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Teaching Loan Officers Military Borrowers' Needs

NOV 27, 2012 4:22pm ET

Fairway Independent Mortgage recently held a “boot camp” in Tucson, Ariz., to train its employees to learn how to best serve military clients and become “Military Mortgage Specialists.”
To Louise Thaxton, who is a branch manager and head of Fairway’s Mortgage Military Specialist division (and a columnist for Origination News), those who serve in our nation’s armed forces should be honored because of them our country’s values are protected.
They have a different work/life style than civilian consumers, especially now given the protracted period of engagement the military has had in Iraq and Afghanistan. And there are a number of issues involved with those who serve overseas, including financial concerns that are unique to the lifestyle. This includes having to make financial decisions while thousands of miles from home and under the specter of combat.
For example, a young couple just walked into Thaxton’s office, both in the military and deployed at the same time in Afghanistan. They were stationed four hours away from each other and saw each other two times in a one-year period.
They come home, the wife gets pregnant, they have a baby and now they want to buy a house.
On top of which, they are also dealing with what they went through while serving overseas.
So mortgage professionals “need to go above and beyond” to help these people. Armed services personnel are also not used to working with civilians on a daily basis and the interaction could be rough sometimes, she said. Some might (some people say all) even have post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sometimes the process can be stressful and frustrating for the typical home purchaser; add in the stresses of military life and that is magnified.
The designation of Military Mortgage Specialist is exclusive to Fairway and provides a platform whereby loan professionals become thoroughly equipped to expertly handle the mortgage loan needs of active duty and veteran clients. The designation requires attendance at a two-day boot camp (or “basic training”) and is followed by a 90-day coaching, mentoring and training program whereby individuals are coached and instructed on how to best meet the specific home loan needs and requirements of active duty military and veterans.
Holly Petraeus, the wife of Gen. David Petraeus, current head of the Central Intelligence Agency and former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said the military is “a targeted population,” Thaxton added.
This group typically has a higher level of debt than civilians and many are targets for unscrupulous lenders. Petraeus said that military clients need to be educated about financial needs, but also that those who serve those clients need to be a watchdog for their interests, Thaxton continued. She decided to answer Petraeus’ call and “be a watchdog for the warrior, because I could see where they were a very target population.”
So she brought this cause to the attention of Fairway’s management and the company has embraced it.
Those who want to be a Military Mortgage Specialist must know what they are doing in order to help these clients. For example, get all of the information when the client first comes in.
Having a checklist is important. Military personnel use a Mission Essential Task List, METL for short. “They do not even start a mission without having that METL fill out complete in front of them. They know exactly down to the detail what they are going to do,” Thaxton said.
These clients need to be treated as they are used to operating in the military; that checklist is the mortgage equivalent of the METL.
They are very accustomed to taking orders, so if you ask them to give you something at a specific time, they will comply, she added.
It is also important to close loans for these people fast. Sometimes these families are temporarily living in a hotel room and so they need their property purchase completed quickly.
“To close a loan fast you have to do it right, you got to do it right up front and you have to have a team that works together,” Thaxton said.
These clients might need extra care, but it doesn’t mean being “soft” with these people; it means mortgage originators must be “professional” with them, she said.
The primary product for current and retired military clients is the Veterans Administration-guaranteed mortgage. Loan originators need to know the ins and outs of this product.
So at Fairway’s boot camp, attendees get why having this designation is special and why loan officers and other in the mortgage process dealing with this group need to take it, Thaxton said. Her entire team has attended the boot camp training.
The course syllabus covers standards and practices and includes an operations guide.