Going Social

Many mortgage marketing authorities recommend originators establish a reputation as the experts on housing finance in their local areas by writing articles for local publications as well as for their own lead creation efforts.

Citywide Financial Corp.’s president Michael Deery has followed that advice and his production has benefitted. He finished 2012 as the 91st ranked producer on the updated Origination News Top 200 list with volume of $89 million (from 229 loans).

“That’s my No. 1 source of business. Educational marketing I call it,” and it is not just in print. Deery also has a social media marketing effort. He has a Facebook page (in addition to his personal page) called “Free Resources for CA Real Estate Agents.”

It is a great tool for him to get his message out to a large number of potential referral sources and customers. The page has over 7,000 likes (as well as a button labeled “Meet Michael” and another for a free newsletter).

Facebook is a free service and those who like the page can get a message at least a couple of times a day. To get that kind of exposure to 7,000 people through direct mail marketing can cost a lot of money, Deery pointed out.

Social media is “a fantastic way of getting your message out there. You just have to take the time to write something every day and write some material that people will be interested in, to keep them coming back,” he declared.

It was just a couple of years ago that he realized the value of Facebook. In the past there was just his personal page and he began to get a few loans from people who saw the page and became clients or passed his information on to friends and family.

And then the light bulb came on, as he put it and saw if he get his message out to an audience that wants to hear it every day, he realize the potential for growing his business.

Besides the social media outlet for his writings, Deery also has a presence in the more traditional print media as well. He writing appears in the San Diego Union-Tribune every other Saturday (which also appears on its website).

Besides expanding his brand, “you can get a little more credibility when you are sending stuff to clients, and they can click on an article in the local paper.”

He writes about different programs in these articles. One recent one was about a 3% downpayment conventional loan program that does not require private mortgage insurance. That program, he added, has been “going gangbusters” in his market in recent months.

Plus, Deery does a biweekly email newsletter. It started in 2008, after the housing market collapsed and he realized he needed to come up with new ideas to get some business in the door.

So he started collected real estate agent and other real estate professional’s contact information. The key is to be consistent and send the email out at the same time every time, as well as be consistent in the messaging.

Deery was born in Ireland and came to the United States in 1994 to play college soccer. After graduating, he “stumbled in” to the mortgage business. His first financial services job was at the old Norwest Financial for a year, where he sold all kinds of products and even had to do collections (where he would knock on people’s doors).

Back in 1999, first mortgage rates were at 10%, and Deery commented that those new to the business and having worked only in the 5% environment don’t know how lucky they are.

After one year at Norwest, he started looking around for a company that did mortgages only—“I was good at mortgage sales; I didn’t like any other part of the job.”

He picked up the yellow pages and called the local Household Finance office. He spoke with someone there and asked how much the top producer made. After finding that out, he got an interview at the local office and soon got a job.

Household was a part of HSBC; eventually Deery went to work at another unit of that company, Decision One, where he was an account executive at the wholesaler.

That experience gave him a great perspective on how the wholesale channel worked, where his duties included helping mortgage brokers put files together.

So in 2004, he opened up Citywide Financial, which is a broker shop.

In the past five years, those who have survived in the industry has gone through some difficult times, but as Deery explained, “the broker world is all I know, so I haven’t gone to mini-correspondent yet, which I may have to do,” because of all the changes brought on by Dodd-Frank. But, he added, as of now mortgage originators really doesn’t know what those changes are going to bring.

“I like to adapt with the times. I like being a broker just because I have 100% control of Citywide.

“I do have tremendous relationships with a couple of wholesale lenders,” including United Wholesale Mortgage, which is closing purchase loans in 15 days.

“Is it better on the banker side? I really don’t know. I think it is fine on the broker side” for now, but the federal and/or state regulators could throw another curve and brokers might have to make another shift, he commented.

Deery believes that being a small business owner means he is more flexible and capable of making that shift. “That is one positive aspect of being a broker, that you are small and you can make the changes quickly to re-adapt to whatever environment you are in. That is why a lot of brokers have been able to survive the last few years.”