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Rocket Mortgage blasted into our world during 2016’s Super Bowl 50 between the Broncos and the Panthers. At its peak, the game attracted more than 115 million viewers, and right in the middle of it all, Quicken Loans debuted their spot for Rocket Mortgage, setting both real estate consumers and professionals buzzing.

The first completely online and on-demand mortgage process, Rocket Mortgage was created to take a complicated and confusing mortgage process and make it fast, simple and transparent, thereby encouraging many hesitant buyers to enter the market. Reinventing the traditional mortgage process, where the burden of proof was on the client to prove their creditworthiness, Rocket Mortgage automatically imports and verifies a homebuyer’s information and delivers customizable mortgage options, allowing many to get a fully approved, rate-locked mortgage literally within minutes. Rooted in Quicken Loans’ 50-state origination platform, Rocket Mortgage is available in all 3,143 counties across all 50 states.

The question is, given such high aspirations and widespread publicity, where does Rocket Mortgage stand one year later? Has it sent the mortgage process into the stratosphere as intended, or has it come back down to earth?

The iPhone moment of the mortgage industry’
The short answer? Rocket Mortgage has gone far beyond its original projections.

“Through the first three quarters of 2016, Rocket Mortgage has funded more than $5 billion in loan volume, making it a top 30 mortgage lender by Rocket Mortgage volume alone,” reports Quicken Loans Vice President of Business Development Derek Latka. “We had a lot of high hopes for how it would perform and it has exceeded our expectations.”

More importantly, Rocket Mortgage has followed through on one of its cornerstone goals: to get would-be buyers off the fence and into the market. According to Quicken Loans research, as many as 60 percent of potential buyers are currently choosing to sit on the sidelines and not participate in today’s housing market. The No. 1 reason they give for not purchasing a home? A cumbersome and intimidating process. Coming off the Super Bowl ad, however, awareness for Quicken Loans and Rocket Mortgage skyrocketed, paving the way for a healthy purchase season early in the second quarter.

“There’s a strong purchase market presence on Rocket Mortgage,” reports Latka. “Currently, two-thirds of all clients coming to Rocket Mortgage are coming to purchase a home, and 72 percent of those are first-time homebuyers.”

“We’re very happy to see tens of thousands of Americans becoming new homeowners because of Rocket Mortgage,” agrees Rocket Mortgage Product Lead Regis Hadiaris. “People are using it in all 50 states, 24/7, and 60 percent or more are using it on a mobile device. Every 34 seconds in America, someone is creating a Rocket Mortgage account. Every nine minutes in America, someone is completing a Rocket Mortgage application.”

Despite a big degree of optimism going into it, Latka was still surprised by the amount of overall willingness to engage with the tool. “It was really exciting to see that if you build it, they will come. All the research pointed to that, but it was great to see clients flock to Rocket Mortgage both after the Super Bowl ad and post-Brexit. It was unprecedented. It was the iPhone moment of the mortgage industry.”

A year full of improvement and evolution
Year one hasn’t been about basking in the success of Rocket Mortgage—it’s been a year of gaining important insight and adapting accordingly.

For example, with such a huge influx of first-time homebuyers to Rocket Mortgage, many applicants had been living rent-free with family or received gift funds. These factors skewed the information typically looked at to establish financial wherewithal, so Quicken Loans made the necessary adjustments to the program to account for such factors.

“We’ve been on a path of learning and making changes as we learn,” says Hadiaris. “We’ve created this opportunity that’s being used at a pace the industry hasn’t seen before. We’ve made hundreds of improvements over the year. We’ve read every single piece of feedback from every client.”

The other discovery Quicken Loans made this year was that while Rocket Mortgage has the ability to deliver mortgage approval within minutes, the speed of the process remained in the hands of the consumer.

“Initially, there was a lot of hype about how fast Rocket Mortgage is, and speed is important,” says Hadiaris. “But what we’ve built is an experience where people can go as fast or slow as they want. They might want to do research online then talk to someone at Quicken Loans, or they may want to move forward quickly and efficiently and do the whole process online.”

Latka agrees: Rocket Mortgage is as online as a client wants it to be. “At any point in time, a client can raise their hand and say, ‘I need to talk to someone,'” he explains. “This can be done via online chat, or our mortgage bankers can be called and pick the client up where they left off in the process. We offer plenty of support. We have thousands of seasoned mortgage bankers—we are not replacing them with Rocket Mortgage. This is an augmentation of the experience.”

Another learning experience came in the form of the audience for Rocket Mortgage. While it was anticipated—and has come to bear—that millennials would comprise the bulk of Rocket Mortgage users, there is interest well beyond that generation.

“A lot of folks think of the millennial generation as the only group that’s self-service oriented, but self-service and service-on-demand are growing in popularity among many demographic groups,” says Latka. “Rocket Mortgage allows people to apply for a mortgage when it’s convenient for them, which has a much broader appeal than just millennials.”

That’s not to say millennials aren’t a big factor in the success of Rocket Mortgage. “Two-thirds of Rocket Mortgage clients are buying, not refinancing,” Hadiaris explains. “With that group, millennials are twice as likely to use Rocket Mortgage as opposed to other groups. Because they’ve grown up in a digital world, millennials are very in tune with the experience we’ve designed around their needs. It’s fast, easy and clearly explains things. But we’re seeing adoption across the spectrum, as well.”

