Lending Leaders
The Need for Homebuyer Education with Stacie Rihl

LLL recently sat down with Stacie Rihl, First-Time Homebuyer Specialist and Referral Agent.

REALTOR origins

Stacie’s primary focus is pairing first-time homebuyers with appropriate loan officers or real estate agents. To that end, much of her time is spent building educational content or working with first-timer buyers to educate them. She got her start as an agent, herself, but quickly found that the traditional REALTOR training was tailored toward marketing and finding sellers and listings, rather than buyers. 

Of course, the traditional agent is also trained to provide value, which opened the door to Stacie’s professional growth. 

Turning a passion into a career

Stacie turned to creating educational content and focusing on training first-time homebuyers when business slowed a bit. However, what started as a marketing strategy became her passion. Stacie was amazed by the insatiable demand of her target market for information. She particularly pointed to the Millennial generation, which she believes tends to do extensive research before making most decisions. As she put it “they want to feel like they know what they’re doing.”

Before long, Stacie left her position with the brokerage to begin working on the lender side of the transaction. Today, her specialty is educating first-time homebuyers and connecting them with the best fit when it comes to loan officers or REALTORS.

Big banks versus small lenders

One question Stacie addresses repeatedly pertains to the “right” mortgage lender. Better to work with a big national bank, or a community lender? To Stacie, the real question is what kind of reputation does the lender—no matter the size—have with the local community? She observed that, many times, a national lender may have a strong local presence and be every bit as connected as a small shop. It all depends on whom local REALTORS are recommending. 

She also notes that, often times, while a local lender can provide outstanding service, smaller lenders might not have access to the more specialized programs—or assistance—that larger banks might in order to help different kinds of first-time buyers.  

Marketing to lenders: not the same as it used to be!

Stacie also told us that bringing a box of doughnuts to the local brokerage won’t benefit too many LOs in today’s environment: “There’s no one at the office!”

Today’s agent likely already has easy access to great marketing tools, so an LO bearing new marketing won’t be as successful as she might once have.  Instead, Stacie suggests providing tools or ideas for growing one’s business to really get a REALTOR’s attention.

Give the people what they want

We asked Stacie to name her biggest challenge. She told us that figuring out what people really want or need to know can be a battle at times. She finds herself spending quite a bit of time asking herself “What do they not know that they don’t even know they don’t know?”

Stacie also noted that many LOs and agents miss out on marketing opportunities with “pre-homebuying phase” prospects. Because most LOs or agents don’t have the time to spend with people who might be a year away from actually buying their first home, many of those prospects don’t see or get the training material that could help them along in the process. Stacie believes there’s a golden opportunity for the LO or agent who can identify people who are, perhaps, 6 – 12 months away from their homebuying decision. She also notes it could well make their own jobs easier, too!

Finally, when we asked Stacie what gets her out of bed in the morning, she lamented the amount of mistrust in the industry between the various professional participants (lenders, real estate agents, etc.). That often leads to a lack of transparency and a cloudy process for homebuyers. She’s thrilled to have the opportunity to help clear some of that up, telling herself “Imagine how much confidence I can give to people!”