Randy Lund had already been a successful CPA when he made plans to start law school. “I had my airplane ticket and was ready to attend the University of Texas,” he said.
Instead, he made a momentous decision—to get involved in the mortgage lending profession. “After a few years in accounting, I thought law school would be a good career choice, but I talked to people about the mortgage business and it seemed to match my background and people skills better.”
After a mere three years originating, Lund agreed that he made a wise decision. During his first year on the job he closed a respectable $12 million and last year’s volume totaled $106 million and 688 loans, originated while with Silver State Mortgage in Las Vegas (and another firm where he spent part of the year).
“I was hired and trained by a top producer so the learning curve was quicker,” he said. Part of his lending education came as a processor. “During my first six months, I processed all of my own loans,” he noted. “It gave me a solid understanding of the technical aspects of the loan process, and made me a more well rounded originator.”
Lund, 30, graduated from Oregon State University, returning to his Las Vegas hometown to work in the accounting field and subsequently launch an origination career. He had a sphere of influence to get him started. “I made a list of everyone I knew, along with my parents’ school-related contacts (His dad is a retired high school principal and his mother is a teacher). I wrote letters to everyone to let them know I was in the mortgage business. I did a good job with those first loans and they referred me to others. It snowballed from there.”
He also developed business relationships with a few top Realtors he had previously known. “I originally started working with about five key agents and started to get their transactions,” he noted.
Lund quickly learned the value of being persistent when trying to work with select Realtors. “There was a major agent who I wanted to obtain referrals from and I continued to contact him. I eventually began referring customers to him and as a result of that and hearing how I served my customers, he started to refer business to me as well.”
Lund also relied on a very simple pledge as part of his marketing to Realtors—that he would help ensure their loans closed quickly. “It’s really been a key in the competitive Las Vegas market,” he said. “When I’m able to tell an agent that we did a loan in two weeks or less and can do the same for them, they know I can perform versus an originator who offers 30-day closings. When you can make that kind of guarantee, you can gain a lot of additional business.”
Another smart move was establishing partnerships with listing agents. “The biggest reason for my increase in business during the last couple of years was pursuing listing agents involved with the transaction,” he said. “When we get a sales contract I make sure to call the listing agent and introduce myself and our team and let them know that everything will run smoothly. I encourage them to call me or one of our processors/assistants with any questions.”
He also sends them regular fax or e-mail updates on customers’ loans. “If we do a good job of keeping them current then we won’t receive lots of calls, and we can spend more time on revenue-producing activities.”
Once the loan closes, Lund follows up with a call to the listing agent to make sure they’re satisfied and to emphasize that “We’d love to have your business, and even be your secondary lender.”
Early on, Lund formed informal alliances with banking representatives. “I knew they are limited as to the scope of products they can offer and at the same time I wasn’t interested in handling HELOCs,” he said. “So I met with the representatives at a few major banks and suggested that we trade referrals whenever appropriate. That has worked very well. I still get referrals from these banks. I would suggest that new originators do something similar. Introduce yourself to bank reps and offer to help them.”
Based on his prior experience, Lund also developed effective referral relationships with CPAs. “CPAs are often involved in the transactions and we strive to make a connection with them right away. I’ll call them and explain that their client is working with us and we’ll share information and comments from satisfied customers so that we might receive their future referrals.”
Title officers are another referral source that Lund has courted. “Many originators don’t think of the title rep as a logical source of business, but I’ve found them to be very good. They come in contact with a lot of Realtors and are able to refer us to the agents.”
In addition, Lund has developed an effective past customer follow-up campaign that includes:
- Follow-up letter sent to new customers. “The letter thanks them and also asks for their referrals of family and friends,” he noted.
- Birthday and holiday cards
- Quarterly informational letter that highlights loan programs and market updates
- E-mail marketing: “We recently started e-mailing general news and industry trend news to past clients and have found this to be very well received.”
One key to his successful customer follow-up has been the use of the GoldMine data management program that maintains a database of all past customers, along with those who have been prequalified but not yet become customers.
“In addition, we’re able to track the quality of referrals,” he said. “For instance, we can analyze the number of an agent’s leads that actually turn into closed loans. It helps us adjust our focus, to be certain that we’re spending more time with those agents that have been more productive, and less with those that are high maintenance.”
Lund has added a solid niche with the investment market of high-rise condos. “Las Vegas has experienced tremendous growth and a big part of that are the condo developments, including a major Trump Tower project. Investors are buying for rental or resale.” His CPA background helps because he is able to provide thorough tax analysis guidance. He has counseled some customers to purchase or exchange their Las Vegas property for property in Phoenix. “When appropriate we encourage clients to diversify and Phoenix is a logical market to do so. We’ve developed relationships with a top Realtor and property manager there to provide our clients with the necessary support.”
Lund has established his own team to help him manage his expanding pipeline. “You can’t do this volume without assistance. You need a strong foundation of good people.” The team currently includes: Chi Odu, processor; Cassie Trujillo, processor; Jennifer Murrieta, processor; Vanessa Quenga, closing coordinator; Cody Workman, client relations; and Nicole Marshall, production manager. He pays their salaries himself. “I knew that when I started here, it was worth the investment to build a support group.”
He takes the majority of the applications over the phone, with one of the processors doing the remainder. “I know many originators consider it important to meet with the majority of their clients,” he said. “But it’s a time factor, this way allows us to do more business. If people want to meet with us they certainly can.”
Team members also play a key role in generating referrals. “We emphasize the importance of asking for referrals whenever they’re on the phone, even while the transaction is underway,” said Lund. “We’ve monitored how well this works and have noticed that referrals tend to decrease whenever we cut back on asking.”
In addition, he is surely one of the few originators whose own team includes a technology coordinator, Anthon Charles, who assists with Internet activity, Web site maintenance, and related areas. “In the short-term this may not be a critical need, but I saw the value of having someone to enhance our technology. As Realtors are becoming more tech savvy, there are more areas to develop. For example, we’re beginning to integrate technology with agents, such as having Web site access for sales contracts instead of faxing everything.”
Lund stressed that he has established such a large team in order to prepare for the future. “We’re planning a number of different activities, such as a joint venture with a real estate firm, and we want to make sure we’re ready for the expected growth.”
In his first three years as an originator, Lund has studied the qualities that SuperStars possess. One of the most important is an inner drive. “To be at the upper levels you need something that pushes you to be successful,” he said.
Availability is another essential ingredient. “I know that some top producers work a 40-hour week or less but I think you’ve got to be available to agents and others more than that.”
He also noted that aspiring SuperStars should make an effort to shadow other top producers. “You need to develop relationships with successful originators, to learn from them and adapt some of their best ideas,” he explained. “If you can’t have a formal mentor, at least meet regularly with those you admire.”
Lund anticipates another strong year, despite the slower overall market. He will continue expanding his referral base, and exploring other ways to work with his Realtor, investment property, and CPA clients. One of his future goals is to add a few originators to his team. “I think I would enjoy coaching other originators to become superstars. I’d like to give something back, to share some of what has made me successful.”