How to develop relationships with Realtors in a purchase market

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As the purchase mortgage market regains steam, and all-digital loans speed up the closing process, loan officers and real estate agents have to know they can count on each other.

"The whole home buying process is disjointed, especially for the consumer and also for the real estate professional when it comes to mortgage and closing," said Tyler Thompson, partner at Second Century Ventures, the investment arm of the National Association of Realtors.

"So getting involved with a high-caliber Realtor [and] having good communication between the lender and these real estate professionals is paramount. Having ongoing communication throughout the funnel is incredibly important and how you build trust."

Real estate agents want assurance they aren't losing deals because of the lending process. One way lenders can allay concerns is with better presentation, said industry experts at National Mortgage News’ Digital Mortgage 2018 conference in Las Vegas.

"I don't think a Realtor wants to get a canned email, that looks like it's been cut and pasted a hundred times, about the one transaction that matters to them," said Dan Stevens, senior vice president at NBKC Bank.

Kneibert, president and managing member of Mortgage Lenders of America, has focused on the purchase market since he started as a loan officer at the privately owned mortgage bank in 2000.

The high point for his bank was in 2012, when its portfolio of purchase mortgages and refinances was evenly split. The bank's portfolio is currently made up of more than 95% of purchase mortgages, and purchases have made up more than 80% of it for the past five years. The bank now has no designated refinance loan officers.

During that time, the bank's strategy for working well with realtors has been simple.

"I'd like to tell you there was something innovative and sexy that came from it," Kneibert said. "What we did was a rather ordinary thing. We talked to Realtors and asked, ‘What is it that you want and tell me what's important to you?’”

Kneibert also believed that loan officers should waste no time in reaching out to real estate agents that are attached to a transaction. "If they aren't making immediate contact with that Realtor, they have no reason to trust you," he said.

Making sure that loan officers can handle purchase mortgages and refinance in a new market is also critical.

"We had dedicated purchase [loan officers] for a couple years, but my take on it is if we are not training these individuals to do both and succeed at closing a purchase transaction, we really aren't doing them any favors as we progress," said Colin Treend, senior vice president of marketing at Cardinal Financial.

Cardinal is aspiring to have its portfolio consist of 85% to 90% purchase mortgages.

"We're transitioning away from dedicated and blending it in with the rest of the group in a careful way,” Treend said.

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