In these non-transactional times, people just up and leave others as soon as they get what they want. They forget that, at the end of the day, the real estate business is a people business. You need to build relationships to grow, and you can’t do that with just a single transaction. David Lykken’s guests today are from a company that is all about empowering lenders and realtors to build those deeper relationships with clients. He sits down with Dustin Gray and Ashley Terrell from Milestones to talk about what the company does to help mortgage providers in this current market. They dive deep into the value of relationships, especially with the forecast of how the mortgage industry will be in the coming year. If you are a homeowner looking for an app that can help you navigate the markets and keep your relationships, then you better tune in to this great conversation! Don’t miss out!
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How Milestones Helps Mortgage Providers In Non-Transactional Times With Dustin Gray And Ashley Terrell
I am excited about every episode, but this one has got some interesting information for you. You’re going to want to pay attention. We’re all trying to figure out how we get in front of the consumer. It’s all about the consumer. We’re trying to help consumers. I can’t wait to share with you two new friends that I come into a deep relationship with. I’m very excited for them to share the vision that they have. Meet Dustin Gray. It’s good to have you on the show.
Thank you for having us.
Ashley is my newest friend. I’m getting to know her. She’s located in Southern California. Dustin is located here in Austin. They have created something exciting. Dustin, this is your child. This is something you birthed and you’ve invited Ashley. What I’m also impressed with you, Dustin, is how you surround yourself with some of the most brilliant people. You’re going to want to tune in to the brilliance of Dustin’s ideas and the brilliance he had in bringing in the brilliant Ashley. I’m so excited to have you both here. Dustin, let’s get started on this. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you’re at.
To be honest, I never thought that I’d be here. I’ve been working in the real estate tech industry for 27 years, starting when I was a high school student in the ‘90s at the beginning of the internet. I certainly didn’t think I’d make a career out of this. The start is I took a job to earn money for spring break, answering the phones at a commercial brokerage firm back in Michigan where I grew up.
I was going to stick around for 2 or 3 months, earn some pocket for spring break, and then leave the following year to go to college. I’ve spent the last quarter of a century building tech to help modernize the real estate industry. At the same time, because I come from the industry from the formative years, it’s been trying to strengthen the human relationships that underpin real estate, mortgage, and all things related there too.
It’s pretty exciting. One of my clients who I was working with at the time introduced me to you when you were over at Realtor.com. Before that, it was the company that you worked at where you and I met.
For a while, I worked at a company called RealPage, which did all things rental housing. If you’re a renter in the United States, you probably have interacted with RealPage in some way. You probably just didn’t know it.
Let’s toss it over to you, Marc.
Dustin, 27 years is certainly a long time. My experience has always been when somebody begins a journey, there are some special milestones along the way. Could you tell us a little bit about the milestones along your journey that got you from where you were to where you are now?
From starting out at a real estate brokerage company, I did a five-year apprenticeship and put my way through college. Around that time, going back a very long time to pre-2000, I found it difficult to get the information needed to sell and lease buildings, which is where I started. As a somewhat naive but opportunistic college student, we made a commercial multiple listing service. That started in a dorm room, but then it started to grow. It ended up in about 80 cities in North America. Eventually, it was acquired by Moody’s, the data analytics company.
After that, I went on to Deloitte, RealPage, and Realtor.com. I was mostly in leadership positions and mostly focused on applying real estate tech for businesses, renters, and homeowners. Along the way, my wife also took a job in the mortgage industry, so I had a front-row seat to look at these transactions from a lender’s perspective as well.
That sounds extremely hands-on. That’s great.
If you’re in an industry, unless you operate, work, and put yourself in the shoes of a mortgage lender or a realtor, you can’t build technology for them or their clients until you’ve walked in their shoes. That’s something I take great pride in because I’ve had a lot of time spent walking in those shoes and working hands-on with those clients.
Walking in someone’s shoes gives you unique insights. If you picked up on one thing you’ve learned, what stands out to you in that journey?
