The devil is in the details: do you know your guidelines?

by Brian Sacks05 Sep 2018

Imagine that you aren’t feeling well. You go to a doctor and you find out that this doctor has not yet completed medical school, and is technically not a doctor at all.

What if you were accused of a terrible crime and you were innocent? Would you go to an attorney who had not yet passed the bar exam?

I could go on and on with numerous professions but I am sure you get the point, right?

What does this have to do with originating loans?

Honestly, this has everything to do with originating and closing loans. We all seem to be so caught up in the changes going on in our industry that we continue to drift away from the basics and fundamentals.

Yes, we need to market ourselves and bring in more business. But the hard truth is that we also must be good at closing loans. Actually, let me rephrase that. YOU MUST be great at closing loans that others may not know how to handle because they are not up to date on their own guidelines.


When was the last time you pulled out the VA/FHA/CONV/USDA guidelines and actually read them?  I realize how painful it can be to do this, but the truth is that is what will truly give you the edge in your marketplace.

Having in-depth knowledge of guidelines is a game changer, meaning that:

  • You have an edge over other loan officers, who probably haven’t read up on their guidelines recently
  • You become a bona fide expert to your clients and referral partners
  • Your loans go through processing and approval much more smoothly, leading to happier referral partners
  • Your staff will be much more satisfied as there will be fewer headaches dealing with the processing and approval of loans

But maybe most importantly, knowing your guidelines makes you money!

Just recently I had a client come to me who had been to several other lenders and was told they were not eligible for a mortgage loan. They had a bankruptcy and were told they had to wait two years from the date of discharge.

Was that lender correct?

Now before I go any further, I do of course realize that many companies have overlays and other internal guidelines they follow. But the truth is that FHA says you must wait two years from a Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge unless you can prove there were extenuating circumstances beyond the buyers control and they have re-established good credit. If you can prove extenuating circumstances and they have re-established good credit it may be considered 12 months after the discharge.

Did you know that? Really?

I was able to get this buyer approved and into a home and in the process earn the respect of a new Realtor who is now referring me new business. She has now told several other agents in her office that I should be their go-to originator. The buyer is so overjoyed that she has also referred a co-worker and cousin to me. Neither her co-worker or cousin have any credit issues, but they are working with me because of the strong referral.


  • Block one hour a day for the next five days
  • Grab the FHA/VA/CONV/USDA guidelines and spend an hour a day on each
  • Grab your company’s overlays and memorize them
  • Grab your company’s product mix and spend 2-4 hours going through them

You’ll be a much better originator for it.

Brian Sacks is a national mortgage expert with HomeBridge Financial Services Inc. in Owings Mills, Maryland. He has over 30 years of mortgage experience and career closings of 8,000 loans in excess of $1 billion. A recognized leader in the mortgage industry, Sacks is the resident expert for NBC Channel 11, and he has also appeared on the CBS and ABC stations. Brian has appeared in over 42 states and is considered the national expert on working with credit challenged buyers. Brian is also a respected coach and speaker, and the founder of the Top Originator Mastermind. Watch his four-part free video series on How to Close More Loans—Make More Money and Still Enjoy Life.