The Motley Fool is in Seattle, visiting online home and real estate marketplace Zillow. In the following video, the Fool's Austin Smith meets with Zillow Mortgage Marketplace Director Erin Lantz to learn more about how ZMM works and whom it serves.
With inventory so scarce, Lantz says it's hard to know the true makeup of the market. She adds that ZMM looks forward to a time when all mortgage shoppers stop by Zillow to check their rates.
To view the full interview, click here.
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Austin Smith: As homebuying recovers a little bit, who are you guys seeing -- on the mortgage end -- buying these homes? Is it first-time homebuyers? I know we mentioned there was a lot of refi, so we know that that's in there. Investors? What's the makeup looking like?
Erin Lantz: Looking at February data of overall market, we see about 35% of buyers are first-time homebuyers, but it's really hard right now to get a good handle on who the buyers are because inventory is so tight. So there's a lot of people who would like to buy who can't buy because they can't find a home, so it's hard to get a really great handle on that.
Certainly we're also seeing investor activity in the market overall, and in certain markets that were hit hardest by the recession -- some markets like Phoenix, we've seen really rapid 20% appreciation year over year from a lot of investor activity.
It's a mix, and I think it'll evolve as equity rebounds, prices rise, and as the rate environment changes.
Smith: If we were to maybe understand regional impacts on this division, what sort of trends do you see happening as far as mortgage leads on a city-by-city basis? If a city like Phoenix, let's say they see a rapid price appreciation. Do you then see that followed by a huge number of lead gen, or are you guys on the front end of that, or is there no impact?
Lantz: I don't think there's that type of impact. I think the larger geo impacts are going to be around buyer activity in those markets as well as online and mobile usage in those markets. Those are the consumers that are finding ZMM.
Now about a third of our ZMM users are finding us on their mobile devices, on phones and tablets, so as we see those buyers skewing maybe toward different regional areas we might see more activity from that, but the home-pricing nuances are less driving what's going on in the mortgage marketplace.
Smith: Where do you see ZMM in a few years contributing to Zillow as a division? What should we be looking forward to?
Lantz: We think that we have far and away the best consumer experience for mortgages. It's the way to find the lowest rates, lender ratings, and reviews. You can shop anonymously -- so you contact your lenders, not the other way around -- you can find us on mobile; you can get all sorts of products, even underwater products. So bar none, the best experience out there.
We see a time when everyone who's in the market for a mortgage at least comes to check what their offer is, relative to what they can find on ZMM. But now we are less than one half of 1% of that market.
Smith: So there's a lot of potential. Best product, a lot of potential. That's a good formula to be in, I guess.