SuperStar of the Month – Marc Brinitzer

Purchase Business: 60%
Refinance: 40%
Applications Taken Personally: 98%

Most Effective Marketing: Realtor presentations, co-sponsored events
Support Team: assistant, two production coordinator/assistants, two processors, set-up coordinator, marketing assistant, and closing manager.
Favorite Book: Ethics in the New Millenium –Dalai Lama

Favorite Quote: “No problem can withstand the onslaught of sustained thinking.” –Voltaire

Marc Brinizter’s diverse background in financial planning and residential originating (as well as commercial real estate) is especially appealing to borrowers who are looking for something extra. They know that Brinitzer’s expertise will give him an edge as he counsels them regarding their current and future home financing needs. This value-added service has certainly been popular; last year he closed $75.8 million and 320 loans for the Big Valley branch of American Pacific Mortgage, Sacramento, Calif., placing him at number 193 on Mortgage Originator’s Top 200 Originator List (for number of loans).

Brinitzer, 53, came to the residential lending industry following successful stints as a financial planner and commercial real estate broker in Northern California. After selling shopping centers, office parks, and other properties for several years, in 1990 he determined the time was right to move to the origination sector. “A series of situations, including the S&L crisis and an overall business slowdown, convinced me that I should make a switch,” he said. “I started as a wholesale rep for World Savings.”

In 1998, Brinitzer was enticed to join the Big Valley Branch of American Pacific Mortgage, a major net branch network based in Sacramento, Calif. “I joined Kurt Reisig’s team with the idea that I could help expand upon their previous accomplishments. It seemed to be a good chance to launch a long-term career.”

While he had an invaluable foundation for a new originator, Brinitzer nevertheless had to shift his focus to residential homebuying marketing strategies. “I began by introducing myself to new real estate agents to develop long-term relationships,” he said. “I made presentations in the offices, prepared open house fliers, and did a number of other things to establish rapport and obtain my first loans from agents.”

In addition, Brinitzer (and Big Valley) sought opportunities to strengthen Realtor ties while also supporting the community, including the sponsorship of major fundraising events. “During the last couple of years, we have hosted charitable events and invited 500 agents. In 2004, we raised $60,000, which went to the Realtors’ Salvation Army project as well as our local Habitat for Humanity organization.” Over the recent Labor Day weekend, Brinitzer worked alongside other volunteers to help build a Habitat for Humanity home. “We were a financial sponsor, along with the trade unions, whose members did most of the actual work. Obviously, these types of activities show our commitment to the community and help tie us to our referral partners. It’s a much subtler form of marketing.”

A marketing arrangement with a major Realtor is yet another option for Big Valley to solidify agent relationships. “This Realtor offers customers a choice of originators from our office and from one other lender,” he said. “While the customer doesn’t have to use us, they often do and this has proven quite successful.”

Brinitzer also became the preferred lender for a leading builder. “This got started because of prior relationships and just evolved into a very strong referral situation,” he said. “We are currently working with several of the builder’s subdivisions and anticipate expanding our builder base in the near future.”

Of course, he capitalized on his financial planning background, initially by advising customers on their long-range housing/finance goals. “I found that I could uncover issues a client hadn’t seen and illuminate options that they would not otherwise have considered. This puts the discussion on a completely different level and demonstrates my value to them. My real estate agents appreciate this because they know that this type of relationship is stronger and more likely to generate referrals for both of us. If the client is pleased, the agent is happy.” He cultivated relationships with other financial planners and CPAs as well. “I initially sent letters and met with them to explain our interest in developing a mutually beneficial referral arrangement. Most planners and CPAs believe they don’t get much business from originators; they’re more concerned with providing their clients with recommendations for other quality professional services.”

Brinitzer eventually took the next major step by adding a financial planner to his office. “This was someone who had previously counseled some of my borrowers and I thought there was a good fit so I put him on retainer.” After closings, Brinitzer sends a letter to introduce customers to the financial planner. “He has provided some sophisticated help for our borrowers, from debt consolidation to retirement planning. We have handled some very complex cases together that has created tremendous client loyalty.”