I know this is going to sound cliché but early on, a mentor in the industry told me that the real estate business is the people’s business. The biggest takeaway I’ve had in 27 years doing this is that insight is correct. Real estate and mortgage are still relationship-heavy industries built on trust in spite of all the things that have advanced with technology over the last couple of decades. It’s still the largest asset class. It’s very much in its infancy with respect to modernization. You’ve got this big, huge industry, which is heavily fragmented. It’s localized. There are a lot of moving parts. There are a lot of self-interested actors.
The conclusion that I came to was trying to disrupt this industry, which is what a lot of technologists use, is a bad business model. Almost everybody who has tried to disrupt real estate or disrupt mortgages has failed. Instead, I look at our role as empowering the industry to do more, but not trying to fundamentally change the actors themselves. That is probably a fool’s errand in the end. We’ve taken that perspective to Milestones. Everything that we do is about empowering lenders and realtors to build those deeper relationships with clients.
That’s a great point.
Ashley, relative to Milestones, give me your take on Milestones from when you first got involved and where it comes to you now. My question is, what gets you excited every day about Milestones and what it does for lenders?
It’s as much about what it does for consumers as it is what it does for lenders. I’ll give an example. David knows this. I’m a competitive equestrian. I have a horse. I’m a little over the top. He was imported over from Belgium. When I bought him, my vet gave me a hub to manage everything for my horse, from his vet records, his show schedule, his United States Equestrian Federation number, and his passport number. Everything was in there, and everything was branded to my vet and my trainer. It helps that they’re married, but regardless, I don’t think that their marital status has anything to do with who was co-branded on there.
It was super cool. I’ve always had this thing to manage my horse out of. It occurred to me, and this was probably twelve months before I met Dustin, “Why do I not have something like this for my home? Why is it that my closing documents are in a drawer in my office? My appliance warranties are in a drawer in my kitchen. My paint cans are still in my garage. Everything is in all these different places.” The opportunity that Milestones gives to homeowners is a little bit of that instant gratification of, “How do I manage all things in one place?” It’s almost like that Amazon experience, but it’s something gifted to them completely white-labeled from their loan officer and/or their realtor.
If you look at where that relationship is and who that advisor is for your home, just like my vet and my trainer or my advisor for my horse, this is something that the loan officer can give to continue to maintain that relationship. All of those are emotional factors on Milestones and how it helps. Even when you look at the business factor, customer acquisition cost, the fact that homeowners are in their home for more time than they’re transacting, and everything is always so focused around the transaction, how do we help reduce customer acquisition costs and also give an opportunity to still be positioned as the home advisor? How do we maintain those long-term relationships with not only homeowners but with realtors?
I want to jump on that horse part because I want to make sure everyone understands. If you see the video, you see all the ribbons hanging behind Ashley. She is a champion that operates in the competitive world of horses and has got champion ribbons all across the back of her room. You were talking about when you bought this horse from Belgium, all the data about that horse went into a hub. I want to make sure that everyone understands that it is what Milestones is about. They’re putting consumer data in a place. A hub is a technology place in which data is stored. I wanted to make sure that’s crystal clear in everyone’s mind.
I also want to clarify that I got an email from the United States Equestrian Federation that they were excited to announce e-sign in November of 2022.
Here we have the equestrian session moving as fast. We’re trying to catch up with the mortgage industry. We’re working hard to get e-sign into everything. That’s electronic signing. That’s very good. Dustin, why did you name your company Milestones? I have an explanation, but I’m interested in hearing yours. We can add and talk about that.
I want to go back to that hub question then I’ll give you your answer. We use the term hub synonymous with the client portal. If you think about it, you have a client portal. You have a client portal for Travelocity if you book a trip. You have a client portal for pretty much everything. From our perspective, we had this idea that every home should have a client portal for the home. If you think about who’s going to give you that little portal or hub for the home, it’s probably the person who helped you get the home, which is the realtor, the lender, or maybe some combination of both.
What we do is we create those client portals, aka hubs, and the realtor and the lender are embedded inside them. They are along for the journey, which could be years or could be even longer than somebody who owns their home. What you want is when somebody is ready to get another loan or get another home, you want them to come back to you. To Ashley’s point, this is about loyalty and establishing those long-term relationships as opposed to a one-and-done transaction, which is the norm in the industry. Unfortunately, you work with your lender once, and then you throw them away, and never again. That’s what this is all about.
