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Author:Margrett, Stephen

"We are seeking to change the culture of how consumers go about obtaining mortgages in this country by making it more possible and more fruitful for them to shop around." Those are the words of Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), in a January speech at the Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C. [paragraph] This cultural shift in the residential mortgage marketplace is bringing with it major new challenges that mortgage companies need to address. And along with these new challenges come new opportunities. [paragraph] According to Cherry Hill, New Jersey-based TD Bank's Mortgage Service Index (MSI) from March 2015: "The survey reveals that 30 percent of Americans consider now to be a very good time to purchase a home, compared with just 20 percent in 2014...."

In particular, the MSI found, "half of millennials surveyed said they are either very or extremely likely to purchase a home within the next year, supporting the prediction that this generation will drive the housing market in 2015."

What do we know?

Exactly how do people (especially millennials) shop for a mortgage? Where do they get the information they need? What criteria do they use when comparing lenders? What can a lender do to maximize the probability that it will be on the shopper's shortlist?

Where do mortgage shoppers get the information they need? TD Bank's MSI indicates that millennials sought information from the following non-traditional sources (ahead of the national average in every case):

* bank websites (56 percent);

* comparison/expert websites (35 percent); and

* social media (22 percent).

Richard Donine, national marketing director with First Guaranty Mortgage Corporation, Tysons Corner, Virginia, adds: "These days, the consumer wants everything accessible at their fingertips, so consumer-facing 'responsive' websites are the trend. It still requires considerable effort and investment to attract customers via the Internet. So it helps to have a recognizable brand that represents the company in the most relevant and credible manner. This requires creative management and oversight of all branding elements."

I saw a great quote attributed to Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit Inc., the other day: "A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is--it is what consumers tell each other it is."

"This is especially true for millennials," says Tom Ward, founder and chief executive officer of Path2Buy, Vernon Hills, Illinois. Path2Buy offers a training program for loan originators that helps them acquire, incubate and convert future homebuyers.

"They start out trusting no one because of the world they have grown up in: 9/11, identity theft, credit-card fraud, the...

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