Advice for LO's: What do real estate agents think about loan officers

by 18 Mar 2012

( --  Periodically (meaning, as often as possible) I go to the local Real Estate Agent Association home tour.  I like looking at homes; I especially like looking at them with experts that can tell me useful things about what I'm seeing.  The attendance is fair-to-middling, which is mystifying to me, but the people who come are real pros.

Anyway, this last meeting I was asked to sponsor the event. You know how that works - you bring the donuts and milk and juice, and you get to make a speech.  These are almost never effective - a topic for another time - so rather than blathering on about rates and programs and service, oh my, I decided to ask the agents what they thought about loan officers.

The good news is, I survived.  Anything that doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? At first, they couldn't believe I was serious, that I really wanted to know.  But then I told them that I would put their answers, verbatim with no editing, in this article.  So they sat forward and let me have it.

Here are some of those answers, with my commentary following.

"Don't lie to me."

Frankly, I wasn't much surprised about this one.  It seems so terribly obvious that one shouldn't lie to people, especially those that are supposedly on one's own team, but apparently this message needs delivering, because every single head in the room nodded, and there were a few fervent Amens.  I would imagine that few of us actually set out to tell boldfaced lies, but what about what we here call "forecasting," where we say something like "the underwriter is working that file right now," when the hard truth is that we think the underwriter will get to it sometime today?  That's lying.  We need to never do this.  I realize that we're under a lot of pressure to deliver outstanding results in a tight market, but lying is a risk that cannot be afforded, even where we're talking about non-compliance-related little white lies.  Just tell it like it is.

"Talk to me like I'm an adult, not a six-year old."

My first reaction was "then don't act like a six-year old," but being in a semi-hostile environment I bit my tongue.  Good thing, too, because I was wrong.  It doesn't matter that there are real-estate "professionals" out there that clearly don't read their own documents.  It doesn't matter that some of them are doing the transaction more harm than good.  There is no case in which treating people with respect will produce worse results than insulting them.  No case.  Recently I had a transaction which very nearly fell apart because the buyer's agent simply did nothing at all.  His broker, one of the biggest shots in town, called my team and drilled us for the delays, which were caused entirely by them.  I called him back and explained the situation to him and told him that I refused to allow him to treat my team in that way.  I wasn't rude.  It is possible to be firm without being condescending.  Eventually we reached an understanding, and then this broker saved the deal with some timely intervention.  People will surprise you.  Give them a chance to do it.

"Communicate what's going on with the file."

Self-explanatory.  I know that we all mean to do this, but it gets late, and it's a weekend, and we've already talked to them once today, and besides we told the borrower the status.  Still, make the extra call.  You want more business, don't you?  You think you're going to get it without doing more work?  Not gonna happen.  Make the call.  I asked this directly, too: "You want me to call you and tell you that I don't have anything to tell you?"  "Yes," she said, and there were nods all around.  Remember, they have to call some people, too, and they'll appreciate not having to make stuff up.

"Know something about your programs before you sell my clients a pile of %*(&#."

Oh, baby, did the fur fly on this one.  Nothing, it appears, makes the Realtor more upset than our telling the client that we're doing a particular kind of loan, only to have to switch it because the home or the borrower can't make that program work.  This is mostly professionalism, and we have to be vigilant to program changes all the time.  Never, ever sell a program you can't deliver.  Many times, especially shifting from governments to conventionals or vice-versa, there's a boatload of extra work for the Realtor to do.  Ask all the questions, right up front.  Besides, the beginning is the place where everyone is the MOST motivated to tell you whatever you want to know; exasperation comes later.

"Understand what your real timeframes are, not the timeframes you wish were true."

Brokers, especially, have to be careful about this, but it's big for all of us.  Timelines change weekly.  Underwriting can take a long time, and those timelines have to be written into the purchase contract.  Extending is not just a hassle, it also jeopardizes the borrower, the earnest money, and the home.  Overestimate if you must, and be clear about what time you really need.  ALSO: right after this (see below) one of the Realtors said, "and if it changes, tell me about that right away."

"When you develop a problem with the file, tell me about it immediately."

Riffing off the previous one, there were a good few minutes of chat about this.  They all said they wanted to know every time there was a problem that had any impact at all on the timelines.  They did not necessarily want to know that the 4506-T was rejected because the borrower's middle name didn't match, if that problem got fixed and we were waiting for the appraisal anyway.  But if the credit supplement is delayed and that might affect the projected close, even by a day, they want to know.  Right then, not when the solution has been found.  They'd rather have the bad news (although I suspect that they won't remember that in the moment itself).

"Assume there's something that I can do to help, and let me do it."

This one I was most curious about.  In my office, I'm the quarterback.  I go into every transaction with the mindset that I am the one that is ultimately responsible for everything.  But it occurred to me in this discussion that the good Realtors also have this mindset.  If they're good, they want to help, and in a lot of cases, especially with title companies, they can make things happen faster than we can.  Take the risk that you'll look like you're not Superman, and ask the Realtor to fetch stuff.  They want to.  No, really.  They told me so.

Now, obviously, your results will vary.  Your agents will want their own set of things.  Here's my recommendation: take this article to them, have them read it, and ask them what they want.  How do they want you to communicate with them?  How often (we had a few minutes on that one, too) do they want to hear from you?  What are the specific land mines you should watch out for?

That should help make things go a great deal more smoothly.  So to all my peeps at the North County Home Tour, here you go.  Come on back next month, and I'll tell you what we think of you.

Chris Jones is a branch manager with City First Mortgage Services and a ten-year veteran spanning the best and the worst of times in the industry.  He is the author of the forthcoming book, Mastering the Six Channels of Marketing, a look at why most loan officers can’t even get their mothers to call them back anymore.  Chris arrived in mortgages after careers with tech startups, stockbrokering, and running a presidential campaign. He’s a sought-after speaker and a part-time opera singer, which he insists isn’t as impressive as it sounds.  Chris and his wife Jeanette live in Lehi, UT with their eight children.  He can be reached at 801-850-3781 or at


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