To your second question, why did we name the company Milestones? It’s a silly story. It was about three years ago. I came inside after mowing the lawn. It was stupidly hot in Texas as it usually is in the summer. My son and his friend were sitting at the kitchen table and they were playing a game that I hadn’t seen since I was a kid, which is The Game of Life.
For anybody here in the show, if you remember The Game of Life, there’s this winding little road. You spin a wheel and move your car down this path. You pass through these different life milestones and collect money and little pegs that represent family members as you go through this journey. At that moment, it occurred to me that most moves are triggered by something that happens in your life, whether that’s marriage, a baby, divorce, your job getting transferred, you have a health issue, or you have an elderly parent that needs to move in with you but you don’t have enough room. These are the things that trigger almost 85% of moves. These are stuff that happens in your life.
When you move or when stuff happens in your life, you usually need to borrow money. Milestones became a pun on that. As you’re going through the lending process or going through the real estate process, there are little milestones you cross along the way on your journey to get that next home. That’s why we named the company Milestones.
In reality, though, most consumers will never see the word Milestones directly because we are not a direct-to-consumer brand. We take the technology that our team builds, which is the app for homeowners, and that is white-labeled by a mortgage company or by a real estate company. It’s all about their brand so that customers come back to them.
A consumer doesn’t know who Milestones is. You can’t go to Milestones and sign up if you’re a homeowner. That’s not something we offer. We made a very conscious choice to say, “This is a business that’s about empowering existing real estate, mortgage, title and escrow companies, etc., to get closer to consumers.” We are not trying to get in the way of that. That’s important to call out because, at the end of the day, we are about building a private label app and making those connections tighter. We’re not about trying to reach homeowners directly and then resell leads or things like that to realtors or lenders.
Something you said a little bit earlier is this is a relationship business. Anyone who’s been in this business for any amount of time knows it is a relationship business. What you’re proposing and what you’re launching is Milestones is an enabler to strengthen and build that relationship in a more meaningful way that lasts beyond just the single transaction.
You hit the nail on the head. I don’t think we could have said it any better ourselves.
There is a term that I came into contact with early in my career. I’m not going to take the time to explain it, but it was a term you might not have ever heard of before. It’s, “Don’t be open-minded or your brains will fall out.” It’s so applicable here because my brain is falling out right now. I’m thinking of dozens of applications that you could build an app for that would be beneficial to consumers, seller services, and things like that.
I’m going nuts in my mind thinking about it. I think you’re on to something. I certainly hope it’s not lost on you. What you develop for the homeowner experience and dealing with the realtor and the lender is certainly something that can move over into different genres of business that are out there now.
We’ll tell you a story that’s a little off-script, but it’s relevant for anybody here in the show. When we started Milestones, we thought about big-ticket transactions or events that you go through in your life as a consumer. Most of us will go to college. We’ll get our first job. We might get married. We might expand our family. We’ll get a home. We’ll probably go through retirement and later-years-of-life stuff.
What’s interesting is that as we are going through these things, we don’t do them very often. Since we don’t do them very often, usually, the process of doing them is a mystery to us when we go and do them for the first time. Typically, this is where we hire help. We hire a realtor. We hire a lender. We hire a wedding planner. We hire a college admissions counselor for our kids or we hire a financial planner to help us navigate retirement. Generally, those folks who are serving us in that advisory capacity have a bunch of tools and resources behind the scenes that they use, but those are largely invisible to their actual clients. In our case, that is the homeowner or other things.
When we started Milestones, we had those things in mind and said, “There are probably applications for what we built, the dynamic collaborative environment for getting through these big hairy transactions in your life,” if you can even call them those. We had to pick a place to focus first. For us, that was real estate and lending. It was the industries that we knew well. We had spent a lifetime in them. Overall, we see this as something much larger. We just have to step our way there.
Ashley, how do you describe the Milestones’ home experience looking at it from 1,000 feet, looking down at what’s happening?
Diving in a little deeper into what I was saying earlier about having all things to manage in one place, there are a lot of aspects that go into home ownership. It’s going back to how we give that instant gratification where it’s easy, consumers can get everything into one place, and have that be gifted from their loan officer or somebody that they’ve already built a relationship with and that’s already acted for them as that home advisor.
