Commerce@Network.Org?

By Allen, Leilani E. | Mortgage Banking, August 1996 | Go to article overview

Commerce@Network.Org?


Allen, Leilani E., Mortgage Banking


Last month we discussed the culture of the Internet and how well it might serve as a vehicle for electronic commerce. There are, nevertheless, great expectations about the commercial value of the Internet. As of 1995, according to one study, 2.5 million people have purchased products over the Web, for a total of $118 million. Projections of future sales have been as high as $30 billion for the year 2000. Executives at Forbes 500 companies were cited as expecting 39 percent of future revenues to be derived from the Web. Hype? Wall Street doesn't think so, judging by the stock performance of Internet software providers.

No one fully understands who uses the Internet, but the most frequently cited statistics indicate that the typical user is a white male in his 30s, almost always college-educated, typically a professional or manager, with an average income greater than $50,000. Some commentators conclude that this is an affluent market just waiting for the right set of products and services. True, if one is selling items typically bought by this group of consumers - software, books, CDs, gourmet food and wine, and so forth.

Others see these same demographics and surmise that the Web will not be a commercial medium until more women begin using the network. Luckily, this is happening, with an estimate that one in three users is a woman.

Certainly most home-related purchases are heavily influenced by women. Will mortgages fall into this category? Results to date indicate that finding a lot of borrowers on the Internet is not all that likely. The number of applications taken thus far as a result of Web-generated inquiries were probably less than a hundred - hardly a blip on the radar screen. But the barriers are coming down:

Security. Netscape Communications, Open Market and Microsoft are implementing security and encryption solutions to provide levels of security that can be broken only by thieves having access to a supercomputer. In addition, AT&T Universal Card (the number two issuer in the United States) is guaranteeing its cards against fraud if used on the Internet. We should also put the issue in perspective by remembering that most consumers blithely hand over credit cards in restaurants and other establishments where numbers can be stolen easily.

Accessibility. Mainstream telecommunications companies are working to make "digital dial-tone" as prevalent as the telephone. AT&T's WorldNet service, announced in February, will provide unlimited Internet access at a flat rate of $19.95 per month. As of June, it had 150,000 customers. Expect the telephone or cable TV to become an Internet appliance, allowing push-button access to the Internet and on-line "phone books" to take a user to Web pages of local and global companies. In addition, these devices may finally deliver the long-awaited "videophone" capabilities - all affordable to middle-income families.

Applications. The Internet is the perfect medium for implementing on-line, visual multiple listing service (MLS) applications. Many newspapers have implemented real estate classifieds with pictures and maps and ads for the real estate agencies. Mortgage companies can piggyback on these applications by focusing on both real estate agencies/ builders and borrowers. …

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