“There are so many useful features in the website, that I can hardly list them all.”
Most of the websites that we review are those of large corporations — usually wholesale lenders — and they probably represent a 50K-plus price tag. This month, we have something pleasingly different. The website is owned and designed by an independent loan broker. Larry Corrales has been designing and refining his “work in progress” for the last 12 months. In www.HomeQualify.com you could spend the afternoon learning about buying a home, getting qualified, making your travel plans and checking the weather at your destination if you like. Many of the features in the site are proprietary (mega-calculators) and others are provided by links to separate entities. Whatever the mix, the website provides the potential homebuyer with a potpourri of related items.
The website opens with splash screen that might be unexciting, except that it is entirely bright red. The actual website still has lots of red, but adds white and a little blue. If you are marketing something, you can’t go wrong with red, white and blue — especially in America. You also get big picture of Larry Corrales. I probably wouldn’t use that much screen space with a picture of myself, but on the other hand, if I was as photogenic as Larry, maybe I would. In fact, if he decides to quit originating home loans and run for president, he already has a perfect template for his campaign website. There are so many useful features in the website, that I can hardly list them all. Some are strictly tidbits: FAQ’s, Tip of the Month, directions to the office, and lots of Larry: credentials, testimonials, etc. The site effectively builds on the full-service concept, with links to others. A “Map to your dream home” is a link to mapquest.com, which loads mapquest within the HomeQualify site. Mapquest is a pretty powerful site in itself. I tested it and the directions were so detailed that they told me how to get out of my subdivision. They also offered a color map, driving time and an option to include information on points of interest along the route. Another link is “Larry’s Recommended Reading,” which displays a short list of books like “Home Buying For Dummies,” etc. This is done in association with Amazon.com. If you want the book, just click on it.
And how about these calculators? I think I counted 14, all running on a host computer using Active Server Pages. I don’t have the energy to list them all, but I promise they will provide countless morsels of data related to buying a home. In addition to the standard stuff (What can I afford? How much is my payment?), you can learn things about your future home from tax rates and auto insurance costs, to average temperature, population density, and the local crime rate.
For a retail lender, a good website can be a business asset by enhancing the image of the company, and by creating customer satisfaction with utilities. Can you check the status of your loan on line? Of course! Yet, with all these really useful homebuyer features, Larry did not forget his real mission: Getting more loans! You can apply on-line with either a full application, or you can opt for the more subtle “Home Buyers report.” This one is a combo-package that provides the homebuyer with information about available loan programs, and how much he/she is pre-approved for on these programs. Along with these direct lead-generating devices, there are many embedded threads designed to bring in the customer via the traditional means of contact. Larry believes he averages 100 leads a week from the site, and another 50 leads a month from the local Chamber of Commerce, where he is linked to the relocation section of their website.
This website is rated as very good. The rating represents use of attractive colors and an eye-catching layout. It is also highly rated for the shear volume of home-buying goodies that it contains. I am particularly impressed because it was designed by a layperson.
by Thor Skonnard