The things that fall into home ownership could be everything from understanding your home value and your home equity, which in this market wasn’t as exciting as it was for the last couple of years. Now that we know that maybe our equity isn’t going up so much, what do we do? If I’m going to stay here for a while, maybe I want to pull some of this cash out and redo my kitchen. If I do hit that milestone in my life and I need to turn that loft into a nursery because I’m not about to buy a new home in this market, what are my options and how do I do that?”
It’s everything from understanding what I call the asset value and then also how you can use that asset in your favor in your day-to-day life or even beyond that, even when it comes to basic neatness. I’m embarrassed to say I am one of those guilty people for not changing my air filter for three years. I did it for the first time when I was giving a Milestones demo. I realized that was one of the tests on there and I haven’t done it. Thank you, Dustin, for reminding me.
There is so much that goes into it and it’s so easy to lose track of that. How do we make that easy and simple where you can understand that value, equity, and asset value where you can know, “How do I change my air filter? What do I need to do? How often do I need to do this? What do I need to do to get my home ready for the winter, now that we’re getting into that snow season? How do I get in touch with a contractor?”
It’s even beyond going to Yelp. It’s not like getting your monthly home equity report in your email and then having to go to Yelp or Zillow, and going to all these different places where it’s fragmented. Let’s bring it into one experience that is offered from that loan officer and potentially the realtor that they’re a partner with, and give that homeowner that experience all in one place.
I’m going to tell you a little story. Twelve months ago, almost to the day, my wife and I learned that she was pregnant with what would later become our second son. There was a moment of congratulations, and then reality set in. We said, “How are we going to make this work?” For us, we were out of space. We had a bit of a fork in the road where we either needed to pick up and move or we needed to add on to the house. We’d never done anything like this before, so we needed education. We needed recommendations for an architect and a builder. We needed to shop around and get multiple quotes to do this work. We needed to borrow money. This was going to be a fairly significant undertaking, so we needed to borrow money against the value of our home.
None of this was planned per se, but from a homeowner hub, I should be able to go in, figure out my home equity, figure out what I can borrow, raise my hand, reach out to my lender, start filling out a loan application for a refi or HELOC, look through some recommendations, see who my realtor or who my lender likes to work with locally to do building projects and architecture, etc. All this stuff should be here.
I would then probably need my own crash course on how to navigate a renovation project because there are a lot of moving parts. As a consumer, that’s what I want. That is exactly what we’re building bit by bit because it’s so important. Whoever is there with me is going to get that business. They couldn’t have predicted that my wife and I would get pregnant, but they certainly could say, “I’m right here for you. Congratulations. How can I help?” That’s where this is going.
That is so good. Telling the story of, “We’re going to have a baby,” is one of those milestone moments that Ashley talked about that is, “What do we do now?” To have a portal or a hub where you can go in and you are already connected with all the former business partners and parties that were involved in everything that has led up to where you’re at now, to be able to access that community and say, “I’m going to have a baby. Congratulations, but we need help,” and all the feedback that can come in. It is taking social media almost to another level of practically bringing it into play to what you’re doing. I love it.
Ashley, you made a couple of good points. I was born in North Dakota and raised in Minnesota. I know how to leave our home and go on a vacation and winterize a home in Minnesota. You have to pour antifreeze into the toilets so that they don’t freeze and crack the porcelain when we’re gone in case we lose heat. There are all these things you would never know what to do. We moved from there to Seattle. That’s a different climate. We moved from there to Texas. That’s a different climate from Southern California.
We bounced around the country and zigzagged around. Each one of these areas has different requirements on how to manage that home. You may think that the person you’re selling this home to or financing a home understands all this. The areas we live in bring about a whole new set of things you need to know about. I don’t care how experienced a homeowner or handyman you are or where you were. You got Google, but how valuable is something like this? It gets to this. Dustin, I’m starting to look forward to the time. What do you see happening in the mortgage industry in 2023? How do Milestones fit given the current happenings?
