To my mind the most intriguing launch at this morning's session of DEMO was Home-Account.com, which is aiming to demystify the mortgage process and make it easy to refinance your home without a mortgage broker.
Can a Web site actually replace a mortgage broker, and even if it can, will people actually trust their most important asset to a process driven by an online questionnaire? I don't know. But I like the idea of Home-Account: Bringing transparency to mortgage lending.
In the bad old days, there were lots of financial processes that people saw as way too complicated for average humans: stock trading, consumer loans, even booking airline tickets. We went to specialists like stock brokers and travel agents because we believed that only they could penetrate the complexities of the processes.
Now the Web has made trading stocks, getting an auto loan or booking a flight a simple matter of point-and-click. That not only makes it easier and cheaper, but by bringing the back end of the process into public view, it means everyone has information about what things cost and whether they're getting a good deal.
I think Home-Account is right that the mortgage business is ripe for that kind of exposure.
Their system asks you a series of questions about your financial situation, checks your credit report, then gives you a list of offers for home loans you can choose from. The company says it doesn't get any commissions for matching consumers with loan companies. They argue that means consumers will get the best deals: Lenders would rather get a deal through Home-Account rather than pay a commission to a mortgage broker, so they'll give the best prices to Home-Account customers. Again, I don't pretend to know enough about the home loan process to know whether that's true, but it sounds logical.
What happens once you choose a loan offered by Home-Account? Good question, because the demo stopped there. I can only imagine there's lots of paperwork and forms to go through, and you may find yourself missing your mortgage broker at that point.
Joining Home-Account costs $9.95 per month. Company CEO Mark Goldstein seemed to imagine that home owners would pay that fee for years, but I'm hard-pressed to see why you would continue to pay Home-Account once you've secured a good loan.