Brinitzer has found other ways to reach prospects. For example, he has co-hosted a local radio talk show. “Myself and an agent will answer real estate financing related questions and this generates a lot of calls. It enhances our credibility and produces decent leads.”

His “turnkey” customer follow-up program includes:

  • A thank-you letter sent to recently closed customers. It includes a $100 discount for appraisal services, which they can give to someone else.
  • A post-closing gift of a one-year subscription to Sunset Magazine. “There is a tear-off cover that says ‘Compliments of Marc Brinitzer.’ This is a great monthly reminder and only costs $14 per person.”
  • Letter sent to introduce customers to the office’s financial planner. “We encourage them to call and ask for a free consultation.”
  • Various holiday cards
  • Periodic real estate and interest update letters
  • HUD 1 statement mailed prior to tax filing. “We explain that customers can review it with their accountant for to consider potential tax deductions.”

Brinitzer readily credits his support team in helping him reach top producer status. “I certainly couldn’t do this without their assistance,” he emphasized. “They are an experienced, dedicated group of people who help have made a substantial contribution to my success.”
The team includes Manuel Prado, assistant; Julie Ibbs, production coordinator; Darin Sears, processor; Peggy McCray, assistant/junior processor; Diane Davison, set-up coordinator; Kelly Fields, marketing assistant; Delia Pence, production assistant; and Lindsay Witter, closing manager.

Brinitzer noted that everyone’s roles are carefully defined. “This helps us follow the same routine on every transaction. My job is to develop the client relationship and communicate the plan to the team. If I do my job well upfront, I have very little involvement with any of the paperwork from that point on. I talk with the customer, prepare their basic application, provide written instructions, and perhaps make one call to see how they’re doing. I don’t have to touch the file again.” He takes the majority of the applications over the phone. “I’ve certainly improved my phone skills during the last decade,” he said.

Maintaining thorough communications is one of the team’s chief objectives. “An assistant is responsible for making client follow-up calls, including a mid-transaction phone survey to see how the customer is doing. A key goal is to make sure the client is apprised of all developments.”

Brinitzer knows the importance of keeping his group motivated and has developed a series of incentives. “For example, I provide our processors with different bonuses, including one for closing on time and a larger one for getting documents in title five days prior to the deadline. The extra bonus is to encourage earlier closings, which eliminates rushing and potential mistakes. We also have a profitability bonus, based on our overall volume. In addition, we take quarterly field trips, when we’ll go to lunch or dinner and then do something fun like bowling or a wine tasting. All of this is my way of trying to keep them happy, and well paid.”

He has also created a novel approach to “rent” his processing staff to other LOs in the office, based on a pre-arranged agreement tied to their anticipated workflow. “I offer the team’s services on a very selective basis, allowing me to generate additional processing revenue while also helping to meet other originators’ production schedules.”

During the last 16 years, Brinitzer has had a chance to watch many originators develop their top-producing regimen. He considers fostering “deeper” relationships with key referral sources to be an essential SuperStar characteristic. “You have to be committed to your partners on a higher level than most originators are willing to do. This means really getting to know the customer or client, including their values.”

Most SuperStars have one or more assistants, he added. “Having a team and being able to delegate to them is key. I think delegating is a problem that most originators face; they’re not accustomed to letting someone else have the responsibility for various tasks. But to be able to break through to the next level, you need to surround yourself with good people and be confident enough in their abilities so that you can concentrate on the business building aspect.”

Top producers also have special systems to enable them to handle a bulging pipeline, he said. While they don’t have to be overly complicated, such processes must be consistently followed. “This allows a team of people to make it happen. To continue growing their production, originators must be able to rely on highly structured processes.”

Brinitzer will continue refining his own systems and developing new business opportunities. “There are a lot of originators in our business now, and I think to succeed you have to be more creative in your marketing approach. For instance, we know that expanding into the Hispanic market is critical and we recently hired two bilingual associates. You have to evaluate new business channels and seek alternatives to solving problems. For us, this also means training Realtors in new areas and developing more builder accounts.” One thing Brinitzer won’t alter is his enthusiasm for the mortgage lending profession. “We have a chance to be involved in one of the most profound events of most people’s lives. It’s very rewarding. This is what keeps me motivated every day.”