Anybody reading this knows that it’s not a particularly great time to say to a client, “Now is the right time to buy a home or get a loan.” There are still high home prices and quite high-interest rates. Most Americans are stretched pretty thin at this point financially. This is going to stay that way for a while or at least a year, but probably longer. If people are going to be parked in their homes may be longer than they anticipated, and transactions are going to fall by at least 1/3 in 2023, what can you do now?
There are 110 million homes in the United States, and 106 million of them at least are not going to transact in 2023. If you’re a lender, the question you should be asking is, “What value can I deliver to those 106 million households who are not going to transact tomorrow? What seeds can I plant right now that are going to grow in the future when we come out of this tough period?”
From Milestones’ perspective, it’s time to get busy investing in those relationships and playing the long game as best you can while weathering the storm. For us, this means staying connected and demonstrating value to homeowners. If you’re an LO or a realtor, you want to have a reason to reach out and talk to those clients. That has to fit the narrative now. The narrative is, “Let’s help you make the most out of the home that you have. When you need me, I’m on call to help you borrow more money or move.” This is where Milestones fits in. We want to keep that conversation going organically between the lender and the client, week after week, at scale without a lot of effort. We want to keep delivering value for months on end until somebody’s ready to jump out and do something again.From a milestones perspective, it's time to really get busy investing in those relationships and playing the long game as best you can while weathering the storm. Click To Tweet
A lot of people are sending recipes on how to fix the bird. That is so surface-y and shallow. I find those almost annoying. I find those things annoying. This is a much more substantive type of sharing of information.
Ashley, as I listen to the Milestones’ story, it seems to me you have something very unique going on here. This uniqueness you have I’m sure postures you for a different appeal with the homeowner and consumer-for-life apps in the market now. How does that posture you for your growth and for people to use your app, etc.?
Going back to David’s point about these emails going out about recipes on how to make a turkey and it’s so generic. This is something that’s intimate to the homeowner. Your home is something where you make memories. It’s your biggest investment. I always say that real estate, in general, is probably the most relationship-based industry out there because it’s such an emotional transaction for the homeowner. This is something intimate that the loan officer in partnership with their realtor or independently without a realtor can give back to the homeowner to keep that homeowner engaged. They can give them something that’s intimate and of value, and something holistic and comprehensive to the overall journey of home ownership.
The other piece of it too is that in addition to it being a value to the homeowner, you have those relationships with your realtor that you’re trying to nurture. We know that most lenders do most of their business off of relationships with realtors. How can I even give something back to a realtor where I’m giving them something of value to stay engaged with homeowners? How can we do this together as a team? There are tools out there that co-brand two different entities and have them get in front of homeowners. How do we do it in a way that’s intimate and going to be there for those milestones in their lives, and that’s going to help advise them through the whole process? That’s where we stand apart.
As a follow-up question to that, I know that lenders and realtors are extremely busy folks. I know they have their set of steps they go through to reach their goal on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. How do you sell to that mentality that’s been embedded for decades in realtors and lenders about getting the job done, getting to a sales position on the house, and getting the loan done on the house? How do you bring the app in to show the value-added aspect of it and to get them to say, “Yes, I have fifteen more minutes that I need to spend learning this app and working with my customers on it because it’s important for both me and the customer.” How does that transition work?
I was going to say that one of the nice things about this is it doesn’t take a ton of time. If you’re a real estate agent, your job is to go sell houses. If you are a loan officer, your job is to go fund loans. It’s all about, “How do I become more efficient in my day-to-day job without having to take time away from it?”
I always have to laugh when I see engagement metrics about how many logins are in a piece of technology. I don’t think that people should have to be logging in for it to have ROI. The whole point of it is to leave it alone and let it work for you. When the engagement happens, that’s cool. That’s when the hand is raised and that’s when you reach out versus having to go track it. To what Dustin has been focused on, this is a non-transactional time. This is all of those years where they’re not transacting and you can make sure that you’re in front of them when they are transacting. If you have to log in every day to figure out when somebody’s transacting, that’s a problem.
Dustin, do you have something to add to that?
