Focus on service as rates rock business

by MPA26 Aug 2013

With mortgage rates rising — and the Fed’s taper looming — brokers are going “old school”and putting fresh emphasis on customer service and good old fashioned marketing.

“If you are just riding the refi train, it’ll turn scary slow for you,” said Troy Trombetta, the Rapid City, S.D., branch manager for Affiliated Mortgage Company. “The refi market is only about rates. When they go up, it’s a deal killer. You have to regear yourself” and pay attention to the homebuyers, he said.

The Mortgage Bankers Association’s refinance index shed 7.7% in the week ending August 17, its biggest weekly fall since late June, and is down 62.1% since peaking in the week ending May 3, the trade group said Wednesday. The refinance share of total mortgage activity also slipped to 62% from 63% the prior week.

“If you don’t have good customer service, you’re going to be S.O.L.” in these changing conditions, said Todd Helpbringer, the president of Helpbringer Mortgage Service in Worthington, Ohio. “It’s time to go old school.”

Helpbringer said he is urging his staff to keep in touch with Realtors and financial planners. “We have to let them know when we have a new product, send them rate sheets,” he said. Helpbringer makes sure all of his brokers send email newsletters at least twice a week and follow up with phone calls. “It’s important that we be more of a presence,” said the 24-year mortgage industry veteran. “You can’t sit back and wait for that refi phone to ring.”

That’s a message that resonates with Scott DiGregorio. “Fifteen years ago I was a refi guy,” he said. “I will never, ever do that again.”

After the housing crash DiGregorio, a Ft. Myers, Fla., based mortgage loan officer, overhauled his business. He began teaching classes in the real estate industry and switched his attention almost entirely to homebuyers. “If you focus on purchases, I believe you have stability,” he said. “Sometimes we spend too much time talking about financing when our clients want to talk about buying a home at the right price. Nobody wants a mortgage. They want a house.”

Trombetta agreed. “We need to focus on the folks chasing a house, not those chasing a rate.”