PO: What prevents some originators from taking their business to that next level?
HH: I can see the lack of consistency in treating this as a business, as a profession more than anything else. When you treat it as ‘I’m just a loan officer,’ and you keep yourself within the limits of a loan officer, rather than ‘let me look outside the box see what else I can add as an added value to my services. How can I educate myself? How can I be knowledgeable about the related issues that happens within the industry? Whether it’s zone changing, construction laws, real estate laws, title and escrow laws, those are the things that I’ve noticed a lot of loan officers don’t try to get involved to educate themselves.
PO: A majority of your business comes from referrals, but it wasn’t always that way. How did you build your client base?
HH: I remember when I started over a decade ago, I had a little portfolio binder where I had my rate sheets and guidelines and I used to actually walk up and down Ventura Boulevard (which is a main street in part of the San Fernando valley that I live in) and basically knocked on every business door and introduced myself as a local lender and tried to make myself available to answer their questions on the spot. And if I didn’t have an answer to their question, I told them I would get back to them within 24-48 hours with an update, whether it was a good answer, bad answer, or if I needed more time. So my database grew by basically putting in the hours and keeping my promise, which was, I will get back to you, regardless of having a good or bad answer.
PO: Would that work in today’s digital-loving environment?
HH: Absolutely. I still think, even though everyone talks about Millennials and smartphones, they spend enough time on Facebook, on Instagram, on Snapchat, [that] when it comes to making such important decisions in life, even they realize that their initial contact shouldn’t be through someone that they have no experience, no knowledge, no one-on-one contact with. Throughout the process, once I do my introduction, the majority of business gets done through email and phone, but if I was about to meet with a new referral source, I would want to meet with them, shake their hand, talk to them, and say what I can do for them to help and grow their business. If it’s a CPA, financial advisor, new real estate agent or new real estate firm, doesn’t matter. Even though everyone says it’s a digital age, handshakes matter. We’re in an industry where we make a half a million to a million dollar decision for people. So we can’t say it doesn’t matter. And a lot of people are first-time homebuyers, they’re scared to go through the process. So they want to know there is a real person behind the words or behind the text that they’re reading.
PO: Where should new agents focus the bulk of their energy in order to get the best returns?
To the new agents, what I always say is, grass is not greener on the other side. It’s always been a dilemma when a new loan officer wants to get into the industry and they’re starting to think, alright, who can help me build my business? In my opinion, that’s the wrong approach. As a new originator, everyone can offer you pretty much the same thing. What really matters is, to pick the right platform that is aligned with your business model and goals. There are many different ways that you could do this, but if you don’t have a business plan, if you don’t have a structure to start working off of, you’re going to fail. You can’t be all over the place. You can’t jump from one branch to another in the hopes that that one is better. At the end of the day, they’re all the same. No one will do the work for the new individual. We all can just provide training, support, and guidance. So if I was about to give feedback to someone who wants to get started, the first thing that I would say is to write down your business plan. Make sure the person that you want to work with understands your business plan and can help you execute it.
PO: In addition to being a mortgage advisor and vice president of Crestico, Inc, you’re also the president of California Association of Mortgage Professional’s North Los Angeles chapter. What’s the benefit in joining a professional organization?
HH: At the time that I got involved as a new individual in the business, I needed an organization that could give me support, guidance, training outside of a normal, day-to-day sales operation. I could always get my sales training from my team leader or broker, but where the broker – any broker or any team leader – may come short is their lack of knowledge of what’s going on in the industry beyond interest rates and mortgage programs. How does changing laws affect my industry in six months, in one year, in two years? When laws are changing, there’s always going to be a period of time where there’s uncertainty in a market. Lenders don’t know what to do, compliance officers don’t know what to do, and as a result, loan officers don’t know what they’re able to do. But being in forefront of the change allows me to read the deals, hear from industry professionals, understand what will happen and how it will impact the business and the industry, and be prepared for it.
If you consider yourself a mortgage originator or professional and if you want to be that go-to person for your clients, for your referral partners, you need to have more than an email address and rate sheet and a guideline. You need to be able to help them and educate them on what’s changing and how that change will affect your business, which, as a result, could affect your referral partner’s business.
Interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
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