By Susan Doktor
Everybody knows the residential housing market is hot. Sizzling, even, as the COVID-19 economic crisis influenced financial markets to create a rare win-win situation wherein both sellers and buyers benefitted. Home prices are high but mortgage interest rates remain at near-historic lows—an unusual set of circumstances that has residential realtors in a frenzy.
The pandemic also andlords suffered losses. Tenants who ran non-essential businesses, especially those that were likely to contribute to the spread of the virus—hair salons and fitness facilities, for example—were forced to close their doors. Businesses of many kinds struggled to pay their rent, even as the Small Business Administration tried to keep them afloat with low-interest loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. There were a few winners of course: warehouses and fulfillment centers that served e-commerce businesses, for example, continued to attract tenants and investors during the pandemic.
While many pundits are happy to make predictions, the near future of our economy and, more specifically, the real estate market, is in question. There are too many moving parts. Will the Fed continue to make cheap money available to mortgage lenders? Will the Delta variant and other threats stifle the economic recovery that began to take hold this Spring when vaccines became available? Will office workers, now enjoying the benefits of working from home, take kindly to being called back to their cubicles? Will businesses embrace the savings and documented worker productivity gains they experienced when they went remote and decide to shutter or substantially reduce their tenancy footprint?
The stage is still being set. But no matter what scene unfolds, one thing is certain: lending institutions, mortgage brokers, and realtors who want to compete will have to respond to market changes. The best will thrive by understanding property seekers’ and borrowers’ needs and behaviors. Building strong customer relationships and making data-based decisions will be essential in the “mid-COVID” economy—a term that better describes where we are right now relative to the pandemic. And more and more, those relationships play out online. That’s why proactive companies in the real estate realm are optimizing their websites to inspire customer engagement, provide services that customers may not expect but do appreciate, build loyalty, and collect intelligence to fuel strategic decision-making.
Strengthen Customer Connections from the Get-Go
First impressions have sticking power. That’s why savvy real estate-related businesses offer website visitors something other than (or in addition to) a hard sales pitch when they arrive on their home pages. Often that something is information property buyers need to make smart decisions on purchases and financing—a free, convenient resource they can access without any commitment or personal contact with your sales team.
What kind of data can you provide? The short answer—and the good news is—lots. And the better-than-good news is that you can position yourself up as a trustworthy ally of your customers and begin building new relationships with a minimum of effort and expense. If you work in the lending or real estate industry, theFinancials.com can support your business with proven tools to engage potential customers and keep them coming back.
Win with Widgets
What’s a widget and why would you want one—or two or three? Widgets are small, self-contained apps that you can install quickly and inexpensively on your website. Widgets are interactive by design and automatically engage users with your brand. They display information graphically for easy consumption. Widgets can present as calculators, real-time data feeds, video files, picture galleries, comparison tools, and more. They can be customized and branded to suit your business. Once you understand your customers’ information needs, you can use widgets to make your website a critical information hub—one that allows them to make better financial decisions. You can also use them to differentiate the customer experience you offer from those your competitors offer.
Depending on your business type and your business goals, some widgets will make more sense on your site than others. Let’s look at some examples:
- You’re an online lender that offers mortgages on commercial properties. Your customer is trying to estimate what his or her monthly mortgage costs will be when financing a large rental property. He or she will want to compare those costs to expected monthly rental income, of course. A widget that facilitates comparing multiple commercial mortgage terms and rates lets that customer see the range of options available to him or her and perhaps explore several down payment scenarios. Point scored! Maybe that investor is looking at several properties. There’s a good chance he or she will return to your website and use your widget again. Now you’re really getting somewhere: you’re building trust and on your way to converting a tenuous lead into a paying customer.
- You’re a residential realtor in Abilene, Texas. It’s a volatile market. The buyer you’re working with wants to be sure a seller’s asking price is fair before making an offer. So you include a data feed that tracks the Housing Price Index in your neighborhood and provide data that’s critical to his or her decision-making process. Perhaps the same buyer is trying to decide between an adjustable- or fixed-rate mortgage and would benefit from data comparing historical interest rates on both types of loans. He or she is also savvy enough to know that ten-year Treasury note yields have a profound effect on mortgage interest rates. You have a T-note tracker on your website. Voila! Your website becomes a one-stop, pre-offer data shop and earns you repeat visits from your buyer—during which he or she is bound to peruse other property listings.
- You’re a mortgage broker. Your business is building bridges between borrowers and lenders, to be sure. But you’re also an advisor to both. Borrowers want to know how property values are performing in the neighborhoods where they’re considering purchasing a home, office building, or warehouse. So you install a property value tracker to help them figure out what kind of return they can expect on their investment if they buy now. The lenders you partner with also want to know more about the neighborhood, too. So you install a mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures widget that gives them the skinny on how investments in the area are doing. You also provide them with the latest SOFR rates and data on swap options. Suddenly, you’re keeping both of your customer bases satisfied as you cement the borrower/lender connections that keep your business humming.
Getting Up to Speed in a Snap
Let’s say you’re experienced, confident, maybe even an expert in your business sector. But technology? Not so much. You’re pretty sure that you’ll win more business by providing free, helpful services to your customers online. So you wander back to talk to your company’s director of IT to discuss how to improve the customer experience you’re offering. But your IT director is busy putting out fires or implementing a new customer management system and your project will have to wait.
Actually, it doesn’t. theFinancials.com is dedicated to helping businesses like yours differentiate themselves from the competition by offering the intelligence, centralized services, and convenience their customers value. And we do it without taxing your internal resources. We also save your company the sizeable investment you’d have to make to give your customers access to an entire world of financial data.
You can grab a widget or data feed off the shelf. Or let us tailor one to your precise specs. You’ll be up and running before anyone has the time to complain about all the extra work and expense your project entails. Instead of handing off an open can of worms, you’ll be handing off a neat little bundle of code and bill for services that barely makes a ripple in your budget. That, along with helping you pocket more business, is what theFinancials.com is about. Take a minute to explore our catalog. Then schedule a free consultation. Bring us your user experience and revenue goals and we’ll bring you the tools to help you reach them. You’re closer than you think. A few questions, clicks, and keystrokes and you’ll be on your way.
Susan Doktor is a journalist, business strategist, and principal at Branddoktor. She writes on a wide variety of subjects including real estate, mortgages, and business development. Follow her one Twitter @branddoktor.