Detroit-based Quicken Loans, the third-largest mortgage lender in the country, drew some strong reactions for a commercial promoting its Rocket Mortgage program—a phone app that allows users to qualify for a mortgage loan in as little as eight minutes—that aired during the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Quicken bills the Rocket Mortgage program as a “a fast, powerful, and completely online way to get a mortgage” with a slogan that says simply, “Push button. Get mortgage.” Critics of the program, who came out in droves on Twitter under #RocketMortgage after the commercial's airing on Sunday, say this program is a return back to the same loose underwriting standards that led to massive mortgage defaults and eventually caused the housing crash and subsequently the Great Recession.
The narrator in the ad poses the question, “What if we did for mortgages what the Internet did for buying music and plane tickets and shoes?” A tweet from Quicken states that the Rocket Mortgage program is “making the mortgage screening program look a little less intimidating.”
The airing of the ad during the Super Bowl triggered a barrage of criticism on Twitter, much of which came from journalists. Housing experts, economists, and analysts were notably absent from the Twitter firestorm on the Rocket Mortgage program, which begs the question: Is any of the criticism warranted, or are all the Rocket Mortgage critics in a panic over nothing?
One notable tweet came from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which tweeted, “When it comes to mortgages, take your time, ask questions, and know before you owe.” Quicken responded to that tweet with one of its own, saying that "We agree. No better way than #RocketMortgage for full transparency into mortgage options & info needed to make the right decision."
Quicken did not immediately respond to a request from DS News for comment on the reaction to the Super Bowl ad. When the Rocket Mortgage program was launched in November 2015, Quicken CEO Bill Emerson stated, “Quicken Loans has been the clear leader in mortgage technology for almost two decades. We changed the mortgage industry when we created the first 50-state online retail lending platform that has since helped millions of Americans achieve their home financing goals, while experiencing the best client service in the nation, Today, we took another monumental leap forward with the launch of Rocket Mortgage, which brings simplicity and clarity to the home loan process like never before, while delivering solutions at unimaginable speed.”
Quicken states on its website that “More than 500 Detroit-based developers, designers, QA technicians and business analysts from QL Labs—Quicken Loans’ technology innovation team—have worked for over three years to completely redesign the highly complex mortgage process.”
The Rocket Mortgage program did not just draw criticism, however. Several journalists from prominent publications came to Quicken's defense on Monday.
Wall Street Journal writer Nick Timiraos said on that publication’s blog on Monday that Quicken is not advocating loose lending standards, but rather “Quicken is betting that its competitive advantage against other lenders comes from making what has become an invasive mortgage-screening process a little less intimidating, and it’s rolling out a phone app to do it.” Quicken’s research suggests many qualified would-be homeowners “don’t want to get engaged because they’re afraid of the process,” according to Emerson in Timiraos’ blog post. “If we could give them an opportunity to interact with technology, understand the operation, maybe we could get some of these folks who qualify off the sidelines.”
Rena Foroohar, assistant managing editor and columnist with Time, does not believe the criticism of the Rocket Mortgage program is warranted. On Monday, she published a piece titled "No, the Rocket Mortgage Ad is Not the Sign of Another Financial Apocalypse."
"There is no consumer housing credit bubble brewing right now–quite the opposite," Foroohar wrote. "The housing recovery right now is being driven not by first-time homebuyers or people who want to trade up but by the wealthiest and investors."
— QLMS (@QLMS) February 8, 2016
— consumerfinance.gov (@CFPB) February 8, 2016
— Quicken Loans (@QuickenLoans) February 8, 2016