To follow up on that, I don’t think technology should require people to do a lot. For starters, we connect our technology to things that people already use. Most lenders have a CRM. We can connect it to your CRM and things can run from there, more or less, on autopilot. Most lenders have a point-of-sale system. We can connect to that too so that when a transaction concludes, you say to the homeowner, “Congratulations on getting the home. Here’s what’s next.”Technology should not require people to do a lot. Click To Tweet
The first part of the question is don’t make your technology need a bunch of human touches in order to deliver value and engagement. The next piece I’d say is if you’re a lender, it’s about redefining yourself in the eyes of your clients. This is a huge opportunity. We’re in this industry where people work with the lender and the realtor once, on average, and then they throw them away. This is true for the vast majority of the time. This is not a secret to anybody. All that does is it pushes up customer acquisition costs sky-high.
If you went to a restaurant and no one ever came back, the restaurant would be out of business. If we think about this from a repeat customers and referrals standpoint, in my own mind, it goes something like this. If I’m the loan officer, I would say to my client, “I’m not your LO. I’m the advisor that’s going to help you, through thick and thin, to make smart decisions about your home and build wealth.” I’m going to get your loan funded and I’m going to give you this homeowner portal. It’s exciting to get a home, but home ownership is a mess. When you run into things in that process that might slow you down or trip you up, the answers are probably going to be there along with me.
If you want to learn how to take care of your house, get something fixed, make it better, or avoid the pitfalls that people tend to fall into left and right with home ownership, I’m going to be a resource. I’ve got this packaged up for you. Some time in this journey, you’re probably going to need to borrow money again, whether it’s to improve your house, to get another house, or to pay for something else that has sprung up in your life.
When that day comes, that is the magic. It’s when after repeated touch points over and over again and the consumer says, “I’m going to go back into my hub because Larry, my lender, is right there. I’m going to raise my hand and he’s going to help guide me or she’s going to help guide me through it at the push of a button.” That’s the magic that you want. Technology enables you to do this at scale. You could work on 300 or 400 clients at a time and deliver those personalized touchpoints where you can pick up the phone once a week and call them or you’d run out of hours in a day. That’s what this is all about.
It touches on the fact that this is a relationship-driven business. We’ve done a terrible job at getting the repeat relationship or the repeat business to come back, which means we’ve failed miserably in the relationship side of it. What you’re talking about there is becoming a trusted advisor. If you’re a lender, how does someone become a trusted advisor for all things home-related?
You have to start with that holistic approach and understand where people have problems. It goes beyond shipping them a little email every month that says, “Here’s what your home is worth.” That was cute for the five years because everybody’s home values were going up. That’s not going to cut it if you’re a lender anymore. The reason is pretty simple. I avoid looking at my 401(k) because it has dropped to $4,000 in 2021. No one wants to watch the value of their assets decline. It’s depressing. I don’t log into Charles Schwab for this reason.
You have to reset your expectations and say, “There are many facets of home ownership. In an as elegant way as possible, how can we make a resource that is part tools, part information, part education, and part collaboration? How can we make sure that the lender and the realtor, who most homeowners placed a great deal of trust, help them make the biggest financial decision of their life?” Think about how unnatural it is that those people disappear the next day. That’s where this industry has a huge opportunity to do something different going forward. Never look at a crisis and miss the opportunity to redefine yourself and grab market share coming out of it. It’s going to be a great time for companies that get it and move opportunistically.Never look at a crisis and miss the opportunity to redefine yourself. Click To Tweet
Dustin covered earlier a little bit about how the technology fits in. We talked about customer relationship management products, etc. Are there any unique aspects of how Milestones fits in with the use of the technology with lenders that you would like to go over?
Where Milestones sits is a great tool for homeowners to engage with. Where the CRM sits, that’s a tool to help loan officers be more efficient in their day-to-day life and manage their day-to-day life. That’s more of a portal that they’re logging into. It’s the same thing with a point-of-sale system. We integrate very well with all of those. It’s more of that consumer experience, and then how we can help each other. Whereas from a CRM standpoint, it’s like let’s take all of those contacts in the CRM to make sure that they’re in Milestones. In turn, let’s take the activity that’s happening in Milestones and give that back to the CRM if they want to do any other marketing to those contacts that are maybe not so specific to the home.
