Working with real estate agents is key to any mortgage loan officer’s success.
Nearly 90 percent of homebuyers use a real estate agent, and roughly 80 percent of recent homebuyers from Gen X and millennial generations finance their home purchase.1, 2 Many of those turn to their real estate agent to recommend a loan officer, so working effectively with agents can help grow your business.
In fact, David Schnepp, Senior Vice President, Central Carolina Area Manager for SunTrust Mortgage, tells new officers that they should be spending about 60-70 percent of their time developing relationships with real estate agents.
“You have to be out there making those sales calls,” he says. “You have to be visible, and you have to be consistent in your efforts. It really should be a big part of your business.” He tells loan officers to strive for maintaining referral relationships with 12 to 15 agents, with about three to five that give you all or most of their business.
And if you have an excellent relationship with a real estate agent, he or she can expand your network infinitely. Susan Fraley, a REALTOR® with Keller Williams Realty First Atlanta, says she carries a stack of her favorite loan officer’s business cards to give out when talking to For Sale By Owner contacts to let them know they need to pre-qualify their prospects. Fraley will also invite lenders she works with to attend open houses, broker opens and meetings of her networking group.
If you want that kind of relationship with a real estate agent, here are a few tips to get there.
1. Follow up, follow up, follow up
When pursuing agents to work with, consistent, diligent follow up is vital.
“Follow up, follow up, and more follow up,” Schnepp says. “Always set up the next meeting before (at least in your mind) prior to leaving any meeting so the expectations are that you will be back to provide them with something of value to help them grow their business. Tell the agents, ‘The way I’m following up to get your business, is the same way I’m going to be following up with you when we work together, and the same way I will be following up with your clients.’”
What does that look like? Fraley has some ideas:
“I appreciate a loan officer who stays in touch with me, and lets me know of new [financing] programs that come along that can help me help more clients,” Fraley says. “I really like a weekly email with news, tips and interest rates, or hearing about a new app. Invite me to a continuing education class coming up, introduce me to your networking group, stop by my open house or broker open with information about a new loan program,” she suggests.
2. Get to know each agent individually through real conversations
Don’t make any assumptions that you know how to deliver what an agent needs. “Ask them, ‘What’s the most important thing you’re looking for in a Loan Officer?’” Schnepp says. “You have to ask them because every Realtor is different and has a different idea of ‘what is important’ or ‘what they are looking’ for in a lender. Don’t assume you know it. For example, it could be accountability, it could be accessibility, it could be reliability, it may be communication or knowledge or something completely different. You don’t want to assume you know it. And you want to match ‘what they are looking for’ with what you can provide to them.”
Take their communication preferences, for example.
“The number-one thing I want from a lender is communication,” Fraley says. “Let me know how the loan is coming along. You don’t have to call me—[just] send me an email or a text. Most of all, let the client know how the process is going. Overcommunicate and everyone will appreciate it.”
But Schnepp once worked with an agent who only wanted to hear about the loan once it closed—the rest of the communication could happen with the clients. That is what he provided, and she became his top Realtor for referrals. She did not want to be bogged down with mortgage updates but simply wanted to sell more homes.
Though that’s an exception, the fact is you won’t know exactly what the agent wants until you have that conversation.
3. Set expectations for agents and clients
It’s important to understand how and when the agent works, and what kind of expectations they have. Fraley says she expects loan officers to reach out to new clients as soon as possible, even if it’s just to say “hello” and schedule a time to talk. Mine those key expectations from an agent when you meet and in turn, share with the agent what to expect from the process.
Schnepp also says that setting expectations with clients, so they understand what is required and why it’s required, goes a long way. Map out the communication plan and process with your agent and everyone will know what to expect.
4. Reinforce the home buying process with gusto
“Clients see the loan officer as the biggest barrier to that new home—they’re the person keeping them from buying and judging them and their credit,” Fraley says. “Be excited for them.”
Schnepp sees this excitement as a valuable service to agents, reinforcing the buyer’s decision and acting as a sound second opinion, especially if buyers start getting cold feet. “I tell them this is the best decision they’ve ever made. I help get them fired up to the buy the house.”