to base their estimate off 1.5% of the purchase price. 

There simply is no industry standard on how to estimate the property tax for new construction or a new home, creating a significant amount of discrepancies in the industry.

For Umpqua Bank, an Oregon-based bank that has locations across five states, the outdated process seemed to over- or under-calculate in the industry at least 60% of the time. They’ve witnessed anything from an $8,000 shortage to a $4,000 overage, which is largely due to the manual work involved and how greatly calculations are impacted by each county.

“We want to be able to provide concise and accurate calculations for borrowers across the board regardless of the loan type, purchase price or any other sort of information. We want the same calculation, the same number, and the same process from beginning to end,” said Jacqulyne Trukositz, business application analyst at Umpqua Bank. 

TOP REQUIREMENTS IN A SOLUTION 

Since the industry has lacked a uniform way to estimate property taxes, Umpqua Bank wanted a solution that would not only alleviate related challenges but help them build strong relationships with borrowers. A comprehensive solution would:

  • First and foremost, build a better borrower experience
  • Establish consistency for property tax estimations
  • Assist after natural disasters
  • Benefit origination and servicing 

Trukositz explained that as other lenders start to have conversations with their management team about new solutions, many organizations will hyperfocus on the cost of the solution. Cost is important, but there are also other factors that have a substantial impact on costs that aren’t as easy to factor in.

Umpqua Bank looked beyond the main cost and factored in the opportunity they had to build greater trust with borrowers in an area that is infamously known for being difficult in the space. 

Learn more about how Umpqua Bank selected CoreLogic’s Property Tax Estimator, how it moved from evaluating to implementing the solution and how they ultimately were able to refine their process to help enhance the borrower experience.

The proven results even led Trukositz to add that “no news is good news,” with the improvements allowing the team to work on other things that keep them growing and require their attention. Read the full case study here.

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Housing Headlines: Gateway First Bank and Zillow Offers

Housing Headlines takes a look at the latest news in housing, real estate, fintech, and beyond. It features new product updates, launches, expansions, integrations, announcements, and more.

Gateway First Bank announced it opened 34 new mortgage centers in 2019 to meet increased demand from its local communities. 

Now, Gateway First Bank has more than 160 mortgage centers across the United States and is licensed in 40 states. 

“We are outperforming our competition and delivering for our clients faster than ever,” said Stephen Curry, Chairman and CEO of Gateway, in a release. “Our momentum is a testament to our team members’ persistent focus on hard work. I look forward to seeing Gateway continue to expand our footprint across the nation for our clients and the success of all of our team members.”

Zillow Offers has expanded to Tucson this week, allowing homeowners to avoid the hassle of selling their home. 

By selling to Zillow Offers, sellers can avoid those hassles and focus on their new home sooner. The company says sellers will have the peace of mind of knowing when the sale will close, and exactly how much money they will get in net proceeds.

The service is also available across Maricopa County in the metro Phoenix area, where Zillow Offers first launched in April 2018.

Tucson is the 23rd market where Zillow Offers is available. Zillow, its parent company, has also announced plans to bring Zillow Offers to Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Florida, and Oklahoma City in 2020.

Zillow has established new partnerships across the country with regional homebuilders to help home shoppers transition into their new homes seamlessly. 

With the help of Zillow Offers, home shoppers who buy a new construction home from one of Zillows homebuilder partners can sell their existing home directly to Zillow. 

Homebuilder partners will also have an extended closing period – anywhere from seven days to eight months – so the worry of their existing home won’t interfere with the move-in date of their new construction home.

Partners include: The Providence Group in Atlanta; NewStyle Communities in Charlotte, N.C.; Kindred Homes in Dallas and San Antonio, Texas; Saratoga Homes in Houston; Avex Homes in Orlando, Florida; Woodbridge Pacific Group in Riverside, California; Caviness & Cates, Drees Homes and Stanley Martin Homes in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Minto Communities in Florida.

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Housing starts soar to a 13-year high

Housing construction continued to improve in December as the nation’s homebuilders increased their building efforts nationwide, sending the unadjusted pace to a 13-year high.  

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Commerce, housing starts spiked 16.9% in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.608 million and the pace for November was revised upward.

“Today’s housing numbers not only confirm the home building revival this year, but they double down on its magnitude,” said Robert Frick, Navy Federal Credit Union’s corporate economist. “Not only will homebuyers desperate for inventory see their choices rise, but housing should start contributing noticeably to GDP.”

In December, single-family starts grew 11.2% from November to 1.055 million units while multifamily starts grew a whopping 32% to 536,000 units, according to the report.

Permits rose 3.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.474 million, which is 5.8% above the December 2018 rate of 1.339 million. Single-family permits increased 0.5% to 916,000 while multifamily permits fell 11.1% to 458,000.

During the month, single-family completions rose 0.7% to 912,000, while multifamily completions increased 19.4% to 357,000.

Although housing starts increased significantly in December, Mike Fratantoni, the Mortgage Bankers Association’s chief economist, warns the pace is likely to slow in the months ahead.

“On a seasonally adjusted basis, housing starts jumped in December to their highest level in 13 years,” Fratantoni said. “Surprisingly, single-family starts increased relative to November even on an unadjusted basis – unusual at this time of year – and was driven by a rise in the South.”

“While single-family permits are up almost 11% relative to last year, the level suggests that this jump in starts is unlikely to persist, and we would expect them to return back below 1 million this spring,” he said.

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