Realestate.com.au Home Loans will no longer represent REA Group’s broking business, with a rebranded Smartline instead representing the group’s broker business in Australia.
The realestate.com.au Home Loans brand first launched in 2017 to provide users of the property platform – realestate.com.au – with an in-house mortgage broker offering.
However, the multinational property group, which last year fully acquired broking franchise Smartline – personal mortgage advisers, has now announced that its broker business realestate.com.au Home Loans is to be integrated under the Smartline brand.
All realestate.com.au Home Loans brokers have been invited to join the Smartline brand.
As such, the primary mortgage broking business offered by REA Group in the Australian market will be through the Smartline – personal mortgage advisers brand, which will be relaunched to market with an updated logo.
The new brand will go live on Monday (10 February) and will be unveiled publicly for the first time at The Adviser’s upcoming Better Business Summit, partnered by NAB.
The new Smartline brand will marry together “the unique strengths of both businesses” – incorporating the iconic red REA house in its logo – “while delivering an unmistakable nod to both Smartline’s highly regarded financial reputation and realestate.com.au’s property expertise”.
‘Creating one strong business leveraging combined systems, data and talent’
Speaking to The Adviser, Smartline CEO Sam Boer commented: “We are proud of our well-established 20-year market leadership position and the culture that we have created over this time. The Smartline rebrand and integration with realestate.com.au Home Loans broking business is another exciting step forward in the evolution of the organisation’s rich history.
“We’re taking the best of the assets that REA has to offer, and the best strengths of Smartline, to create one amazing broker proposition. We firmly believe in the proposition that we’re creating,” he said.
“We’re in the process of deploying new REA-backed technology that we believe is market-leading to help out brokers in their business. With REA, we have access to data and property market insights that will be unique to Smartline, and I think that’s going to be a huge competitive advantage for us and relieve the pain points for home-buying customers, too,” Mr Boer added.
According to REA Group, it had always intended to bring together the Smartline and realestate.com.au Home Loans brokers.
Janelle Hopkins, chief financial officer at the property group, commented: “It was always our long-term plan to bring the Smartline and realestate.com.au Home Loans brokers together to create one strong business leveraging our combined systems, data and talent.”
However, she added that while Smartline will lead the mortgage broker offering, the realestate.com.au Home Loans brand will remain as “a gateway in digitally connecting realestate.com.au consumers to bank or broker options”.
This will involve the realestate.com.au Home Loans brand being used as the entryway to the REA’s mortgage propositions on REA platforms, after which customers can choose to go direct-to-bank through the REA’s partnership with NAB, or through to the broker channel via the Smartline personal mortgage adviser brand.
Mr Boer explained: “It will be a digital brand that sits on the website for consumers. We believe in customer choice. As 55 per cent per cent of customers choose brokers, that means 45 per cent still prefer to deal with the bank.
“So, we are giving them the choice of channel, because that’s what we believe is the right thing to do for consumers. And that’s embedded in so that’s the digital option,” he told The Adviser.
The integration of both businesses is anticipated to be completed by Q420 (June 2020).
Settlements down in conversion-through-the-funnel challenge
To date, more than $2.3 billion in digital home loan applications have been received through the realestate.com.au Home Loans brand since its launch, but revenue from REA’s financial services was down by 2.1 million (14 per cent) in 1H20, due to “lower partnership payments and reduced mortgage settlements, influenced by lower listings”, according to REA Group’s recent results.
However, mortgage submissions have reportedly increased in response to “the low interest rate environment and improved lending conditions”.
Mr Boer told The Adviser: “Year-on-year our submissions are actually up quite sharply. In December, our settlements were the best in two years. In January, results were up again, year-on-year. While January is generally a quiet month, we saw a lot of activity. So, what we’re looking at is a bit of a conversion-through-the-funnel challenge at the moment.”
The Smartline CEO outlined that there had been a resurgence in the first home buyers segment, particularly buoyed by the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, and refinance market (given low interest rates), which typically have “long gestation periods”, coupled with long turnaround times at the lenders.
“All of these things play out and impact us but there is momentum, but it will just take a little longer to come through the funnel. So, we’re expecting a very solid second half,” he said.
The financial results show that REA Group’s revenue was down 6 per cent (to $440.3 million), earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation was down 7 per cent to $272.1 million, while net profit was down 13 per cent to $152.9 million.
The group noted that its result reflected “continued challenging market conditions with declines in new residential listing volumes and new project commencements”.