You may have heard of David Toaff.
Late last fall, the Washington, D.C.-based originator was accused of having an anti-Semitic outburst at 36,000 feet—an incident that he says was actually an anti-Semitic attack against him, a Jewish man who was engaging in an act of faith at the time.
To say that the personal impact of those accusations were devastating would be an understatement, and the implications for Toaff’s business were dire as well. He’s downsized his staff, and had to spend a lot of time out of the office meeting with lawyers and getting his record expunged instead of prospecting and bringing in new business. He had previously been rising to the top of the D.C. mortgage world and was on track to hit at least $90 million in closed loan volume, so it shook his business to its foundation when some of his referral partners heard about the incident and stopped referring him.
“This really threw me for a loop. It’s taught me a lot, but I’m year to date now around $13 million, when I obviously would’ve been a lot higher than that. Fortunately, I’m on the up and up, but at a very slow pace,” Toaff said.
When Toaff, senior loan officer at First Home Mortgage Corporation, originally built his mortgage business, he intentionally chose to have a lot of overlap between his personal sphere and his professional sphere. That overlap has not only made it easier to keep in contact with people after loans close, but it’s also been one of the things that’s saved his business. Because people truly know who he is, his strongest supporters have stood by his side.
“I really build very personal connections with a lot of my clients, and probably think a little bit more like a real estate agent than most. I’ve been to a lot of my clients’ homes, a lot of my friends are my clients and my real estate agents that I work with. My social life and keeping in touch with clients end up being one and the same to a large degree, and I think that’s vital,” Toaff said. “I’ve seen God knows how many people start to use their personal page more like a business page over the last few years but I’ve been doing that really since day one that I started in this, and I find it to be extremely helpful.”
Toaff focuses heavily on purchase business, and although he gets the majority of his clients from real estate agent referrals, he also does a lot of digital marketing with Facebook and Instagram ads, as well as encouraging past clients to complete online reviews. His business is growing again, and he thinks one of the reasons why it’s survived at all is because of the personal connections that he has with his clients and partners. His team also uses Be in Touch, a mortgage CRM that they’ve adapted and integrates with Encompass. The program has been “absolutely vital” to ensuring that clients don’t fall through the cracks.
Origination often requires frequent evaluation, and no one has had to dig deeper into his business this year than Toaff. He’s had to slash his business expenses, buying fewer Zillow leads and upping the number of low-cost initiatives he offers, such as home buyer seminars. He’s had to get back on the ground when it comes to doing events and “being as helpful as available and as humanly possible,” but also to reassure partners that he’s still kicking, and still able to deliver the goods.
“I very much took the driver’s seat again of being available virtually around the clock to speak with clients, speak with realtors, just providing the best possible service. A lot of the estimates I was getting help with, I began doing again. So it really forced me to fine-tune my skills again,” Toaff said.
One of the hardest things for an originator can be identifying those people who really want to do business versus those people who take advantage of the availability and knowledge offered. Toaff recalls one of his colleagues telling him: “If your referral partners are not truly concerned about your success as well, they’re not a true partner.” Determining which people are worth the time investment has gotten easier over the years, and that knowledge has come in handy over the past six months.
Toaff built his reputation on not refusing any loan that he could close, regardless of size. That still holds true today, something that can’t be said for some other top producers. That willingness to do whatever it takes is how he’s getting back to the top.
Toaff isn’t bitter about the turn his business has taken due to the incident that happened last fall. If anything, he sounds relieved that he’s been able to churn through it and emerge whole. Origination, Toaff said, is like dating. The better you feel on the inside, the more you’re going to be able to offer to clients and partners on the outside, and exposing yourself to others is par for the course.
“When you take good physical care of yourself, whether it’s exercise, healthy eating, meditating, praying, spiritually, sleeping well—the better you feel about yourself,” Toaff said. “You never know where your next clients is going to go come from. . . . So [it’s] talking to people everywhere you go and engaging them. And sometimes, talking about everything except real estate and mortgages. Taking a personal interest in people’s lives I think can be extremely helpful, and finding people to work with that you have commonalities with as well.”
Toaff might’ve been thrown for a loop, but now he’s more focused than ever.