Zillow Group, Inc., announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Mortgage Lenders of America, a national mortgage lender, headquartered in Overland Park, Kan. The transaction, which is subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including mortgage regulatory approvals, is expected to close during the fourth quarter of 2018. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The acquisition of Mortgage Lenders of America will allow Zillow Group to streamline and shorten the home-buying process for consumers who purchase homes through Zillow Offers. This is consistent with Zillow Group's strategy to create a better home-buying experience by building products that ease and simplify the transaction.
In addition, Mortgage Lenders of America will continue its current line of business, offering mortgages to consumers and participating in Zillow's mortgage marketplace. Owning a mortgage lender will allow Zillow Group to develop new tools and partnership opportunities, including for real estate brokers with existing in-house mortgage operations or mortgage affiliates.
Zillow Group's current advertising products for lenders – Connect, Custom Quotes and lender co-marketing – remain an important part of the business, and the company intends to support and grow that marketplace for years to come. In 2017, consumers submitted 23 million loan information requests through Zillow Group's consumer brands. Zillow's lender advertising partners are vital to fulfilling the needs of those consumers going forward. Mortgage Lenders of America is an existing advertising client and, in 2017, originated 4,400 mortgage loans – leaving plenty of opportunities for independent lenders to continue to advertise and build their businesses on the Zillow Group platform.
"Zillow announced yesterday that it had acquired a brokers license in Arizona. Some may say this is big news but from our view not really. In its early years Zillow had brokerage licenses in numerous states, perhaps most states, yet they did not enter brokerage business per se. According to a Zillow executive with whom we spoke yesterday Arizona required they get one as Zillow employees may be in the position of talking with sellers and buyers in their I-Buyer program. We just don't think this is a very big deal at this time.
Zillow also announced they had acquired a mortgage firm with the intent to support their I-Buyer program. As with many relocation management firms, this is not a bad capability to have if you are acquiring billions of inventory and need to turn it in a hurry. To us the most important take away is that through this new mortgage entity it signals that its I-Buyer program is not likely a passing phase for the firm but rather part of a longer term strategy to develop new ways to deliver seller and buyer prospects to its Premier agents and brokerage firms.
What they are doing for them makes great sense. And for those who have been around it mimics the very strategies that Homequity, Merril Lynch and Equitable relocation companies moves of 40 years ago."
-Steve Murray, president of REAL Trends Inc.
"Getting a mortgage can be the toughest, most painstaking and time-consuming part of the home-buying process," said Greg Schwartz, president of media and marketplaces at Zillow Group. "Now that we are buying and selling homes through Zillow Offers, we believe that having our own mortgage origination service as an option for consumers will allow us to streamline the process for people who buy a Zillow-owned home. Over time, we expect the work we do in conjunction with this new line of business will help us expand our offerings to our partners – including real estate brokers with existing in-house mortgage operations and third-party lenders who co-market with Premier Agents."
"At Mortgage Lenders of America, we are focused on helping home buyers make informed, confident decisions about their mortgage selection," said Philip Kneibert, President of Mortgage Lenders of America. "We are excited to be joining Zillow Group and look forward to working together to develop an innovative new mortgage experience to better serve buyers."
Mortgage Lenders of America was founded in 2000 and has approximately 300 employees. The company is led by Philip Kneibert. After the transaction closes, Kneibert will continue to lead the company as general manager of Mortgage Lenders of America reporting to Greg Schwartz.
Mortgage Lenders of America will continue to operate from its Kansas headquarters.