The National Association of Realtors recently put out their annual “Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.”  A portion of this NAR study asked recent home buyers from the previous year to share their real experience during the “home search process.” The results give us direct answers as to where home buyers are going first when they start looking for a home. 

You’ll see that 54% of all buyers in 2017 turned to the internet first. Most of these did so to search for properties, with a small portion going online to research the home purchase process. The second most popular first step was finding an agent, at 17%. In total, 71% turned to the internet and real estate agents first when starting their journey. (Important to note: connecting to a lender as a first step was only important to about 8% of last year’s buyers.)

NAR is not the only one tracking the home search process. In 2015, Fannie Mae released a research paper titled, “What Do Consumers Know About the Mortgage Qualification Criteria?”  The goal was to “understand consumers’ financial attitudes and behaviors including barriers to obtaining a mortgage and steps taken.” Inside the paper is a kind of “journey map” that provides key insights into the most common path consumers take when purchasing a home. 

The Fannie Mae study asked nearly 4000 consumers to imagine that they were planning a home purchase, and then asked them to arrange the steps in the order they would follow them. Look at the chart below and follow the green areas (the most popular selections). 

The most popular first step was RESEARCH. According to this study, just over half of all the respondents think they would research the area they want to buy first. The second most popular step is LOOKING AT HOMES, both online and in person through open houses. The takeaway here is that, for more than 75% of these 4000 consumers, their first step in the journey is to do some research to find the best home. 

The next most popular step, the one that may be the most predictable to CUs, is to connect with an agent. And in actuality, while it is the most popular third step, it’s also the most popular fourth step and was the second most popular second step (after looking at homes). So when you consider these findings for the first four steps combined, consumers are thinking, “I want to find a home first; then I’m going to find an agent to help me.”

Now, let’s look at what remains. Researching loan options, getting paperwork together, getting pre-qualified, etc—these are all in the last steps of their journey. I’m not sure why they offered up so many different options here, but what is clear: buyers want homes, not mortgages. Consumers aren’t thinking about making smart financial decisions when they set out on their journey to find their dream home. They aren’t looking for great rates or discounts. They ARE looking for their next home.

With these findings and statistics in mind, how should your credit union market to and reach your home buying members? Where should your member “touch-points” be? The obvious opportunity that should not to be missed is to connect with them during their initial research, both online and with real estate agents. 

Find out more about how our HomeAdvantage program helps credit unions connect with members during the research steps of their home buying journey and keeps them coming back to your CU every step of the way.