We are very specific about the asset of the home and how we do marketing. We’re not trying to send out recipes on how to cook a Thanksgiving dinner. If there are some cool activities and life events that happen in Milestones where there are some of those triggers, then let’s share them. We’re not trying to be that by any means. When we look at something more like a point-of-sale system, where can we automate it for the loan officers so they don’t even have to necessarily bake this into something that a user has to do in the transaction process, but something that automatically happens where it says, “Congratulations on your new home. Here’s a closing gift for you?” It sits nicely on top of all of them.
We called Milestones something brand new. We called it a homeowner management system. I can’t take credit for this. One of our investors is a gentleman named Tom Ferry who’s a prolific real estate coach. We were sitting around a whiteboard and he said, “This isn’t a CRM. This is a homeowner management system.” A CRM is wonderful for leads. This isn’t about leads. It is about the most trusted clients that you’ve helped get a home or borrow money. Those are different from strangers that submitted a lead form that you might have purchased or gone to a website and built something out that you know are tire-pickers or looky-loos This is about thinking about a mortgage like a wealth manager would think about getting assets under management.
If you’re a lender, your assets under management are the aggregate or sum value of all the houses or loans that you’ve funded. When you think about that, you don’t hire a wealth manager for one transaction and then disappear. You have had that wealth manager for decades. They’re going to help you adapt your money. When we thought about this, it was a cute name that we worked on with Tom, but the meaning behind it was significant. These are your forever clients. You want to be there with them no matter where they are in their home or their life. That’s going to win in the long term.
I’ll never forget when my nephew adopted a child out of the foster system. One of the most touching things that she said when she came out of that is, “Do you mean you are going to be my forever family?” I get choked up even thinking about that because she had been bounced around with so many foster homes. I like the concept that this is a forever system that helps people stay connected to the most important transaction of their life.
As I think about this, this has got to be an amazingly expensive system based on all the things you’re doing, how you’re helping loan officers connect with the realtor, and all of those two, enabling them to connect to the consumer. I’m assuming, this has got to be a very expensive system. Ashley, how much does this cost?
It is not expensive. It’s very affordable. Depending on the scale, up or down, we’re starting at $25 per loan officer. It’s unlimited. You can have as many homeowners as you want in there.
An unlimited number of homeowners at $25 a month. Are you serious?
You did hear that Dustin has a new son on here. Is this going to put him through college? That’s amazing. Dustin, with what you’re talking about, this is a scale. You’ve priced this for it to do well. It should be something that the entire industry should embrace.
That is correct. It is built for scale. It’s not built to try and optimize every possible dollar we could pull out of an LO’s pocket, especially not right now. The industry itself is not at a point where it’s going to throw money at tech when the industry is on fire. In reality, we have a lot of partners that are already huge that are bringing Milestones to market in hundreds of thousands or millions of homeowners at a time scale. It’s not a secret.
You can follow us on social media or look at our website to figure out who are some of these partners. They’ll be a lot more announced in Q1 of 2023. It’s built to have millions of homeowners on it as gifted to them through their agent or lender and their brand. That’s the point. It should be a low-cost, super-high-value appliance that runs in the background for thousands of companies. That’s exactly where it is and where it’s headed.
That’s amazing. Marc, as my cohost, we’re so fortunate to sit where we do, looking and interviewing companies and individuals behind those companies as we are. What are your thoughts on this one?
I’m still out there thinking about 20,000 different other things that could be used for how you might be laying the groundwork here for something that could revolutionize the way we deal with stuff in our daily life. I was thinking about how many of us use storage facilities. We have six storage facilities we use in different cities. These are personal ones we move around. I have no idea what’s in those buildings. I have no idea whether I got enough insurance on them to cover what’s in there.
I can see the application of an app being done by the people on the storage facilities to work with the people, so when they put stuff in it, they got inventory. They know which room has what. They know whether they have appropriate insurance on it, etc. I could go on and on. I could apply that to hundreds of other things. You’re onto something. You’re going to be very successful. I’m honored to hear about your program and what you’ve accomplished.
I agree with you, Marc. We’re in on the ground floor of something that we’re going to look back on in twenty years and go, “Who came up with this?” It’s exciting. Dustin, I love your innovation. From the moment I met you, I knew you thought differently than the average bear out there. You saw the world in such a way that was going to be a journey where I’m going to get at the front seat of innovation that we have not seen. This is exactly what’s shown up.
