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Small Investment and Big Return

Small investment and big return. No, I’m not talking about a get-rich-quick scheme, and I don’t want to sell you oceanfront property in Arizona. I’m talking about investing time in yourself to reap the benefits of higher production and income.

Superstar originators continually look for ways to educate and improve themselves. They study loan programs and guidelines, marketing and sales and have an understanding of interest rates and what makes the market move. This knowledge attracts people to them. But this knowledge did not come to them by chance, but after hard work and dedication.

You must be resolute in your commitment to spend time each week on your education. This is a vital part of time management and success in your career. Don’t leave it to chance. If you think you will get caught up on your reading “as soon as you have time,” you probably won’t ever find the time for it.

Loan Programs and Guidelines
Have you ever had a loan that seemed fine until underwriting, when you then found out that it did not meet one of the criteria for that program? Not a great feeling. Learning by mistakes is one of the most difficult ways to learn anything and it usually involves other people as well as your reputation. This frustration is one of the reasons many originators leave the business within two years.

You can’t possibly know everything in every loan program. Even if you read the guidelines all today, something would change by tomorrow. So, how do you stay on the cutting edge of your field? First of all, don’t try to be an expert in every loan program. Pick a “niche” and then become an expert. This might be FHA, rural housing, jumbo, 100 percent or any that you think will fit most of your clientele. Study every available resource on this program. Then talk about it with as many people as possible. This exercise of “practicing” your expertise actually reinforces what you have studied.

It also serves you well to become as knowledgeable as possible on other programs and know where to go to find answers. When someone has a question you cannot immediately answer, commit to getting back to them as soon as possible. Utilize guidelines, online resources, account reps and other loan officers to expand your knowledge base. Ask questions and keep track of the answers. You can confidently let borrowers and Realtors know that even if you don’t know the answer, you know great people who do.

Marketing and Sales
Continually prepare yourself to be viewed as an expert. Remember, an expert is only an expert if he keeps learning and growing. It is especially imperative in marketing that you are always looking for new ideas to keep your phones ringing with prospects. Mortgage Originator Magazine is one of the best resources for new ideas. There are also many e-newsletters and blogs available with free information…all it takes is the time to read.

You can take this one step further and develop marketing strategies that will confirm your position as a trusted advisor. One way to do this is to address a concern that the borrower may have and show your dedication to solving their potential problem. For example, most people have either had a bad experience at closing or know of someone that has. This has created a sense of insecurity with many borrowers today.

Take the time during your initial conversation with a prospective borrower to let them know they will be completely satisfied with your services. In fact, guarantee it. There are many types of guarantees. Let me give one idea that can be very powerful. This guarantee explains to borrowers that you want to earn their business and will do everything you can to make each transaction as smooth as possible. This form states your commitment to be at each closing to assist and answer questions. In the unlikely event you are not available, the form explains that you will have a “dress rehearsal” with the borrowers prior to their closing appointment. Tres Miller with AllStar Mortgage in St. George, Utah has used this concept of a dress rehearsal to successfully close high volumes of loans and create “raving fans.” Your dress rehearsal should cover the following points: interest rate, payment, first payment due date, how much to closing, terms, how names read for signatures and vesting.

These items are where the majority of problems and delays occur at closings. If you have addressed these seven vital points to each closing, there will be no surprises and you can guarantee yourself satisfied clients. This will also include satisfied Realtors, as they have probably been through too many closings that had problems on one or more of these points.

Interest Rates and the Market
Knowledge is a critical step in becoming a trusted advisor. It is imperative that you understand mortgages and interest rates so you can pass this information on to potential borrowers and referral sources in a way that helps them feel secure with their loan decision. Interest rates and fees will become secondary to the fact that you have a reputation as an expert in the mortgage field. This isn’t easy. First, you must decipher what financial information affects mortgage interest rates then be able to present this complicated information in a simple, straightforward manner. Why are some LO’s high producers and others barely close three loans a month using the same marketing tools? According to Barry Habib of Mortgage Market Guide, it comes down to reputation and knowledge: “Borrowers (and Realtors) want to work with someone that knows more than they do and can guide them through the interest rate maze. You must understand why rates do what they do and where rates are going. If you sound smarter, you will close more transactions. From a line in Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War,’ this gives you the ability to win every battle before you fight it. If you have the best information – you will win more battles. And in this business, the winner takes all. Either you close the loan or someone else does.”

Ongoing Education
Your mind is your most precious asset. I love Alvin Toffler’s statement: “The illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who does not know how to learn.” If you want to compete with other loan officers, you must constantly work to be more knowledgeable than they are.

Continually work to increase the quality of your thinking. One of the best ways to do this is through books. Try spending more time reading books than watching TV. You can also turn driving time into learning time. Listen to educational/sales or motivational CDs as you drive. The average driver, according to the American Automobile Association, drives 12,000 to 25,000 miles each year, spending 500 to 1000 hours each year in your car.

Start your own library or see if your office has books or CD’s available. Read about sales, marketing or general business ideas. Surrounding yourself with these types of books, along with your product knowledge, will give you the confidence you need to sell your services as a mortgage lender. In his book, “Love Is the Killer App”, Tim Sanders states, “the books you read today will fuel your earning power tomorrow.” What was the last book you read? Did it open your mind to new ideas and excitement for your job?

Literacy (education) is key to your success as a mortgage originator. Gone are the days when we could answer the phone, fill out a few papers and enjoy a full pipeline. Evolution has grabbed hold of our industry and those not willing to move with it in knowledge and skills will be left waiting for the phone to ring.

By Bliss Sawyer