One moment stands out in Alicia Blackwood’s career: It was the end of the fiscal year for one of her building partners, and she was looking at 11 deals with that builder—all of which had been denied by underwriting. She rolled up her sleeves and overturned every single one of those decisions, and got them all to close.
A lot of originators shrug their shoulders when a deal is denied, but Blackwood, owner of American Dream Wholesale Brokers, views underwriting findings as a puzzle. Mortgage originators can tweak things here and there, and ask the customer more questions that the other loan officer didn’t, and turn things around.
“You can’t just take the no. Who cares that it’s a no? I look at it as, a decline is one step away from a suspension; a suspension is one step away from an approval! You just have to keep looking for that solution,” Blackwood said. “I tell every client, ‘it’s never a no, it’s only a when,’ and I think that attitude really helps solve any issues that come about.”
Blackwood’s tenacity has served her well. She was 20 when the quit her job at Nbc Electronics (she thought she was going to be fired, so she beat them to the punch), and she was looking for another job to do while going to school. One day, a mortgage company called to sell her a home loan, but she thought they were calling about a job, and she started selling herself to the telemarketing department. She got an interview, was hired, and within 10 months, had worked her way through every position available, from receptionist to data entry to processing to closing assistant to becoming a loan officer.
From day one, Blackwood has focused on helping the little guy, which ties into the reason behind her recent switch back to mortgage brokering. Earlier this year, she came across a past client who was quoted a rate of 3.625% by a broker, compared to her 4.7%. She couldn’t believe it—and she couldn’t beat it—so she waited for the deal to fall apart. Within two weeks, the loan had closed without any hiccups, and she knew right away that she had to change tracks.
She no longer believed “all the fears that had been put into my head by my management, which was: the process is going to be horrible, the broker world isn’t predictable, they don’t perform the same, you had no control—and it could be that they just don’t know,” she said. “But technology has progressed so much since I was in the broker world 12 years ago. I interviewed a bunch of my top agents [and asked], who are you working with as your preferred lender? They all told me brokers. So I was like, there’s obviously something to this.”
It’s not all about the rate, but Blackwood knows that a big difference in rate can make a tangible difference in the lives of her borrowers. It’s not just about a cup of coffee a week; it can result in fewer fights over the budget, living a more comfortable life, or freeing up money for charitable pursuits. And that help shouldn’t be relegated to those in-the-box borrowers, either.
“I always wanted to help my clients who maybe don’t have the resources or have bad credit or just need somebody to just give them a hand up. I always did credit repair for free, I’ve done that for 20 years, and I love first time home buyers. I just love the little guy, plain and simple. For me, an interest rate that’s practically a point higher, is not helping the little guy. It’s helping the big guy, up above me, and I’m not about that. So it was an easy decision once I discovered that I could take a little bit of risk, and I could have one point better interest rate, which helps the community, period.”
Blackwood also loves builder business. She’s been the Builder Industry Association’s lender of the year three different times for Northern California, and the reason why she formed such ties with builders, she said, is because their door is always open. Rain or shine, appointment or not, she would make the “milk rounds” to builders and whether they liked it or not, she met with them. She got a lot of credit for doing the turn-down loans, and now she has a reputation for saving the day.
Now, more and more realtors are starting to pick up on Blackwood’s low rates and genuine service, and she’s had to hire more staff to prepare for more business. In the 60 days after starting her company, she only did two Facebook videos and received 106 applications. Now that she’s staffed up, she’s going to attack her database and She’s going to focus heavily on her marketing efforts, getting more professional when it comes to her videos and sharing the good news of the lower rates that she can now offer.
Even though she closed $75 million in 2018, that was a decline from her volume the year before, something she credits to being on autopilot. That’s not to say that her 11 years with Summit Funding weren’t worthwhile. On the contrary; she says it allowed her to mature, to grow into a management position, and build confidence. She’s been in the Core coaching program for 14 years, and also made use of Summit’s internal coaching program.
Blackwood loves her work and is excited about passing on the good news—of lower rates to her borrowers, and of the success and opportunities in the broker channel to other originators.
“Top producers have a responsibility to help others grow. And that’s my true belief in my heart. If they don’t, and they keep it all to themselves, they’ll never grow, and I kind of think it’s selfish,” she said.
Blackwood is anything but selfish, and now that she’s finally able to “unleash the beast,” so to speak, she’s excited to explode.