In the great long food chain that is real estate, agents sit at the top. The mortgage loan officer sits right underneath with a bucket trying to get the agents to drop a few trinkets. While this may sound a bit harsh, it is well known in the industry that any successful mortgage professional will have a handful of very strong Real Estate referral partners. For loan officers this is a very successful and time tested marketing strategy. That is why loan originators love Real Estate agents.
Now sitting at the top of the food chain, Mr. or Mrs. Agent gets lots of calls from lenders. I’m sure you’ve been to lunch or, coffee or, a seminar sponsored by a salivating hungry loan officer. You probably felt good about yourself and liked the attention. However, at the end of the day how do you decide which ones to keep in your wallet and which ones to turn away? Because believe me there are plenty of bad loan officers out there.
Finding a good loan officer to work with is almost like dating to find a partner. While it may not be quite as complicated as dating, when the loan officer puts their best foot forward, you do need to know that the bad foot in the back isn’t going to kick you one day before the transaction is supposed to close?
Agents, fear not. Today, I present to you the five critical factors to evaluate the loan officers knocking on your door. If you do your homework as I’ve outlined below, I’m confident you’ll find a good loan officer who will not only do well with your buyers but may even send you some new buyers all together. Now, isn’t that something!
#1. Service: You hear it every day. In any service based industry. And any loan officer with a brain will repeat it verbatim. “I provide good service.” Blah, blah.. blah. But ask them what good service looks like? Does it have a color? a smell? a logo? because, in my opinion good service will always have a distinct flavor. To toot my own horn, my good service is a black and white faxed weekly status report called a “Details. Details” sheet. Ask any agent I’ve worked with and they’ll tell you exactly what I mean. One agent almost asked my wife out because of this!
#2. Communication: In a way this is a subset of service, but I consider it important enough to give it a separate category. A lot of things happen during the loan process, sometimes unexpected things come up. That is why straight, direct and regular communication with the agent is vital in having a smooth transaction. Any loan officer who lacks this skill is not worthy of your time. When it comes to communication, I also like a professional communicator. I personally frown on E-mails with too many grammatical and spelling mistakes, telephone conversations that feel fishy, and unprofessional phone messages.
#3. Attention to detail: When it comes to lending, the devil is truly in the details. Details such as rent payment method (cash or check), alimony payments, current marital status – can all derail a transaction if the loan officer has not asked the right questions while doing the pre-qualification. When selecting an LO I would ask lots of questions and measure their “anal-ness”. The more the better when it comes to a real estate transaction.
#4. Tech-savvy: In today’s world, as an agent I would like to know if the loan officer has a technology footprint. And how big, deep, wide is this footprint? I’m not talking about just having a Blackberry, an iPod and the cool blue tooth ear piece that makes them look all techie. I’m talking about web presence, CRM systems and the size of their offline marketing universe. I suggest searching the loan officer on Google and see what you find.
#5. Muscle Tenacity: Specifically, brain muscle tenacity. This ties into service a bit too, but what I mean is I don’t like quitters. Will the loan officer go the extra mile? Will they take an easy “no” over a slightly difficult “yes”? For example will they run all the loan scenarios? Can they do a thorough cost benefit analysis on an ARM vs. Fixed rate loan? Can they look at the big picture and propose effective solutions for long term financial success using equity management techniques? If the experience of the past few years teaches us anything, it’s that bad loan officers can bring down Wall Street.
Any loan officer who rates high on these five factors will prove to be a valuable business partner. In fact, if you’re working with a strong mortgage professional the food chain is a bit different. The loan officer and you can both be at the top, passing trinkets back and forth. Believe me, I’ve passed on a few very lucrative buyers to the agents I work with. The look on their faces is quite breath taking!