Data-based marketing could be especially important as immigrants' presence in the housing market grows, according to Ted Jones, chief economist at Stewart Title Co., Houston. Following are excerpts from his recent talk at a National Housing Roundtable forum in San Francisco: In the next 15 years, one of every nine homebuyers will be an immigrant. That means if you're a home builder, a lender, a title company, or a servicer and you can't capture that market, you've just written off over 10% of your marketplace. That's structural change. How do you find out about these individuals? You need an ability to flag people who come in to your system up-front. Are you an immigrant? If they are in your data base, you cultivate the data. Find out about how he or she found out about (you). What services do they want? What's different about them? What didn't they like? How can we change that potentially? Of course most importantly, where are these immigrants from? Our lenders come from the following countries: Mexico, 7.9%; China, 6.7%; Philippines, 6.7%; and Vietnam, 5%. That's a target-rich environment for customers. Poland is 3.5%, and the Dominican Republic is 6.4%. I might start doing some advertising at the Dominican Republic. That's data mining. That's how you're going to get your customers, and you need to know what you're supposed to deliver to them. Immigration is at a high point. In 1990 new immigrants per 1,000 U.S. citizens were at their highest level since 1920. That means we have great potential out there. But the only way you're going to find out about these people is either through a very expensive cold call survey or mining your own data. Which one do you want to pick? I think you want to mine your own data. After 15 years, U.S. immigrants have the same homeownership rate as the rest of the United States. After 16 years they have a higher homeownership rate. That's a target-rich environment. What we're talking about is customer service, growth, and a customer for life. All that comes back into play in these equations. If you don't data mine, your competitor will, and five years from now you won't be here. Why is it important that you mine your data? We held an affordable- housing fair in 1993 in San Antonio with Fannie Mae as a partner. When I was a professor at A&M, two of my graduate students were totally fluent in Spanish. We did clipboard surveys of 123 young Hispanic couples in San Antonio and found that 50% of them wouldn't go to a standard mortgage lender, a Realtor, a real estate broker, a licensee, or to a builder to buy a house. That means I'm missing 50% of the market if I'm advertising through my existing media avenues to get to these individuals-and yet they're buying houses in record numbers. If you don't know anything about your customer, and don't mine your data, you miss 50% of the hottest growth market from Washington all the way down to Texas.
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