Successful mortgage originators move the discussion away from rates

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The first words out of many consumers' mouths when they make the initial call to a mortgage loan officer is "what are your rates?" And that holds true even when interest rates are at or near record lows, as is the case now.

For the top producers, many say a key to success involves taking that initial conversation with a potential borrower beyond the rate question. It requires having conversations that bear similarities to a financial adviser — in short, guiding customers to think about purchasing a home as one part of a broader financial plan.

(Note: This year's annual survey closed in February, so responses may not fully reflect how respondents have incorporated the impact of the coronavirus pandemic into their thinking.)

"I focus the conversation on the competitive nature of the housing market and what it will take for them to be successful in owning a home, period," said Umar Gebril, area manager for Academy Mortgage in Seattle.

Another successful tactic gets the client to open up and disclose their entire picture, not just speaking about the house they are buying.

"My intake process involves asking probing questions to better understand the customer's situation, important property details, and taking more of a consultative approach to the whole process," Michael DeRaspe, a private bank lending officer in KeyBank's Portland, Maine office, stated.

And that includes pointing the borrower in a different direction than they anticipated.

"I listen to the wants, needs, and goals of every family I work with and I ask the questions they may not have considered," said Lance Johnson, a mortgage loan originator at Regions Mortgage in Charlotte, N.C. "Many times the ideas I present are a complete 180 from what they thought they wanted and needed. This builds credibility and shows I am a pro. It also gives them the clarity to make a great financial decision."

Service remains a differentiator over a pure discussion of rates, said Jimmy Alexander, an assistant branch manager and senior loan officer at SWBC Mortgage in Killeen, Texas. "Rates are not as big a deal as service from what I can see. In my area, we have to give great service to all of our clients to stand out and make a connection."

Making an in-person connection is another way to move the discussion beyond just rates. "The objective of my first conversation with a new lead is to set a face-to-face appointment," according to Joshua Gullick, senior loan officer with Summit Funding in San Diego. "Once the customer can see in-person the futility in quoting a rate before knowing their credit score, income, down payment and timeline to purchase, the topic generally doesn't come up again until they're in-contract."

The loan officer must be able to stay true to word when talking to a client.

"Each borrower is unique and I offer only what I can truly commit: Not a quote; a commitment," said Stacy Orozco, a senior loan officer with PRMI in Scottsdale, Ariz. "Evaluating each scenario is key. Top notch communication and service. I provide my social survey link to show what others have said and/or experienced working with me. I try and treat everyone like my family."

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