Billion dollar originator: Don't dismiss clients who don't qualify

by Ryan Smith24 Oct 2013

As the country’s first billion-dollar originator, Greg Frost – founder of Frost Mortgage in Albuquerque, N.M. – knows about achieving goals. And one key, he says, is to start small.

Speaking at the National Association of Mortgage Professionals (NAMB) conference in Las Vegas Monday, Frost gave brokers strategies he said would increase their business by at least one loan per month.

“One extra loan a month doesn't sound like much, but one extra loan a month is what you've got to get to before you get to two extra loans a month, and two extra loans a month is what you've got to get to before you get to three extra loans a month,” Frost said. “For some of you, one loan a month could be a 10% increase in your business.”

Frost, who has been originating loans since 1972, said brokers make themselves stand out from the pack now the same way they did 40 years ago.

“What did we have back in 1972? We had an FHA loan, we had a VA loan, we had a Fannie Mae loan, and there was this newcomer called Freddie Mac,” he said. “We all had about 4 or 5 different loan program, and that's what we had to sell. So how did we differentiate ourselves? Service. Service back then was not just a word -- it had a face on it. your service platform was your service platform, and it distinguished you from others.

“How many loan programs do we have today? We've got FHA, we've got VA, we've got USDA, which we used to call Rural Housing,” he said. “We've got Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac. ... What else have we got? Not much. ... So from 1972 to 2013, we're right back where we started. So how do we differentiate ourselves? Rate? Fees? I don't know how many of you have control over your rates or fees; I don't. How am I going to differentiate myself? How am I going to build my business, or rebuild my business? You've got to put a face on service.”

And service, Frost said, includes talking to as many potential customers as possible – and not dismissing the ones who don’t qualify right away.

“I originated loans from 1972, but we didn't keep track back then, so the billion dollars was originated between 1985 and 2000. ... The bottom number is about 10,000 loans in 16 years,” he said.  “But you know that if we funded 10,000 loans, how many applications did I take? 15,000. How many pre-quals did I do? 30,000. That's a lot of people. ... I would just sit in front of people all day and talk to them.”

If a customer didn’t qualify for a mortgage right away, Frost said, he would give them tools to help build their credit for the future.

“When you're talking to someone about a mortgage, they're one of the few people in the marketplace who's raised their hand and said 'I want a loan,'” he said. “You pay for these lists of people, so if they don't qualify right away, don't discard them.”
Frost said he would put the customer’s information on what he called a “Don’t Give Up” form that gave them a written plan to improve their credit.

“They would leave with their dignity, and with a form that showed them how they could become credit-worthy,” he said.

Once a month, on a Saturday, Frost would contact everyone in his “Don’t Give Up” file to check on their progress.

“I built that database up, and when I got 50-60 people in that database I knew that every time I made those calls on Saturday, I'd get one new loan application,” he said.

Frost also stressed the importance of building relationships with real estate agents and builders, getting referrals from satisfied customers, and even making sure to attend every closing. But one of the biggest secrets of success, he said, was simple hard work.

“Get as many people in front of you as you possibly can, and either get them a mortgage or show them how to get one,” he said.


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