Achieving the “American Dream” with Employer Housing Solutions

by 02 Jul 2008
It hasn’t been that long since the words “one-stop-shopping” and “affinity marketing” made their way into the vernacular of the home ownership industry. This was particularly evident with industry giants like Cendant Mobility. The bundling of real estate, mortgage and title services became more of the rule rather than the exception in many sectors of the market as we moved into the twenty-first century.

Interestingly, most companies that adopted this model did so in an attempt to bolster up revenues rather than to create a true benefit to the consumer. Often times there were savings passed on to consumers for using all or a combination of these services particularly when offered through an employer or membership group. Evidence has shown that the mere offering of discounted commissions or reduced fees alone is not enough to capture a greater share of the market. The perfect storm of events that led to the “real estate bubble” and subsequent burst has left a rather significant housing crisis in its wake affecting virtually every aspect of our industry in unprecedented ways. Aside from the obvious devastation that has occurred within the mortgage industry, consumers have been faced with a new set of challenges creating an opportunity of a lifetime for each and every one of us. In order to identify this opportunity, we need to define the challenge.

It can best be described as a three-tiered crisis. These tiers include entry level home ownership, housing sustainability and achieving financial independence. Each of these has its own unique characteristics requiring specific skill sets, products and service to provide a viable solution for the consumer. We all need to invest some woodshed time in learning new approaches to our business as well as dusting off some tried and true products utilized in similarly trying times. These solutions would fill volumes so suffice it to say that we cannot delve into them in the scope of this article, but we can discuss the model for deployment. Employers across the country are dealing with their own set of challenges relative to the housing crisis. Recruiting and retention of key employees in many US cities are placing incredible burdens on human resources and benefits managers as well as impacting employers’ bottom lines. Studies show that this is largely due to the three tiered crisis we have just described.

Never before has there been a greater opportunity for home ownership service providers to partner with employers, credit unions and other membership groups to create a much needed new and improved employee benefit. A “total housing and financial solutions” benefit program starts with a solid mortgage financing system coupled with multiple disciplines within the industry. Credit counseling, accessing grants and subsidies, understanding how to bridge the affordability gap, providing refinancing solutions for those facing foreclosure and teaching home owners how to maximize the value of their home equity are just the tip of the iceberg. A total team approach is crucial to the successful deployment of this cutting edge business development model. A key benefit of working with employer and membership groups is the social dynamic that exists within these organizations.

A truly robust program may also include financial planners, life insurance agents, tax attorneys, and a host of other ancillary service providers to fulfill the needs of these employees from the newly hired receptionist all the way up to the CEO. Interacting with entry level employees, line managers and senior management will pay huge dividends for the dedicated professional. Business can be generated via seminars, open enrollment and a variety of other methods for those willing to make the effort. Make no mistake; this is not simply a new name for an old marketing approach. Providing a total housing and financial solution requires a great deal of professional education and back office support mechanisms. If you would like to learn more about creating a total housing and financial solution program and don’t want to learn by trial and error, consider hiring a consultant or better yet, enroll in a training/coaching program specifically dedicated to this cause.

Patrick Butler is a 21 year veteran of the real estate and mortgage industries specializing in Employer Housing Solutions. He is actively involved in developing affordable workforce housing and is a trainer and coach for mortgage, real estate and financial planning professionals looking to enter this niche in the market.

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