Targeting the Right Agents

NOV 16, 2012 5:31pm ET

With these amazingly low mortgage interest rates, home sales are on the rise. Real estate agents I talk with all over the country tell me they are seeing more traffic in their open houses, they are getting more phone calls on their listings, and working up more sales contracts than they have in a long time. Couple that opportunity with what many say is the beginning of the end of the refis, and you have many mortgage loan originators today looking to expand their purchase loan volume by placing their faces in front of more Realtors.
It’s a fact that among all the sources of purchase loan business out there, real estate agents are on top of the list. Surveys reveal that in today’s market, Realtors control where one out of every three buyers gets their home financing.
Many highly successful originators owe the lion’s share of their business (and income) to strong relationships with real estate agents who keep them busy with a steady stream of leads and referrals throughout the year.
But the key to working with agents successfully isn’t how many agents you work with; it’s working with the right agents. If you are looking to expand your Realtor referral network by targeting some potential new prospects, consider these five very important questions:
1. Is the agent full-time? There are a tremendous number of agents out there who look at real estate as a hobby or a “sideline.”
Perhaps they are semi-retired, or have another career going on, or they just don’t want to fully commit themselves to a career in real estate. Whatever the reason, avoid them at all costs.
It’s difficult enough today for full-time agents to make a living, let alone someone working at it part-time. Look at it this way: If you are a full-time, mortgage professional dedicated to your business and to your success, why would you want to work with an agent who doesn’t feel the same way?
2. Is this agent successful? I learned long ago that if you want to be successful you must surround yourself with successful people.
You are only as good as the company you keep, and the real estate agents you keep company with can make or break your chances for growing your purchase loan volume and writing more business.
Find out how many closings the agent has attended so far this year—if necessary just come right out and ask. You have a right to know about this agent and the level of volume he or she is doing.
(Consider this: If you have been to 45 closings so far this year and the agent has only been to four, does that sound like the beginnings of a productive, profitable relationship for you?)
Busy, successful loan originators—like you—should be working with busy, successful agents.
3. Is there a product match? For you to help an agent’s buyers obtain home financing, you have to be able to offer the products the agent’s buyers want.
To work with an agent who specializes in million-dollar homes, you need a strong and competitive jumbo product. If the agent deals with a lot of first-time home buyers, you must offer and be well versed in Federal Housing Administration-insured products, state housing finance agency programs, low downpayment loans and other mortgage products for that clientele.
Early in your conversations with a new Realtor referral source, find out the type of home buyers you’ll be dealing with and be sure you have the loan programs available and the expertise required to help them. Otherwise, your new relationship will go nowhere fast.
4. Is there a personality match? The right chemistry can make a world of difference in any relationship, personal or business.
Be aware that when you meet a new agent and talk about referring buyers, you two may be working together for the next five or 10 years, maybe longer.
You want to be in business with people you like, respect and with whom you get along.
If your style is more personal, casual and fun loving, you’ll quickly clash with someone who is an intense, hard-nosed, workaholic Realtor.
By the same token, if the agent wants to spend all day talking about his family problems or her cats, and you are a serious businessperson looking to get things done...well, you get the idea.
Match up with people who you “click” with and the two of you will get along swimmingly.
5. Does the agent “get it”? Some Realtors will drive you crazy with their constant need to be kept in the loop on a daily basis.
Some even try to advise their home buyers on loan programs and what they should pay for in closing costs. Working with that kind of agent will cause you an unnecessary amount of time and frustration.
Really good Realtors understand the market, understand the real estate business, and most importantly understand your job as a lender. They are busy people out there looking for more buyers and sellers every day, and they don’t have the time or interest in telling you how to do your job.
They trust your guidance and expertise in home financing, they make a solid referral, and they step out of your way and let you do your job.
That’s an agent who gets it. And that’s the type of agent you want to be working with.