A word I hear from a lot of lenders and loan originators describing their business these days is “overwhelmed.” Record-low mortgage rates combined with a steady stream of refis and a rise in existing home sales has pushed the capacities of many to the max.
Originators who were accustomed to moving three to five loans a month through their pipeline are now moving seven to 10. Those who were closing 10 deals a month now close 15-20 a month. From a business standpoint it’s clear that opportunities are out there, loans are being made, and life is good.
On the darker side of that coin, increased volumes have pressed many people and their loan production platforms to a breaking point. Some are working 80 hours a week. Others are buried in paperwork and days behind in returning their phone calls and emails. (One originator I know literally was rushed from his office to the hospital with a nervous breakdown.) Having lots of business under your belt is a good thing—being able to manage it effectively is another.
Can it be done? Absolutely. I see many high-volume originators who are now generating millions in loan production each month handle the extreme demand quite comfortably. Here are a few of the habits and practices they follow that allow them to make that happen:
1. Use a to-do list. A proactive, on-purpose and preplanned day allows you to better manage (and protect) your valuable time. Build a to-do list every morning. Rank that list (1-2-3, etc.) in order of the most important activities to the least important activities to get done that day. Keep the list with you all day—and follow it like a road map. You get control of your job when you get control of your time. And to do that you must be able to...
2. Manage your interruptions. There are only three things that can happen to you every day outside of your to-do list—opportunities, emergencies and interruptions. Opportunities are new loans, referrals and chances to make money. Jump on them. (It’s OK to park busywork for an hour for a new $250,000 loan application.) Emergencies are critically important problems that need your immediate attention (i.e., you have a closing at 3:00 today and the package isn’t ready.) It’s common sense to stop what you are doing and take care of an emergency; you’d be crazy not to. Outside of opportunities and emergencies, all else that happens to you throughout the day are only interruptions of what you had planned. Avoid the temptation to respond to them and the people who create them. Leave it all for later. Put these actions and requests at the bottom of your to-do list and deal with them once everything else is done. You will be astonished at the difference this makes in your productivity (and your sanity).
3. Put in the hours. Originators with lots of work need to work lots of hours. That’s the price you pay for the money you make, and making more money dictates you pay a higher price. Coming in to the office at 9:00 a.m. and leaving at 4:30 p.m. doesn’t leave you enough time to handle your daily load of work, follow up on leads, and stay in touch with your referral partners the way you should. It takes time to get things accomplished, and those who are putting in an eight to nine hour day—every day—are getting it done.
4. Pick up the pace. Top-producing loan originators move fast. They think quick, talk quick and make quick decisions. They always seem to be in accelerated, perpetual motion while others are parked lethargically behind their desks. Look at the pace you follow every day. Are you working at 20 miles an hour or 60 miles an hour? A faster pace means you can get more done in the same amount of time. You’ll also create more positive energy and excitement in your job and with those around you. Doesn’t that sound good right about now?
5. Focus on originating loans. Now is no time for you to play loan processor, underwriter, closer, appraiser, real estate agent or chairman of the Federal Reserve. Now is the time for you to play the role you are best equipped to play: loan originator. Avoid the temptation to get sidetracked and do other people’s jobs for them. Pay attention to doing your own good job finding and originating new mortgage loans. There are plenty of them out there, and the bulk of those loans are going to the real “originators” who are out there going after them.
6. Work with serious borrowers. Some originators are wasting a ridiculous amount of time and effort fooling around with half-qualified or half-motivated borrowers. With all the opportunities available in this market, that can be an expensive mistake. At your first encounter, find out if the borrower is ready, willing and able to move forward. Run an initial credit check before meeting face-to-face. Make sure the borrower has all the necessary documentation and paperwork in hand prior to taking a loan application. Create a sense of urgency with every borrower by saying: “Getting your mortgage loan to a smooth and timely closing is as much your responsibility as it is mine.” Serious borrowers turn into closed loan transactions, commissions and satisfied clients. The rest just waste your time.
7. Enjoy the gift you have been given. It wasn’t that long ago many loan originators were wondering if they’d even have a job for much longer. Now, things are turning around and business is booming. Give thanks for those precious referrals. Smile every time your phone rings. Enjoy having too many emails to read and too many people who need to talk to you. A big part of being effective in today’s busy times comes from your mindset. If you feel overwhelmed, harried and frustrated, it will directly affect your work and your daily productivity. A positive attitude and an appreciative outlook go a long way when you’re putting in a busy day.