Find Your Niche Market—and Distance Yourself from the Competition
To say the COVID-19 pandemic turned the U.S. housing market upside-down would be an understatement. For over two years, the market had more homebuyers than sellers. The increased demand and reduced inventory created one of the most competitive environments in recent memory: bidding wars became the norm, prices soared to record heights, and affordability was stretched.
But as 2022 drew to a close, there was a shift toward a more balanced market, due largely to climbing interest rates and slowing price appreciation. And while the stability was mostly welcome, it led to a decrease in mortgage application volume and home sales. According to the National Association of REALTORS® most recent Existing Home Sales report, sales were down for the ninth consecutive month. Sales of newly constructed homes tumbled 17.6% annually, and the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Refinance Index dropped a staggering 86% from a year ago.
This means that the housing market is as competitive as ever for loan officers. So, how do you gain a competitive advantage in a crowded market? One impactful way is to find a niche.
By definition, a niche is a specialized market within a broader market. When it comes to our industry, this means identifying an underserved or unserved group of borrowers and catering specifically to them. Niche markets are typically less competitive—and therefore easier and less costly to reach—than larger ones.
In today’s market, finding the right niche can mean the difference between success and failure. Read on to learn how!
Figure out your niche type
Do you want your niche to be geographic? This would mean staying hyper-local and becoming the local authority on mortgages and homeownership. Or maybe you want to work with a particular group of borrowers, such as Millennials and those looking to downsize. Finally, you could also be an expert with a particular financing product, such as VA loans or home equity lines of credit.
Any of these strategies can help boost customer engagement since you are delivering customized messaging to a specific audience.
Or try determining your authority
If you are having difficulty figuring out a niche type, take a close look at your own skills and experience. What do you do well? What are you passionate about? What are the areas in which you have experience? Properly answering these questions can help direct you toward the interest that becomes your niche.
Another effective exercise is to make a list of 10 topical interests and passion areas. Take into consideration how you spend your free time, the periodicals to which you subscribe, and the clubs and organizations of which you are a member.
Examine the needs of your customers
Evaluate your customers’ borrowing experiences. This means understanding what motivates them when they decide to purchase a new home or refinance an existing mortgage, what expectations they have for the financing process, and what difficulties they typically encounter along the way.
Start by examining existing customer data, especially if you utilize a CRM platform. Other effective strategies for better understanding the needs of your customer include soliciting customer feedback, whether through online or email surveys, and researching the efforts of your top competitors.
Study current trends and issues
What are the issues originators and other industry professionals frequently discuss? What do market experts believe will be the top trends in 2023 and beyond? This is when being knowledgeable of what’s going on in the mortgage industry and the housing market comes in handy. There are a few effective ways to do this, including reading trade publications, attending conferences and shows, and networking with industry professionals.
Popular industry niches
Still stuck on determining the niche you want to venture into? We compiled a list of the most popular loan officer niches.
- Green homes. This type of property, which uses less energy, water, and natural resources and creates less waste, has captured a rapidly growing share of the U.S. housing market—a trend that is expected to continue in 2023. According to the 2022 REALTORS® and Sustainability Report, half of agents and brokers surveyed said they helped a client buy or sell a property with green features during the past 12 months, a notable jump compared to 32% in 2021.
- Smart homes. Much like green homes, smart homes continue to rise in popularity. According to a Coldwell Banker Real Estate survey, 71% of buyers want a tech-enabled “move-in ready” house, while 61% of Millennials favor smart-tech properties. The National Association of REALTORS® identified the most popular options as smart locks, smart thermostats, and smart lights.
- Fixer-upper. A recent survey revealed that 71% of first-time buyers shopped for a starter home or fixer-upper. The demand is particularly high among Millennials, the generation that makes up the largest share of buyers. Eighty-two percent said they were more likely to purchase a fixer-upper than a newly constructed home.
- Multi-generational homes. Having more than one generation under one roof has become an increasingly popular arrangement. In fact, one in four surveyed American adults (18 years or older) currently live in a multi-generational household.
- VA loans. This unique financing option is one of the most widely used benefits available to veterans and active-duty service members.
- Relocation services. People relocate for work, school, the military—even relationships. Being an expert on your area can help you grow your business.
Work with Volly
We hope these marketing ideas help you find more clients and grow your network. However, if you truly want to position your business for greater success in today’s competitive housing market, you may need to work with an industry-leading marketing partner.
And this is where Volly can help! Please contact us today to learn more.