After the 2008 housing market retrenchment, demand remained weak for MaineHousing’s First Home Loans (FHLs), which are available to first-time homebuyers who meet income and purchase-price criteria. (“Returnees” who haven’t owned in the past three years are also eligible, and there are special rates for active military and veterans, regardless of prior ownership.)
Starting in 2015, MaineHousing was able to offer rates more consistently below market, and a $3,500 “Advantage” stipend towards down payment and closing costs.
To grow its portfolio of First Home Loans, MaineHousing faced three key challenges:
In spring of 2015, we overhauled the program’s look and feel, from the logo and tag line to the website, to be more appealing visually and emotionally. We used more colors and images, and consciously strove to make it look less like a government program.
We then created several digital banner ad campaigns that appealed strongly to first-time homebuyers, as well as the returnees and military audiences.
Visuals and text hooked readers with the key problems of renting, the attractions of owning, and the financial benefits of First Home Loans: $3,500 to help with downpayment and closing costs, and a very competitive 3.5% interest rate.
To build support among lenders, we created the “Green Key Lender” designation, and identified on the website and through social media the banks, credit unions and mortgage companies that have earned the label.
We also used Google AdWords to drive prospects to the website.
In the second year, we created a brand for real estate brokers participating in the program, First Home Finders.
Our AdWords ads are performing 5 times above the national average, and the Digital ads have performed 6 times the national average.
Mortgage closings in 2015 met MaineHousing’s very aggressive goal of 750 loans, a 50% increase vs. 2014. In 2016, the campaign helped generate 980 loans, an increase of nearly one-third. Dollar volumes increased proportionately.