Another participant at the Finovate 2009 conference in April is the Montreal-based SmartHippo.
Smart Hippo is a smart idea indeed. It is an innovative combination of social network and search engine, specific to mortgage lending. SmartHippo does for mortgage shopping, what Travelocity does for vacation planning.
A SmartHippo user can search mortgage rates that came from banks, from web bots that crawl for additional rates, and even from customers who post the rates that they’ve received. Users (called “hippos”) can also post comments about the service they’ve received from lenders or how their closing process went.
One of the greatest benefits that I’ve observed is that you can “window shop” for rates before supplying identifying information about yourself. If you went “shopping” for a loan with a mortgage broker, your FICO score would show an inquiry made, and it would cost you points on your score.
SmartHippo allows you to “look before you leap” so to speak. Also, the SmartHippo search engine shows you the available ranges for closing costs as well as interest rates, so you have a clearer idea of what you’re getting into. You won’t be lured by low rates only to be surprised with astronomical closing costs.
SmartHippo began operations in September of 2007, but only really began marketing in October of 2008. Marketing consists of viral and Internet efforts. Blogging, contests and Twitter (you can follow @SmartHippo along with me). Right now the South By South West conference is running, and they’re holding a “Hide the Hippo” contest via Twitter, encouraging participants to locate the hippo around Austin, TX.
Jessica Ward is a freelance writer and resident of not-so-sunny Seattle. She also blogs about frugality and family at The Pennywise Family. You can follow her on Twitter at @Jessc098.