‘Making sure clients are happy and satisfied’
So how has Rocket Mortgage played out for consumers? Overwhelmingly positive, says Latka. Of course, client satisfaction is nothing new for Quicken Loans, which just won its 7th J.D. Power award in a row for customer service.

Morgan McGregor is one of those satisfied customers. Having just purchased her first home with her fiancé in Bonita Springs, Fla., McGregor used Rocket Mortgage to secure her loan and found the process “really easy.” But prior to that, the thought of buying a home and getting a mortgage was overwhelming.

“It was scary,” recalls McGregor. “There was a lot riding on it—our apartment lease was up and the rent was increasing, and we worried that we were throwing money out the window. We felt it was time to put our money toward a house.”

“I think from the consumer perspective, the biggest value is in Rocket Mortgage’s ability to reduce the barrier to entry,” explains Latka. “Buyers may feel apprehensive reaching out to a human being for fear of not qualifying. Rocket Mortgage reduces that anxiety, and we’ve found that to be incredibly beneficial. Also, the way the platform is set up to import income and credit information directly into the tool is shaving off about eight days from the average time between application and closing.”

According to McGregor, Quicken Loans was prepared to close her loan faster than she had ever expected, but she asked for an additional week or so.

“Consumers are very happy with the ability to get real solutions quickly online,” says Hadiaris. “They can import their financial information, which makes the process more accurate and faster. All these potential homebuyers on the sidelines perceive the process to be slow and complicated and can’t fit it into their busy lives. We’ve delivered a solution for that with Rocket Mortgage. We’re making sure clients are happy and satisfied.”

“I liked that it was all online,” affirms McGregor. “They gave me due dates for when certain things were due, and I didn’t feel pressured at all. People were available at Quicken Loans 24/7, and I appreciated that. If I had a question at 9:00 at night or at noon during lunch hour, someone would always pick up the phone.”

Rocket Mortgage’s customization feature is also a big part of the customer satisfaction equation. Clients aren’t just getting a quote; they’re able to make adjustments to receive an option that makes the most sense for them.

“The internet is littered with mortgage calculators and lead forms,” explains Latka. “Rocket Mortgage really separates itself from anything else that’s out there—it’s not generating pre-qualifications based on assumptions. A lot of those aren’t accurate. People trust us to generate a higher quality approval.”

‘Putting the real estate agent at the center of the transaction’
For real estate professionals, Rocket Mortgage is an important conduit for clients in a competitive home-buying market. Getting approved for a mortgage and making an offer on a home as quickly as possible is critical for getting into the home of their choice.

“One thing that’s working really well is how Rocket Mortgage is putting the real estate agent at the center of the transaction,” says Latka. “I don’t know too many real estate agents who work a 9 to 5 schedule. Rocket Mortgage allows them to work on their own time with clients and guide them through the home financing process.”

According to Latka, Rocket Mortgage enables a real estate agent to sit down with their client and get an offer in on a listed property in real-time—even in the middle of an open house. “Historically, it’s a Sunday afternoon and the agent says, ‘Call me back Monday after you get your pre-approval.’ Now, with Rocket Mortgage, the agent doesn’t have to risk the client going to a local bank or credit union that might have a referral relationship with another organization that might steer the client away.”

Rocket Mortgage also offers a significant advantage to buyer’s agents. The full approval Rocket Mortgage provides is much more comprehensive and accurate than a pre-approval, due to the electronic verification of the client’s income, assets and credit, and direct access with agency underwriting engines.

“Agents don’t want to spend time driving around from open house to open house without knowing what clients are really approved for,” says Latka. “With Rocket Mortgage, not only can you get the approval right away, but we know that the quality of the approval is much better than any other mortgage lender because we’ve built so much transparency into the process.”

‘Everything we do is in service to the client’
Despite the success of Rocket Mortgage, Quicken Loans is taking no breathers. There’s a “long road map” of plans in place to make the Rocket Mortgage experience continually better.

What’s next? According to Hadiaris, “We’re working on updates to the purchase solution screen where you’ll get different options. We’ve done a lot of research across the country to see what clients like and see what we could do differently. We’re releasing a new version soon. We’re working very diligently on a set of videos that we’ll add into the Rocket Mortgage experience. We know there are spots where people have questions.”

For real estate professionals, Latka reports that they will continue to educate and communicate the benefits of Rocket Mortgage to the market. Quicken Loans will also pursue further opportunities to integrate Rocket Mortgage into the Agent Insight Platform so real estate agents will have access to that portal without being in two separate environments.

For now, however, Quicken Loans is focused on the big picture goal: increasing homeownership.

“With anything that’s built well, the numbers and the money will follow,” says Hadiaris. “The fact that we’re seeing so many people use Rocket Mortgage, and so many people becoming new homeowners—that’s really exciting.”

Latka concurs. “Everything we do is in service to the client—every client, every time.”

For more information, please visit http://rocket.quickenloans.com.

Maria Patterson is RISMedia’s executive editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at maria@rismedia.com.

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