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Company Owner Is Still In Trenches, Seeking Leads

DEC 28, 2012 5:54pm ET

Ken Perlmutter remains a top producing day-to-day originator, giving him a perspective he shares with his sales staff.

When it comes to providing advice to a sales staff, Ken Perlmutter, who is one of the owners of Perl Mortgage, can do so with some authority and talk with them about dealing with current business conditions. He finished 45th on the 2011 Origination News top 150 producer list, with $75 million. With 2012 ending today, he has originations of $57 million.

Perlmutter got into the mortgage business from doing sales for Allen Bradley (which was in industrial controls) for a very simple yet common reason—he was looking for a position where he could earn more money.

At the time he started in the business in 1993, his wife was pregnant with their first set of twin boys (four years later they would have a second set of twin boys) and seeing well into the future Perlmutter was looking to start saving for their college educations so they could attend any school they desired.

So he started moonlighting in the mortgage origination business. He and his wife had refinanced their own home for the third time in several years and at that last refi, the new mortgage broker compensation disclosure rules had come into effect.

“I saw how much money he was making and I realized how long it took me and how much work I had to do to make that amount of money doing what I did for a living,” so Perlmutter asked the originator if there was any way he could get into the mortgage business.

So he started working at night, working telemarketing leads and did that for several months. But having an entrepreneurial bent, with a wife who at the time owned her own business, Perlmutter opened Perl Mortgage in October 1994. He brought in a partner, Steve Laner, in 1998.

Both are top producers and that gives them that unique viewpoint when it comes to dealing with the sales force. Perl Mortgage is going to fund $1.6 billion this year, centered in the Chicago area.

“We’re a pretty good-sized company and the owners are producers. We get it, we know what our loan officers go through because we live it every day,” Perlmutter said. “I’m in the trenches every day.”

The company prides itself on the number of high-volume producers it has working there. Perl Mortgage has five people on the ON Top 150 list, including Laner at No. 86.

He said any tools that he needs to write a loan is the same as any of his producers big or small need. He works with the people who produce $50 million and those who do just $10 million or $20 million.

“I know what it takes to get it done,” and has a feel for what these originators need in terms of support.

He added he does play golf and does make time for family activities including being home for dinner every night, but otherwise has very little use for idle time.

Perl Mortgage has “an amazing management team” which he supervises, plus he still enjoys writing loans.

The company is growing. Until recently it had just five offices in the Chicago area, although able to do business in 14 states.

This past year some changes at the company that made it stronger and its ownership more comfortable with establishing a footprint in other states. So it has opened offices in Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Oklahoma, and is licensed in 16 states total. For 2013 it is looking to add a presence in other Midwestern states.

For his own business, Perlmutter’s main source of leads is from referrals; he uses Mortgage Returns to aid him in mining his past clients.

But even before starting to use Mortgage Returns he always worked that database, he noted. “My byline is 'your lender for life.’”

He tried to stay in touch with clients up to 12 times a year through calendars, cards, newsletter and the like. Perlmutter also has an email that goes out every Monday morning, called “Mortgage in a Minute,” discussing such trends as rate movements.

When it comes to social media marketing, Perlmutter does have a LinkedIn account. Perl Mortgage has a fan page on Facebook.

The company also does video blogs on current real estate topics. Some of those videos, he noted, have a humorous twist. Video makes the topic more alive for people and they relate better to it, he said.

On the B2B side he works with investment advisors, attorneys and a couple of Realtors, he said. But the majority of his business comes from that database of between 1,800 and 2,000 people.

Perlmutter is still getting business from contacts he made going back to the days when he was just doing mortgages on the side.

He stays in contact with the people he worked with at Allen Bradley 20 years ago and he still does their loans as well as loans for people he called on as a salesman at that company.

The philosophy for keeping contacts for that long is very simple, he said—“do the right thing.”

Given his background in electrical engineering, “I love to analyze numbers, I like to help people. I think this is a great business; we’re doing wonderful things for people.

“We give quality loans to those people who deserve it. So everyone is a potential client,” Perlmutter declared.

He looks at what the people are trying to accomplish with the mortgage before recommending a product to fit their needs.

Perl Mortgage is a mortgage banker that funds the vast majority of its production; it does broker certain products.

As a mortgage banker, the company has much more control of the transaction; it became one in 1998 after the wholesaler it was working with, InterFirst, said it was too busy to close a purchase deal.

What helped Perlmutter and Perl Mortgage survive the downturn, he said, was being conservative and concentrating on doing quality loans.

Both Perlmutter and his partner live off their loan commissions, allowing them to leave assets in the business and build net worth. That net worth gave the warehouse providers’ confidence in the company and it is now allowing it to grow.

As for the support the company provides its staff, it has a loan officer assistant program, where each LO is teamed up with an assistant; high-volume producers get a dedicated assistant.

That is a change the company adopted because of the new reality of the mortgage business where there is now so much more paperwork required with a loan. “We rather have the sales people go out and sell as much as they can and we’ll give you some support in the office,” Perlmutter said.

He is part of a group called Vistage whose branches consist of 12 to 16 company CEOs and have monthly meetings. In sense they serve as his board of directors and serve as a sounding board for ideas.

He has been able to accomplish the financial security he wanted when he started in the mortgage business. The older boys are sophomores at the University of Michigan while the younger ones are sophomores in high school.

By doing the right thing for the consumer, it ends up being the right thing for his business. And both individually and as a company he is poised to capitalize on the years ahead, helping qualified borrowers get the money to purchase a home.