Top Originator: All-star year for Chris Kostoff

by Kasi Johnston19 May 2020

The strength is in the struggle. It’s a lesson that Chris Kostoff learnt playing college basketball that translated into his career as a mortgage originator.

It’s hasn’t been easy, and the past few years have been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. In 2018, Kostoff closed $62 million in volume. While that’s incredibly impressive, it was still a $25 million dollar dip from the year before for the top originator. With the help of his hardworking team however, they managed to beat that by over $100 million to close $165 million in 2019.

“Is it overwhelming at times? Absolutely,” he said. “But anyone who owns a business and claims to have a perfect balance is lying.”

Being an athlete taught Kostoff a lot about making it through ups and downs, in sport and in business. It’s made a huge impact on his work ethic and the discipline required to keep working through the challenges of new guidelines, a volatile market and building the best possible team. To achieve this milestone, Kostoff says every person on his team rose to the challenge and really stepped up their game.

“When I get up at 4:30am, my top processor is already working,” he said. “Finding that is hard and takes time.”

Likely the most important factor in his business, however, is good follow up with his clients. When Kostoff closes a loan, it won’t be the last you hear from him. His team tracks that loan far into the future so if any opportunities come up to save money, he can reach out. He’s also not afraid to ask for referrals. While many brokers tend to shy away from that, Kostoff says he knows that past client referrals are the lifeblood of his business. The best way to ask for a referral without being pushy is to ask for feedback, he says.

“The mortgage business is service-related; it’s no different from a restaurant or hotel. When I close a deal, I’ll usually ask for about five minutes of their time the following weekend just to find out about their experience,” he said.

This conversation also opens the door for conversations around friends or family who may also be interested in purchasing a new home or refinancing. If people don’t want to talk on the phone, that’s fine too, he says. He’ll send a text or email and let them get back to him on their own time. These follow up calls takes very little time out of his schedule, but they pay off in dividends.

Learning to be comfortable with different methods of communication is crucial in today’s business, according to Kostoff. He will usually give his clients the option of how they’d like to be reached, whether that’s over the phone, online, text or in person.

“There’s an art to communicating with people, especially over the phone,” he explained. You have to know when to push and when to pull and you must be a good listener.”

Kostoff writes everything down, and during the conversation, there are a million things running through his head as he works out exactly what the best route for the client is. An important part of this simply comes from knowing your stuff. Developing that expertise can take a while, he said. After 25 years in the business, Kostoff says he still takes time to study guidelines, takes extremely detailed notes and puts 100% effort into every deal, every time.

“You can’t teach experience,” he said. “It’s like basketball; the more you play, the better you’ll be. The more deals you do, the better you will get. I’ve been through so many different deals, now it comes naturally.”