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Study Reveals Consumer Appetite For Self-Serve Technology

More than one-third of consumers who recently bought, sold or refinanced their homes expressed a willingness to use self-serve technology in the home inspection process, with most saying they believed it would be faster, according to a national consumer survey commissioned by ServiceLink. The appraisal and closing report found that consumers, although mostly satisfied with the traditional appraisal process, believe that parts of the experience, such as appraisal scheduling and appointments, could be improved significantly.

ServiceLink and its EXOS Technologies division commissioned the survey to analyze key challenges and opportunities in the mortgage processes and the role that digital mortgage strategies play in enhancing the appraisal and closing process for borrowers and lenders. Javelin Strategy & Research surveyed 1,500 consumers who had interacted with the home buying and mortgage process within the past two years.

Highlights from the survey include:

·       Embracing Technology: 34% of consumers said they would be willing to take photos or videos of their homes if it eliminated the need for an in-person inspection by an appraiser, while 30% prefer in-person inspections and 35% had no preference. Among homeowners who expressed an inspection preference, 90% of those who had difficulty scheduling a previous appraisal said they would welcome using the digital process.

·       Young Adopters: Intuitively, younger homeowners (18-34) were more comfortable with the self-serve digital inspection approach (47%), while older homeowners (55+) were less so (13.24%). Proponents believed that self-serve technology would make the process faster (69%) and more convenient. Those who preferred in-person appraisals said traditional appraisals would be more accurate (66%), and were uncomfortable not having an appraiser physically inspect the property (60%).

·       Speedy Appraisal Turn Times: Overall, 79% of consumers said their appraisal inspection was conducted within a week of the appointment being scheduled, including 30% whose inspections took place within three days. Nationwide, a significant percentage of consumers (40%) said that they received their appraisal report in three days or less after the inspection, including 43% in the Northeast and South, 41% in the West and 21% in the Midwest. Overall, nearly 75% of consumers received their appraisal report within a week of the inspection.

·       Valuation Expectations: Valuations were generally in line with expectations. More than two-thirds of respondents said the appraisal reflected the value that they had expected, and 22% said the valuation came in higher than expected. Only 11% came in under expectations. Refinance borrowers (21%) and homeowners age 55 and older (20%) were more likely to say their appraised value was lower than expected.

·       Consumer Use of Digital Scheduling: The way appraisal appointments are scheduled is changing: While most are still done by phone, the use of email and text is also growing. Approximately 70% of respondents found these methods to be easy.

·       Information Gaps Highlight Opportunity to Improve Scheduling: Very few consumers receive important details about their appraiser, such as a photo (21%) or the type of car she or he will drive to the inspection (9%), while less than half (49%) were given the name of the appraisal company beforehand.

·       Convenient and Easy Closings: Consumers were comfortable with the concept of e-signing. Nearly 90% of respondents said it would be easy and convenient and 86% said it would save time.

·       Word of Mouth: More than 75% of borrowers who had the opportunity to pre-sign documents electronically, prior to their closing, said they would recommend their lender. Recommendations from friends and family members and existing relationships with lenders were two of the most cited factors in lender selection.

“Creating a complete digital experience is increasingly the price of entry for virtually every industry, including mortgage. As a leading provider of valuations and title and close solutions and services, we are committed to measuring and reporting our performance, including consumer satisfaction, to clients every day,” said Dave Steinmetz, president of origination services, ServiceLink. “This survey is an opportunity to look at the consumer experience our industry is delivering through a broader lens, and to gauge consumer perspective on the appraisal and closing process. The findings clearly indicate that consumers are looking for more convenience and speed and are ready to use technology to improve the real estate lending experience.”

“A seamless appraisal experience plays an important role in offering the personalized service, transparent credit decisions and efficient loan processing that borrowers expect and demand from their mortgage companies,” said Austin Kilgore, director of digital lending at Javelin Strategy & Research. “Likewise, this study highlights how critical it is for lenders to modernize their closing processes with the same type of borrower-facing innovation that’s radically transformed how consumers start the mortgage application process.”