Shore up shaky partnerships

by Kimberly Greene01 Apr 2019

A great partnership is invaluable to a mortgage originator, but a shaky one can be an enormous waste of resources and energy.

How many originators have partners who demand that they pay for all joint marketing efforts but don’t guarantee any customer referrals in return? How many originators have partners who will refer them to a borrower as one within a handful of other mortgage lenders? Partnerships aren’t solid unless there’s a relationship to support it, and sometimes it seems as if realtors just aren’t as invested in that partnership.

It can be hard to build trust in a relationship, particularly with a realtor, whose commission often lies squarely within the hands of the mortgage originator. A lot of realtors only do a handful of sales each year, and so each borrower that’s sent to a realtor is a significant portion of their annual income with one person. When viewed from that perspective, the emotion that’s tied to a single transaction is understandable. And when looking at the amount of disruption that’s happening in the real estate industry, originators can afford realtor partners some sympathy.

Sympathy, however, doesn’t mean letting them off the hook. The solution isn’t to write them off; rather, it’s to prove to them that your partnership is worth investing in, and worth more than a passive engagement.

One of the most effective ways to build trust is with a precise, high touch strategy that not only keeps originators top of mind with their clients, but also acts as a point of reassurance as well. Karis Koehn is the vice president of SoftVu marketing CRM, and at the latest AIME Mortgage Expert Workshop, said that when they look at their realtor campaigns, the touch points that relay information on their client’s progression through the process are referenced over and over again.

“Realtors, especially with consumer direct, are incredibly scared that you’re going to mess up their closing. Incredibly scared. So what can you do to reassure them that you’re on the ball, you’re communicating with their customer, and that closing is going to happen on time when you say it’s going to happen?” Koehn said.

Reassure them by updating them on the process before they even have to ask. Make it easy for all parties to get information through automation, to avoid the disruption of calling them every couple of days to let them know what’s happening, or worse—to have them feel left in the dark at any stage. If they receive consistent communication, they at least can come to expect that. Of course, picking up the phone is always an option, and could be welcome, depending on what’s happening with the file. But calling can be over and on top of the automatic process, so if that phone call isn’t actually necessary, or if it has to be delayed another day because another fire arises, there’s no loss of service.

Something else to keep in mind, though, is that realtors are getting a little lost in the process as the lead generation game gets stronger.

A lot of leads, for example, come through the ecosystem from online forms filled out by borrowers who haven’t yet secured a realtor. Lenders who buy those leads are more than willing to connect the borrower with a realtor—in exchange for sending the loan back to the lender.

“They’re getting free leads from these mortgage companies to send the business back. And so there’s been this shift that we see where the realtor’s really no longer in control of that consumer journey, it’s more online or with these leads being acquired by people who are buying them all, who are shifting them toward realtor referral networks,” said Mike Eshelman, head of consumer finance at Journaya.

Objectively speaking, it’s a great strategy, although it can be somewhat damaging to existing partnerships if the realtor buys into it and is getting enough business that way to make the exchange worthwhile.

Strengthening the right kinds of partnerships have always been key for an originator’s business, but they might not be the same kinds of partnerships than they’ve been in years past. There are several lenders who make significant efforts to send borrowers back to originators, and obviously, there are lenders whose own business relies on the success of mortgage brokers.

Chad Smith is the executive vice president, consumer direct, at Caliber Home Loans. He said that they go through great lengths got those leads they’re sending to originators—from working with data providers, incorporating data analytics, and even having a bona fide rocket scientist on staff that works on various models. When they get a lead, it’s a very important asset to their firm, so they want to protect that asset.

“The problem with that is that if [borrowers] are not hearing back from you and they’re not hearing from us, someone else entirely funds the loan, and we both lose,” Smith said.

Even though not every lead will be in the market, originators are able to benefit from that data. Those lender partnerships may end up being more valuable in the months and years ahead than some of the weaker realtor partnerships that originators have had before.

For more ways to generate new leads and improve conversion rates, come to the free Power Originator Summit in Anaheim on April 4th for the session: “Got Leads? Grow your pipeline with leads that are ready to act.”