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Learn how the some of the industry's most successful loan originators get it done with these tricks of the trade from the 2017 Top Producers rankings' top 20 loan officers of the Midwest.
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No. 20 Pete Johnson, University of Iowa Community Credit Union</br> Iowa City, Iowa (No. 87 overall)
How do you develop and maintain relationships with real estate professionals?
I track each agent I have a relationship with by the number and quality of contacts per year. I also track my referral business back to them. I constantly seek out new relationships with agents that I selectively want to do business with and make sure that I put myself in situations in a variety of ways that would keep me in contact with them on a regular basis.
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No. 19 Daryn Peterson, Wintrust Mortgage</br> Chicago, Ill. (No. 85 overall)
Tell us about a goal you've set for your business for the coming year.
I want to help 200 families buy homes.
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No. 18 Matt Adler, Lake Michigan Credit Union</br> Troy, Mich. (No. 84 overall)
There is no shortage of advice on how to be successful in the mortgage industry. What is the best you have been given? And who gave it to you?
The best business card you have is a napkin and a pen. That was 13 years ago, so now it roughly translates to texting but the point is to always be prospecting and ready to make the phone (or text ringtone) ring.
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No. 17 James Pope, Wintrust Mortgage/Barrington Bank and Trust</br> Madison, Wis. (No. 73 overall)
What's your favorite part about being a loan officer?
It is helping first-time homebuyers.
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No. 16 JD Cortese, Guaranteed Rate</br> Chicago, Ill. (No. 65 overall)
What technology has made the biggest impact on how you interact with borrowers? Why?
The online application because it allows clients to apply 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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No. 15 Brian Jessen, Guaranteed Rate</br> Deerfield, Ill. (No. 63 overall)
How do you develop and maintain relationships with real estate professionals?
I develop and maintain relationships with real estate professionals by helping them plan their marketing for the year. I also offer many educational forums, co-branded marketing materials, and create strategic partnerships with other related industries that will benefit their businesses. I get to know them on a more personal level though social functions.
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No. 14 Mike Nielsen, Guaranteed Rate</br> Chicago, Ill. (No. 62 overall)
How do you develop and maintain relationships with real estate professionals?
Don't be afraid to reach out directly and let them know your strategy for getting their buyers closed quickly and efficiently. And then follow through on your promise. Get that first deal from them.
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No. 13 Dean Vlamis, Guaranteed Rate</br> Chicago, Ill. (No. 61 overall)
What technology has made the biggest impact on how you interact with borrowers? Why?
I have always liked the one-on-one approach with my borrowers and walking them through everything. However, I have found that many borrowers prefer using the online loan application. It takes them about 20 minutes to fill out. It gives them the feeling of controlling the process and frees up a lot of my time.
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No. 12 Drew Boland, Guaranteed Rate</br> Chicago, Ill. (No. 60 overall)
If you hadn't become a loan officer, what would you have done instead?
My initial plan was to be a teacher. I would like to think that I am still a teacher in other non-academic capacities today. I like helping people and watching them grow personally. That is rewarding in a way that is so much more than monetary.
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No. 11 Christin Luckman, Guaranteed Rate</br> Chicago, Ill. (No. 57 overall)
If you hadn't become a loan officer, what would you have done instead?If you hadn't become a loan officer, what would you have done instead?
I wanted to be a corporate lawyer growing up. I prepared myself for the business world by obtaining my bachelors of science degree in finance. When I fell into residential lending as an accidental gateway to a different job offer, my path changed. I knew from the first day I looked at a loan file that this would be my career for life.
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No. 10 Barry Schwartz, Perl Mortgage</br> Chicago, Ill. (No. 55 overall)
What's your favorite part about being a loan officer?
Aside from the stress, losing my hair and the pressure to close loans on time? It's the people. I could see hanging out with 95% of my clients.
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No. 9 Ryan Mecum, Guaranteed Rate</br> Chicago, Ill. (No. 53 overall)
There is no shortage of advice on how to be successful in the mortgage industry. What is the best you have been given? And who gave it to you?
Pick up the phone and call people, be it clients, referral partners or your work team. There is no substitute. Joe Phalen, a top producer, shared this with me a long time ago, and it stuck.
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No. 8 Dan Gjeldum, Guaranteed Rate</br> Chicago, Ill. (No. 52 overall)
What's your favorite part about being a loan officer?
It's simply that this career allows me to focus on what's really important in life — my wife and children. There aren't many jobs that allow you to work from anywhere you want, as many hours (or as few) as you want and with no ceiling on what you can make.
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No. 7 John Noldan, Guaranteed Rate</br> Elmhurst, Ill. (No. 33 overall)
What technology has made the biggest impact on how you interact with borrowers? Why?
I would say Facebook and a mobile app I send to real estate agents and clients with my branding. It includes a pre-approval option, rates, mortgage calculator, news on mortgages and more. The app gives them the option to contact me directly and anyone can share it with a push of a button.
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No. 6 Patrick Ruffner, Guaranteed Rate</br> Chicago, Ill. (No. 28 overall)
Tell us about a goal you've set for your business for the coming year.
This year I am transitioning into a management role so my new goal is to help my team reach the same levels of success I have.
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No. 5 Sam Sharp, Guaranteed Rate</br> Chicago, Ill. (No. 25 overall)
What is the biggest challenge facing your local market in 2017?
I think the biggest challenge in our market is the gap between sales price and appraised value. Listing agents are driving a higher price using competing sales instead of closed comps and this makes it difficult to appraise. We are positioned for success against this, but it's going to require attention.
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No. 4 Tom Lavallee, Guaranteed Rate</br> Palatine, Ill. (No. 24 overall)
What's your favorite part about being a loan officer?
Being able to help make my client's biggest life purchase possible. I work with first-time homebuyers to retirees. I began to develop a level of expertise over time, seeing thousands of loan scenarios, real estate transactions, appraisals, etc. I don't think there is a financing scenario that I haven't seen or dealt with over the last 28 years.
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No. 3 Shimmy Braun, Guaranteed Rate</br> Chicago, Ill. (No. 15 overall)
How do you develop and maintain relationships with real estate professionals?
I am old school when it comes to developing and maintaining relationships. It's about networking, meeting new people and using the opportunity to meet agents that are on new loans. My maintainance is through making a phone call every so often, hosting events, emails and the like.
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No. 2 Joe Caltabiano, Guaranteed Rate</br> Chicago, Ill. (No. 9 overall)
There is no shortage of advice on how to be successful in the mortgage industry. What is the best you have been given? And who gave it to you?
Work harder than the next guy; that came from my dad.
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No. 1 Ben Cohen, Guaranteed Rate</br> Chicago, Ill. (No. 6 overall)
What is the biggest challenge facing your local market in 2017?
We are headed for a volatile market as we all wait and see what sort of policies and procedures are put in place by the new administration. The other big challenge is the lack of inventory for buyers. In the first month of the new year, which is typically the slowest time for our business, my phone is ringing off the hook as it feels like the spring market has already hit.