How to build successful referral relationships

by Michael Zuren12 Aug 2013

A study being conducted which interviewed top real estate agents on marketing strategies and the source of their business found that real estate agents identified referrals as their number one source of business.

Referrals easily led all other sources of business that real estate agents identified in the study. Understanding this aspect of the loan officer/realtor relationship may significantly increase referral business for loan officers and lead to the creation of additional realtor/loan officer fruitful relationships. In a recent study conducted with highly successful real estate agents located in Northeastern Ohio, the study found one of the main themes real estate agents were concerned with to cultivate continued success was a happy customer. One participant in the study commented “my success is due to wanting to make my customers happy... I do what I have to do to make them happy and by ensuring they have a good experience in all aspects of buying a home”.

Another participant in the study explained how happy customers have significantly increased her business. According to this participant “always make sure your people are happy because if they are happy they will always come back to you and refer people to you… whether they are buying a luxury home or buying their first home you are fulfilling their dreams”. The real estate agents defined a happy customer as a homebuyer that received honest information, received timely communication throughout the home buying process, and were given reasonable expectations at the beginning of their home buying search. The real estate agents stated the value of a real estate team comprised of strong relationships between a loan officers, title representatives, home inspectors, and real estate agents yielded exemplary customer service and happy customers.

Loan officers who understand the attitude and objective of highly successful real estate agents may be able to significantly increase their loan volume via long-term referral relationships. This process could be started  with the formation of an effective and timely communication system informing homebuyers and real estate agents of loan status’, delays, and concerns during the loan process.  The establishment of an honest communication system between loan officers and real estate agents would likely develop an inter-dependency between loan officers and real estate agents creating a long-term mutually beneficial relationship.

Keys to create successful referral relationships include:

1. Communication
2. Timely status reports
3. Honesty
4. Integrity
5. Caring and desire to help others
6. Time  management
7. Knowledge of loan programs
8. Focus on results
9. Assume accountability

Communication is key. If there is not a timely and effective communication line between your real estate partners you’re doomed to fail. Create a timely system to update your real estate partners, always act with the highest integrity, and show genuine concern for your clients. They are making one the biggest purchases in their life, many buying a home for the first time, understanding their apprehensiveness and concerns while acting in their best interest will contribute to a happy customer. Communication is key to preparing your customer of possible delays or issues that may arise during the loan process. Properly informing real estate agents and clients throughout the loan process should allow all parties to properly prepare for unexpected issues that may arise.

Create a plan for communication. Weekly loan status reports via e-mail and weekly phone calls to real estate partners are effective ways to build your relationships. Unfortunately, many loan officers avoid routine calls to real estate agents and often delay contacting their real estate partners and clients when problems arise during the loan process. Stand out from the crowd; create a plan of regular communication with your real estate partners. Construct a plan of contact points throughout the process with the listing agent, selling agent, and your client. Relationship 101 teaches mutual respect is built on honestly, caring, reliability, and communication. In the mortgage business you also have to throw in knowledge. Develop your plan to cultivate relationships and grow your business. Loan officers who have been licensed for years may be able to re-establish lost relationships and newly licensed loan officers may be able to create long-term inter-dependency through understanding of what makes a happy customer. Lastly, words of wisdom from one of the participants who took part in the recent research study stated “treat everyone like you would like to be treated”.