Real estate tech disruptors are investing billions to build integrated brokerage and mortgage experiences. Some have more resources than others, but all have the same scaling bottlenecks. And in the end, the biggest disruptors — and who is most at risk — might come as a surprise.
The bottlenecks to scale
Each company employs licensed brokers — mortgage loan originators (MLOs) — who occupy a critical position in securing or refinancing a mortgage. As with real estate, people remain a central component of the mortgage process, and no amount of technology, venture capital or inspirational vision has yet to replace them.
MLOs are both a key component and a bottleneck for the iBuyers, Power Buyers and others attempting to attach mortgage to their core services. The speed at which they hire MLOs, and the total number employed, is a reflection of how serious they are and their potential to grab market share.
Homeward and Knock, fresh off big funding rounds, are quickly growing. Newcomer Tomo is moving fast. Notably, the iBuyers remain relatively small. There is no outsize leader … until real estate portal Zillow is added into the mix.
Zillow has nearly 10x the MLOs of its smaller competitors, giving it significantly more scale and firepower for its integrated mortgage plans. Zillow is the top player … until pure play digital disrupter Better Mortgage is added into the mix.
Better Mortgage has raised nearly $1 billion in its quest to disrupt mortgage, and has nearly 10x the MLOs of Zillow. Significant firepower and scale and clearly the top player … until industry behemoth Rocket Mortgage is added into the mix.
Ten MLOs to 10,000 MLOs. And: The number of MLOs roughly corresponds to closed loan volumes: $1.2 billion for Zillow, $14 billion for Better, and $65 billion for Rocket in Q1 2021.
Who’s disrupting whom?
Both Rocket and Better recently announced they’re hiring in-house real estate agents, which raises an interesting question about who’s disrupting whom. Real estate tech companies are going after mortgage, but now mortgage is going after real estate.
These companies all have different approaches, but the destination is the same: an integrated real estate experience that seamlessly combines mortgage and brokerage. And the key execution trends are clear: in-house agents and MLOs, paired with deep discounts for consumers.
Perhaps the true takeaway is that those companies not included on the chart are the ones at risk. Whether it’s being initiated from the real estate or mortgage side, both components are being smartly combined to provide an integrated, highly convenient consumer experience. The companies unable to provide that are the ones at risk.