An originator with Charter One Mortgage in Rockville, Md., Betsy Lamond has spent two decades forging lasting relationships with Realtors and customers. She credits much of her success to working in a high-end, first-time-buyer and move-up market, and having an exceptionally large contact base. Her 2003 SuperStar volume—last year she closed $112,000,000 and a little over 500 loans—is a result of a carefully developed network of Realtor and customer relationships.
Lamond, 53, started originating in 1986 when she began taking applications for the originator she worked for as an assistant during a hectic refinance period. She soon developed a rapport with key Realtors by introducing herself as a friendly, knowledgeable, diligent associate. “You have to make yourself invaluable,” Lamond says. “New originators have to do a better than great job.” She proved herself by working hard to get answers for her customers quickly, and was always accessible. Over time, she notes, you begin to develop friendships and become a familiar face.
In order to create visibility, Lamond started with what she knows best—finance. She held new-agent finance training seminars for local real estate offices, and quickly gained a reputation for her skills and “can-do” personality. She also organized “broker opens,” holding luncheons at real estate agent’s first showings, which were open to all of the area’s agents. In this casual, relaxed capacity Lamond was able to make introductions and generate recognition.
Once contacts were made, her strategy was to be available—anytime, day or night. Both customers and real estate agents know that Lamond is available to help them, and that quality has helped her gain the trust and respect that earns so many referrals. “They know that they can call me at home, on Saturday, Sunday, at night… I am accessible all the time.”
The refinance business of the past two years has kept Lamond busy, and she hasn’t been able to devote the same amount of time to her agents. She points out that higher volumes have made it harder to maintain the relationships she values, but she is willing to make the effort and work with customers and Realtors on their schedules. In fact, she has found that many Realtors prefer to do business over the phone, rather than in person, because of their busy schedules. For Lamond, this means waking up at 5:30am to start managing loans, and sometimes talking on the phone until 2:00am to secure a referral. One element that has made all of this easier is cultivating Realtor relationships outside of the workplace. “I go to their Christmas parties, open houses, to the movies…sometimes we just pick up the phone to check in and say hello.” When there is an established friendship, both sides feel comfortable calling at midnight to close a deal.
Although she relies on referrals for nearly all of her loans, Lamond does a small amount of advertising and keeps it unique; for example, placing ads in local theater publications. She also holds seminars for real estate offices. Still, most of her marketing activities are aimed at her base of customers and Realtors. Cards are sent for various holidays and often include closing-cost coupons that agents can give to borrowers, or information about remodeling loans. She also distributes calendars for New Year, along with a letter that highlights the Home-to-Home non-contingent loan program, a product that allows a borrower to access the equity in their current home to serve as the down payment on a new home. The borrower’s current mortgage debt is not considered in the qualifying ratios, so the ability to qualify is not restricted by the present home payment. This program allows Lamond to secure more loans for people who may otherwise have trouble getting qualified.
Lamond doesn’t worry about competitors with more aggressive advertising campaigns. “Each person has to develop a plan that suits them best,” she says. “Determine what your best attributes are and use them.” For Lamond, that attribute is personality. Her sincerity and obvious desire to help her clients goes along way, and her ability to simply chat and develop a connection really sticks in people’s minds. “I share a part of who I am with my borrowers and am empathetic to who they are and their individual needs,” she says. “I am fortunate that I can help them understand their mortgage and what is best for them, not just quote rates.”
Talking to customers and agents, whether out to coffee or on the phone, has led her to an abundant supply of referrals. “I usually make friends with my customers. We do the loan together and I take time to find out what works best for them…I try to maintain a personal relationship with everyone I work with,” she explains. “When you develop relationships, you are creating a joint venture with the real estate office or builder.” When they can confidently recommend a mortgage originator they gain credibility in their buyer’s eyes. “I build relationships through the loans I do,” she states. “The relationships are a result of my accomplishing the customer’s end goal, be it remodeling, a purchase transaction, or a refi.”
Lamond offers this advice to new originators: always start with what you know best. “To expand, start with what’s closest,” she says. When she wants to make a new contact, Lamond goes to the people she knows, lets them know what she can offer, and asks for referrals… just as she did 20 years ago.