Rick Richter began his college career at the University of Montana as a pre-med student. After two years and a summer stint in an emergency room that left him with second thoughts, he decided to change to a communications major, with an emphasis in business—a choice that laid the foundation for his future career in mortgages. “I wanted to work in a profession where I could make a difference in people’s lives,” said Richter, “but at the end of the day it became clear that I had a mind better suited for business and finance than medicine.”
After graduating from college Richter, 29, worked with MBNA America as a customer retention specialist. In preparation for this job, he received extensive training on everything from risk, to fraud, credit/lending, and management. “It gave me a well-balanced view of the banking industry, which helped me forge relationships with account executives and the management staff at numerous lenders,” he said. “The fact that I know how these large banks work has helped me get challenging loans done in a painless manner.”
He also credits this job with teaching him how to communicate well with customers over the phone. While Richter admits to always feeling at ease talking with people, dealing with customer retention, which at MBNA involved persuading customers trying to cancel their credit card to stay, was especially helpful in learning how “translate over the phone that each person was the most valued one to us.”
When MBNA started a mortgage branch, Richter began researching different types of lending. He also was looking into buying his first home. Those two events led to increased interest in “the single largest investment any person makes in their lifetime.” He applied to five mortgage companies in Ann Arbor, Mich., his hometown that he was ready to return to, and found the best fit with Gold Star Mortgage. “They were family-oriented, they worked hard, and I liked the overall company philosophy,” said Richter.
He immediately began shadowing the established LOs with the company, including company president Dan Milstein, and also being trained on Gold Star’s LOS, Calyx Point. With this training and a familiarity with the products, Richter found the transition to a more sales-based position relatively easy. “It’s really a ‘soft sell’ if you have good products,” he said. “If you tell someone you are going to save them money, their response is usually, ‘Why not?’”
When he was ready, Richter sent out a broadcast e-mail to introduce his mortgage career and make himself available to evaluate current loans or help with a new one. “I sent this to family members—and I have a huge family—and college roommates, Realtors, nearly everyone I know,” he said. “My first loans and refinances ended up being for family members. They were patient enough to bear with me through the learning curve.”
Early on, a referral from a business associate delivered a property manager niche right to him. The call came from a manager of five properties who was concerned about overpaying on his mortgages. “I evaluated his loans and got them all down half a percent, saving him $ 5,000 a month,” said Richter. “Then he began referring me to a lot of other people who were looking to buy properties, fix them up, and rent them out. It was that easy. Plus, being in a town with two colleges, there are thousands of student rentals.” The niche helped put Richter on his way to a rookie year volume of $53,640,776 on 276 loans, 68 percent of which was generated through purchase business.
Richter additionally invests a lot of effort into establishing and enhancing relationships with Realtors. “I spend probably 10 hours a week speaking with and nurturing budding relationships with Realtors,” he said. “I let them know that I am available 24 hours a day and will come in on the weekend to make sure their deals get done correctly. It only takes a few loans that are cleared to close within 24 hours to get them to work solely with you.” To initiate Realtor relationships, Richter sends out pamphlets to nearly 50 real estate offices with information that caters to their market. The information is determined by the part of town they predominantly work in and the corresponding demographic. “If the area in which they work attracts mostly first-time homebuyers, I will send something about 100 percent financing. If it’s a wealthy neighborhood that typically attracts self-employed or retired borrowers, I will include information about stated income products.” Richter’s marketing intern, who is pursuing a marketing degree at nearby University of Michigan, prepares many of these materials.
He credits the solid company infrastructure at Gold Star with much of his success. “We have our processors, underwriters, marketing employees all right here. If needed, we can manage 24-hour turnaround, and on average we have a 10-day process,” he said. “It is also set up in a such a way that the right people are able to focus on the right job.”
Richter focuses on keeping loans rather than making the highest profit, another part of the company philosophy. “I have learned that if you give them the lowest rate, you generally will get their loan,” he said. “I may lose out on profitability for the first couple of years, but I will get the loan and keep the customer.”
The family-oriented atmosphere at the company rings especially true for Richter; his wife of nearly a year-and-a-half, Kim, is his lead processor. “We complement each other well. Her forte is detail—she makes sure every i is dotted, every t is crossed—and mine is finance,” he said. “I am good at analyzing someone’s whole portfolio and making numbers work for them.”
Richter, who works 55 to 70 hours a week, has been promoted faster than anyone in the company’s history, and now holds the title of vice president. Outside of work, he plays golf, works on his own investment properties, including one he and his wife are building, and socializes with people to network and talk business.
“I love it,” said Richter, of his originating career. “I couldn’t be happier. I honestly feel I’m living the American dream.”