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She also thinks her company’s Mortgage MarketSmart app might be laying the groundwork for a more stable real estate market in the future.
“Lenders are realizing that if they don’t change and meet more diverse markets, they’re not going to survive,” Hedlund Nossuli said. “The best thing that happened to our business was the mortgage meltdown. Before that, agents didn’t need anything; the phone was ringing off the hook. Now they have to be strategic, because nothing is guaranteed.”
West Des Moines-based iEmergent is a forecasting analytics firm, working primarily with the banking and lending industries. They project mortgage lending activity now and into the future. But they’re not just looking at the big picture, iEmergent specializes in specific areas of communities. So they look at who is purchasing loans in the area, their age, income level and ethnic backgrounds, to help give banks and real estate agents an idea of how to best service the area.
In 2013, iEmergent introduced Mortgage MarketSmart, an app that lets lenders and real estate agents get very specific information about parts of town using dynamic maps.
iEmergent was started in 2000 by Hedlund Nossuli’s father, Dennis Hedlund. Hedlund, who passed away earlier this year, was a former executive with Wells Fargo with a background in predictive modeling. For years Hedlund operated iEmergent like a think tank and consulting firm, but the real estate crash of 2007 presented new opportunities. That year Hedlund Nossuli moved back to Des Moines with her husband, iEmergent COO Bernard Nossuli, to help her father with the company.
At the time, Hedlund Nossuli and her father were noticing how much better data was getting, but it was too complex for most clients to utilize. But when they started pairing that data with maps, eyes started to open.
“Now Mortgage MarketSmart has dynamic maps that let you create simple tools from really complicated data,” Hedlund Nossuli said.
iEmergent worked with the Cedar Falls tech company Far Reach to build the app, which makes it easy for lenders and real estate agents to analyze very specific areas, like the homes around a McDonalds in Fairfield, Iowa, or immediately adjacent to a high school in Urbandale.
In addition to being a way to better sell real estate, Hedlund Nossuli sees Mortgage MarketSmart as a way for banks and real estate agents to determine where to build branches, or figure out how many employees to hire.
“Understanding who their borrowers are gives a bank a better idea of who to hire as loan officers,” Hedlund Nossuli said. “Ultimately, I think it could help get businesses away from the strategy that the best market is the biggest market. Every market has opportunities, it’s just a matter of how you strategize to utilize it.”
Hedlund Nossuli said her family was originally expecting Mortgage MarketSmart would appeal to branch managers and loan officers of banks. Instead, they discovered that the users of the app were a level removed from those people.
“It’s data-driven people in places like business development departments who are more likely to use Mortgage MarketSmart,” Hedlund Nossuli said. “Branch managers and loan officers want to sell, they don’t want to look at maps and charts. They want the data pushed to them.”
The staff at iEmergent has also had to adjust in more tangible ways. When her father was diagnosed with a terminal illness, Hedlund Nossuli found herself becoming the company’s CEO overnight.
“What I had to learn from that is you have to be scrappy when you have no boss and no one is telling you what to do,” Hedlund Nossuli said. “You have to find good partners. We had no idea how much we would be relying on Far Reach.”
iEmergent started 2016 with eight clients using Mortgage MarketSmart, and by midway through the year they had doubled that number. Hedlund Nossuli is expecting 150% growth over 2015 for the company.
Since banks come with a lot of regulation, Mortgage MarketSmart has a long lead time in signing a new client, 12-16 months, with a lot of red tape to clear and hoops to jump through. But once that is cleared, it gives iEmergent opportunities to work with big lenders in the field.
Hedlund Nossuli hopes that one day iEmergent and Mortgage MarketSmart can be a one-stop shop for the lending industry, bundling their existing product with other real estate tools. She also hopes it will help make bank loans more accessible to the general public.
“We hope this can help banks access markets they thought they had to avoid,” Hedlund Nossuli said. “Can we make an impact on banking? I think we can. We’ve already got people realizing that they can’t make decisions about tomorrow with the same strategy as yesterday. What’s good for banking is ultimately good for communities.”