Four Takeaways from HousingWire: The Gathering 2024 

HousingWire hosted its biggest annual event, The Gathering, last week in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the timing couldn’t have been better. From the recent NAR settlement to what the Fed will do with rates, the event was a perfect opportunity for top executives and thought leaders from around the housing industry to discuss the topics and trends steering the real estate and mortgage sectors through the coming months. 

Total Expert Chief Lending Officer Dan Catinella was on site all week and heard some interesting perspectives from several big names across the industry. Here are his four most important takeaways from the event: 

Takeaway #1: Rates aren’t dropping—but plenty of opportunity remains 

HousingWire’s Logan Mohtashami and Altos Research’s Mike Simonsen examined key housing data trends in one of my favorite sessions. Mohtashami explained why the Fed will likely not cut rates until we see the labor market weaken further, meaning we’re firmly on the “higher for longer” path on the interest rate front.  

But Simonsen pointed out a silver lining: Inventory data shows rising rates typically increase inventory levels. However, he also stated that home prices are likely to remain stable, giving homebuyers little relief from the combo of high rates and high prices. 

So, what should lenders do? Across other sessions, there was a large focus on how to identify and seize all the purchase opportunities available. Moreover, lenders need to prepare for the next wave of refinances. Simonsen noted that the longer rates stay higher, the more future refinance opportunities (or inevitabilities) will be created. 

Dan’s take: Engage borrowers now—not when rates drop 

Lenders can’t wait until rates finally drop to engage borrowers about refi opportunities. To keep competitors from stealing your refis—and leaving you with both long-term revenue losses and potentially massive immediate early payoff (EPO) penalties—you need to start talking to your borrowers now. Help them understand how to navigate a falling-rate environment (it’s coming…eventually)—like how to figure out when to pull the trigger on refinancing. This is the kind of genuinely useful engagement that consumers want. And, building trust and loyalty today will make your borrowers more likely to resist the flood of low-rate competitor offers. 

Takeaway #2: The NAR settlement will shake things up 

After a month of headlines and heated discussions about the National Association of Realtors’ settlement, NAR President Kevin Sears took the stage to talk through his view on how the settlement will impact his organization and the broader housing industry. Sears was also clear in his disappointment about how the national media has portrayed the real estate community in the coverage of the settlement.  

In many other sessions at The Gathering, speakers discussed strategies for both realtors and lenders to get ahead of the key impacts of the NAR settlement. Chiefly, all parties need to work together to make sure that consumers can still protect their interests as empowered and informed homebuyers. That starts with education to ensure that all homebuyers—but especially first-time and less-experienced homebuyers—understand the value and benefits of having buyer representation to support the American dream of homeownership. 

Dan’s take: Loan officers must become more central to homebuyer education 

The changes brought about by the NAR settlement validate what I’ve been preaching for years: Loan officers (LOs) need to position themselves as the starting point of the homebuying journey. The settlement will shake up referral pipelines, so LOs will need to double down on finding new buyers. But they also have a huge opportunity to foster deeper relationships by being that trusted partner who guides homebuyers through the process. That’s not to say LOs are replacing the role played by the buyer’s agent. Rather, LOs can help borrowers understand why they should work with a buyer’s agent, how to choose an agent, how to understand the new landscape of agent fees, etc. 

Takeaway #3: Everyone is investing in analytics & AI 

AI is the deafening buzz in every industry right now—and housing is no different. Both Rocket Mortgage CEO Varun Krishna and CEO Dan Snyder talked about how their companies are using the technology to get new value from data and uncover new intelligence. More specifically, they both discussed how they’re focusing AI investments on understanding their consumers at an extremely deep level so they can ultimately engage at a hyper-personalized level to serve them at every financial milestone. 

Much of the discussion I heard from executives aligned with these sentiments. Everyone wants to be the first to the consumer, and they recognize that using data and intelligence is the way to get there. The great thing is this is no longer theoretical: Mortgage lenders that have invested in data and intelligence tools have proven to increase conversions and retention rates. That trend will continue to widen as this technology continues to evolve. 

Dan’s take: Intelligence isn’t about knowing more—it’s about knowing what matters 

One reason the promise of Big Data never materialized for so many organizations is that they just ended up bombarded by more and more noise but couldn’t find the signal. Analytics and AI are supposed to solve that signal problem. But plenty of companies are still falling into the “more is more” thinking. The point isn’t just to know more about your customers; it’s to know how to act on that information—to know the things that actually matter and deliver more personalized experiences, more relevant offers, more useful education, and deeper relationships. To bring that to life, at some point, knowing more about consumers’ personal habits and interests becomes less and less valuable. But seeing the signal that they’re approaching a life milestone like a wedding, starting a family, or starting a new career gives you powerful insights to make more personal connections. 

Takeaway #4: Vendor partnerships are critical 

One recurring theme of The Gathering 2024 was that the most successful lenders aren’t innovating in a silo. They’re leaning on their vendor partners to spark innovation and accelerate growth.  

It felt great to see Total Expert highlighted as one of these trusted partners. Managing Director of NFM Lending Greg Sher discussed why his organization chose to implement Total Expert as their CRM and customer engagement platform. But beyond the Total Expert platform, Greg talked about how having vendors that actively take on a partnership role is critical to the overall success of an IMB. Greg called out the importance of having trust not just in the technology but also in the people—why belief in the leadership and people within your vendor’s organization helps build collective momentum on moving you both in the right direction, continue to innovate, and grow at enterprise scale. 

Dan’s take: We’re building out our own partner network to add more customer value 

With rates and home prices staying high, the housing market is looking at a bumpy ride for a while longer. But lenders shouldn’t be trying to tackle those challenges on their own. The Gathering showed just how many impactful technologies are out there that can quickly and sizably help lenders with their biggest goals and pain points. You should be looking for smart ways to leverage technology to flip challenges into competitive advantages. 

That’s why Total Expert is expanding our own partnerships. We recognize that one of the best ways the Total Expert platform delivers value to our customers is by seamlessly integrating with the other tools and systems they rely on every day. So, we’re continuously adding more partnerships and integrations to make the Total Expert ecosystem more valuable to our customers.