How milestone Was Born
Tech has created efficiencies and driven down prices in most retail businesses. It has affected segments of the real estate sector, but it hasn’t broadly disrupted the homebuying experience yet.
A couple of years ago this started really bugging me, as millennial homebuyers became a much bigger part of my mortgage financing business. Millennials approach homebuying decisions differently than their predecessors have. They have digital-age expectations about pricing, information, support and relationships to their service providers. These expectations align closer to their experiences with digital-age disrupters like Amazon and Uber than they do with traditional banks and real estate companies.
So when millennials became a much higher percentage of my client-base, seemingly overnight, they also disrupted my business. Suddenly, my prospective clients didn’t just trust that I had the best rates around, or easily buy into my notion of great service. They wanted online reviews, rate comparisons, a more compelling reason to work with me, and some secret sauces that I couldn’t put my finger on. And then when they didn’t receive that magic combination of qualifying inputs, they dumped me without even a reason or a goodbye, i.e., they ghosted me.
Whether I approved of their approach or not was irrelevant (I didn’t.) It became clear that this new approach was the modus operandi for a vast wave of new homebuyers. I needed to adapt. I looked closely at the real estate ecosystem. I wanted to see if it was just me – or if our entire business model was outdated.
What I found was that, despite recent innovations and tech enhancements, real estate still fundamentally operated like it did in 1999. For the typical homebuyer, the homebuying “process” starts with the guidance of a commission-paid real estate agent, moves on to a commission-paid lender referred by the real estate agent for mortgage preapproval, and then results in a home purchase 1-4 months later. Zillow, social media and other digital tools add third party information into the process but also help accelerate the overall experience by feeding buyers a regular dose of pictures and success stories that intensify the homeownership hype and excitement.
Studies are telling us that the outcome of this process is not good. Amazingly, surveys of nascent millennial homeowners report that ~60% are experiencing buyer remorse! They cite lack of preparation for homeownership, including not realizing the extent of costs and responsibilities involved, as the main reason for their remorse. This type of outcome is not desirable or sustainable. Not for the public or for the industry that serves them.
Innovative real estate and mortgage companies like Redfin and Better Mortgage now provide lower-cost, tech-driven alternatives to the traditional model, but they still occupy a small place in the broader real estate service ecosystem. In fact, higher-cost models are thriving. The (somewhat perceived) complexity and and opaque nature of real estate transactions is the main reason; digital alternatives can’t provide the human finesse and trust desired by most real estate purchasers.
Enter milestone. We designed milestone to bridge digital and human capabilities to create a more empowered and intentional approach to homebuying. milestone works for the homebuyer, not for a commission, and therefore puts the consumer at the center of the homebuying experience. By providing independent, fee-based expertise, milestone pre-empts the advice coming strictly from the service providers who profit off the transaction. The end result: Fewer rushed and unplanned homebuying experiences. Better homebuying decisions. Happy buyers. Sustainable business.
We see milestone being a conduit to successful homebuying experiences with all types of real estate and financing providers—digital and traditional alike. We believe consumers don’t necessarily benefit from the cheapest mortgage on the street, or from the most experienced agent around. Our highest value is to ensure that the homebuyer is an educated homebuyer, and that he receives a balance of convenience and financially prudent offerings from the providers whose products and operation fit best with the homebuyer’s own unique situation.