How do you thrive in a slow market?

by Ryan Smith27 Aug 2014
Mortgage originations fell to a 14-year low in the first quarter of 2014. So why are some mortgage companies thriving?

AmeriFirst Home Mortgage, a mortgage banker headquartered in Michigan, booked its best month ever in July. And according to Dan Moyle, AmeriFirst’s creative director of marketing and communication, the secret to success is largely a commitment to good business practices.

“In July, we had 625 units closed. Our average month is about 550,” Moyle said. “And we’re actually on track to go even higher than that in August. We’re inching up toward 700. So we’re adding homeowners to the market every day.

“One of the things we take pride in is that we’re a direct lender with Fannie Mae and Ginnie Mae. We don’t work with aggregators, so we don’t have any overlays from that and our pricing is very good for homebuyers,” he said. “We also retain our servicing. So instead of taking a bunch of apps and selling them off and having people chasing their mortgages all over, we retain our servicing. We value our customers, and we want to make sure they get the right mortgage for the right house at the right time. We see being a direct lender as a huge asset to our growth.”
Moyle said AmeriFirst also benefitted from catering to a market that’s coming back strong from the housing meltdown.

“So often the national news looks at markets like California and New York – the big cities that were hit hard,” he said. “Our markets are mostly Middle America – where the markets were definitely hit hard, but they’ve been steady or rebounding for quite a while now. We’re in those markets where it’s been growing, consumer confidence is coming back and people are tired of not owning a home. They see it as more of an investment now than a cost.”

Another way to keep business rolling in, Moyle said, is to offer niche products like renovation loans.

“Most of our business – the vast majority of it – is purchase. But those renovation loans – like 203K, like HomeStyle, like HomePath – are being used quite a bit to purchase and renovate,” he said. “Those niche kind of products are definitely helpful for us in order to reach homebuyers who are actually interested in buying rather than just kicking the tires. We’re seeing a lot of buyers purchase a home, but they’re already working a job, or two jobs, and they don’t want to spend their weekends working to fix their homes. So they’re using renovation loans to purchase and remodel all in one mortgage, and have it done by a professional.”

And what about innovative marketing strategies? Moyle said those strategies helped – but only if you had something valuable to sell.

“As the marketing director, I’m just coming alongside what AmeriFirst has been doing for 30 years,” he said. “We’re here to help the homebuyers. We’re not out shouting about rates and the fast money-maker mortgages that seemed to get rid of the companies that just wanted to make a buck and get out. A lot of those lenders are gone. The good lenders are still around. So our innovative marketing isn’t necessarily that innovative – it’s just being helpful, being honest, and getting that message out.”