I made my point earlier. You surround yourself with some of the investors. You have Ashley whom you surround yourself, helping you and the executive team. Talk a little bit about some of the people that are behind this. Realtor.com has invested in this. You talked about Tom Ferry and the fact that he’s bought into this. He’s one of the top coaches in the real estate space. Can either one of you add to that?
I’ll make a quick point of correction. It’s the National Association of Realtors. They have a venture fund. That sits separate from Realtor.com, which is owned by News Corporation and it’s a private company. We’ve been fortunate to have some quite smart folks that are accomplished in real estate and mortgage take early bets on this company. This goes from FNF to Tom Ferry and numerous others.
For those that don’t what FNF is, what is it?
Fidelity National Financial is the largest title in escrow company in the United States. They saw this as a wonderful closing gift for people who just bought a home and what that could look like. They’re still trying to figure it out a bit. To summarize, we didn’t come up with anything that people in this industry hadn’t dreamed about for the last twenty years. It’s part Angie’s List, part Private Zillow, and part NerdWallet for education. There are concepts that are out there already. There are challenges of putting them all together in a package that you don’t go bankrupt-building because it will take you four years to build this, at least, and get it right. Here we are almost four years in, and we can certainly attest to that.
There are 55 people working on this full-time. We never have enough hours in the day. The question wasn’t, “Is this viable?” or “Should this happen?” The one-stop-shop or the digital customer journey for all things home ownership is going to happen, but doing it in a way where you make the complex feel easy takes a lot of resources to get it right.
If there’s one thing that I’m fortunate in, it is that we’ve brought together some smart and patient people to help us get from point A to point B to point C. In the end, the difference is getting those people who are smart and passionate. They have those personalities and capital to be able to say, “This is not a quick win.” This is not an app that you build in six months and it’s all great and you explode. It’s something that takes years to hone in collaboration with your clients to get it right. We’re at the precipice of breaking out. I’m excited to connect with this group and hope that some of you come along for the ride.
It has been a real honor to have both of you on the show. Thank you so much. Ashley, thank you so much for joining us. Dustin, thank you so much for the vision and for giving us the opportunity to share it with our audience. How can people learn more about it? Where can they go to get ahold of Ashley?
Milestones.ai will give you plenty of information and will lead you straight to Ashley in the end.
That’s good. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Ashley as I’ve known you for a while, Dustin. I got to tell you, you’re going to be enjoying the conversation. Folks, get out there and make the connection through Milestones.ai. Get ahold of Ashley and get this communication going. Get in on the ground floor of something that we’re going to all be looking back at and go, “Why was I not in a seat at this table?” You need to be if you’re going to be successful. Dustin, congratulations on building something that is going to be your greatest success. Ashley, thank you for joining him because you’re going to be a great person to help him make this dream become a reality for all of us. Thank you both.
Thank you, David and Marc, for having us. We appreciate you.
It’s nice to meet you both.
About Dustin Gray
Entrepreneurial technology executive with 25 years of hands-on experience starting and growing companies, leading business units, and building shareholder value in both early- and later-stage organizations. Extensive experience with internet and SaaS business models, product design, and marketing strategy within real estate, energy, and higher education industries.
About Ashley Terell
Ashley Terrell is Chief Revenue Officer at Milestones, a homeownership startup whose white-labeled product helps real estate brokerages, mortgage companies, and title companies build relationships with homeowners and each other.
Terrell has extensive experience in the Real Estate industry, holding executive level positions at Xome, Constellation Software, and Percy.ai (formerly known as Buyside). In each role, she’s played a pivotal role in growing and expanding the business from Real Estate into the Mortgage and Title industries, building strong relationships along the way. Prior to being in Real Estate, Terrell worked for luxury hospitality and entertainment giant, SBE Entertainment Group.
When not working in Real Estate, Terrell is a competitive equestrian that competes in the show jumping circuit on the West Coast with her horse, Cash. The pair has been ranked in some of the top annual placings for the United States Equestrian Federation in their respective regions & divisions, taking home dozens of show championships.