One in three homebuyers wants video home tours, 12% favor e-mortgages  

The pandemic is not stopping homebuyers who like virtual shopping. One-third of home-tour requests made by customers during the first week of April were for agent-led video-chat tours, up from less than 1% merely a month ago, according to Real estate brokerage fintech, Redfin.

Moreover, Redfin customers who viewed the property on video made 12% of the offers, up from nearly zero, during the first week of March, and 6% the prior week. Homebuyers now have the option to request agent-led video-chat tours through the company website, or its iOS and Android apps.

In recent weeks, electronic closings have spiked also, according to Redfin subsidiaries Title Forward and Redfin Mortgage. In April, Title Forward reported e-closings represented 10% of all deals, up from an average of 3% in March and 1% in February. Similarly, Redfin Mortgage expects to e-close about 12% of April transactions, twice the virtual mortgages it closed in March.

Redfin’s data on virtual home walkthroughs is part of a wide range of COVID-19 response measures the company implemented to ensure business continuity, according to a release. Redfin brings together homebuyers, sellers and real estate agents. The company covers 90 major metro areas across the U.S. and Canada. It has made possible the sale of residential properties worth more than $115 billion, according to its website.

The live video open houses pilot program via Zoom started on April 4, in Portland, Oregon, Boston, and Oklahoma. A week later, ten live-video open houses were accessible simultaneously to multiple homebuyers. Its goal is “to help keep customers and employees safe.”

The service will become available to additional markets soon, the company said without specifying. Redfin will launch a map that shows which homes have virtual 3D walkthroughs available so customers can quickly find the properties they can tour virtually.

In addition, a company-wide COVID-19 response team is monitoring all state and local government orders to provide guidance to employees. An online tracker maps shelter-in-place orders by state and metropolitan area along with information about where real estate is an “essential service.” 

“I’ve been doing video-chat tours for out-of-town customers for a long time,” said Portland, OR agent Daniel Brooks. Now the biggest difference is that local residents are requesting them too, so virtual open houses will be in demand long after the pandemic is over, he said. “Once people do one, they realize what a convenient way it is to see a home” without having to drive across town.

loanDepot gives $1MM for 20K COVID-19 impacted individuals, families, medics

Non-bank fintech lender loanDepot has pledged $1million to support individuals, families and children impacted by the COVID-19 virus, first responders, healthcare workers and support essential personnel throughout southern California, and nationwide.

The Foothill Ranch, Calif., based company plans to fund “a variety of critical services,” including food, financial assistance, as well as childcare, supplies, and hot meals for first responders and healthcare professionals.

“Our community outreach efforts have been designed to support as many in-need individuals as possible,” said loanDepot CEO Anthony Hsieh who established the company in 2010. “First, we want to ensure that families locally and nationwide that have been impacted by COVID-19 have food on their tables. Second, we want to ensure that our local heroes—the first responders and healthcare workers who are on the front lines—and their families are supported and well-cared for.”

The support includes:

  • Providing direct stipends for food, utilities and other basics of up to 1,200 Orange County-based COVID-19 impacted families; along with hardware and Wi-Fi technology for employment and education needs.
  • Providing full-time childcare, virtual learning assistance and daily meals to hundreds of children of first responders and healthcare workers located in Orange County, CA.
  • Delivering hot meals and supplies, sourced from local businesses, to Southern California hospitals, medical and other professionals managing the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Providing food and meals to up to 14,000 COVID-19 impacted individuals and families nationwide.

loanDepot’s 7,000 employees have been participating in community outreach activities since the crisis began, according to a release, and plan to create new “virtual volunteer opportunities nationwide.” Over the past 10 years, the fintech lender has donated millions of dollars and volunteer hours to charities nationwide.

“Americans find themselves challenged with keeping their families healthy in the face of the COVID-19 virus, while also balancing the economic impacts,” Hsieh added. “As the nation’s second largest nonbank lender, we feel it’s our responsibility to do everything we can—big and small—to serve and support these efforts.”  

Quontic Bank launches free crowdfunding initiative for NYC’s small businesses

New York based digital community bank, Quontic launched an emergency financing campaign called #BeTheDrawbridge GoFundMe designed to offer free assistance to local small businesses impacted by COVID-19 despite federal government assistance options.

New York businesses, restaurants, shop owners, taxi drivers, agents, brokers and the self-employed affected by COVID-19 are eligible to use the crowdfunded grants “to reopen when it is safe and their families are taken care of,” the bank explained in a statement.

The BeTheDrawbridge campaign “offers rapid financial relief to New Yorkers who are still waiting for small business loans or unemployment funds without the requirement of W-2s or previous income tax statements.” The program is designed to supplement the extremely helpful government promoted mortgage deferrals and small business assistance that, “may not bridge the entirety” of the financial assistance needed.

Quontic, is a federally chartered community bank and U.S. Treasury designated Community Development Financial Institution that offers mortgage lending products and services to low-income communities and individuals, many of whom are small business owners. 

The campaign seeks to raise funds in two ways. The #BeTheDrawbridge GoFundMe campaignenables individuals to donate directly to the #BeTheDrawbridge fund.

The newly launched Drawbridge Savings Account is the second option. Quontic will pay depositors a 0.50% Annual Percentage Yield, which is “nearly three times the national average,” the bank said, on balances through $250,000. The bank will match the interest paid on these accounts as a donation towards the #BeTheDrawbridge campaign until the end of 2020. Anyone can show their support through direct donations or by opening a saving account online “in less than 3 minutes.”

Beneficiaries must be New York City residents, and able to describe the hardship faced by COVID-19 in a short online application. Each applicant will receive $500 weekly for the rest of 2020. Higher donations will help more needy NYC residents who urgently need help.

The fund starts in New York, the epicenter of this crisis, but it may expand nationally, said Steven Schnall, CEO of Quontic. Quontic’s customers in the NYC area, who run local businesses impacted by the pandemic, are the backbone of our society, he added, “and so many already are asking for relief.”

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