You’ve seen Elizabeth Root’s name mentioned here before as part of the Better.com team—good company, to be sure.
Root, however, is the company’s top producing loan originator. She originates on the purchase side, and also managing a team of licensed loan consultants and their support staff. With less than two years in the business, she closed more than $129 million, with 418 units.
Experience counts for a lot in the mortgage industry, but there’s something to be said for being on the same wavelength as her clients, many of whom are new to the mortgage process. Root sees herself as demystifying the mortgage process for people who, just by contacting Better as opposed to a traditional brick and mortar lender, might be more willing to shaking up the traditional way of doing things.
“I’m just coming from the perspective of, ‘Let me teach you how this works. It’s not as complicated as you might think, you can wrap your head around it and shop wisely,’” she said. “Empowering your clients to do that, one would find a lot of success that way.”
As someone who has grown with the digital revolution, Root views technology not just as something that can help her do more business, but as something that can help facilitate that borrower empowerment. It’s a powerful thing, being able to use digital tools to instantly show the borrower how small decisions can impact their mortgage choices. That kind of enlightening experience is what turns clients into followers—of a brand, and of an originator.
“[Technology] allows us to empower the borrower. We have not only the loan estimate and the technical capabilities of making things more seamless, but for preapproval letters, we have the ability where they can toggle, they can see their rates in real time, they can adjust their down payment, they can see the relationship between points and credit, which is a very visual thing,” Root said. “I think it helps people to conceptualize things that seem like they’re very complicated in the mortgage industry, but actually might not be. So that’s been really helpful for borrowers but also during training.”
Root doesn’t feel that she’s getting her clients a mortgage. Instead, she feels that she’s educating people and teaching them how to make the right decisions, and for the vast majority of her clients, she truly believes that Better is right decision for them.
In spite of those efforts, however, she’s learned that sometimes that isn’t enough to hold on to borrowers.
“I know that I can help somebody find the right product for them, the right rate for them, but you can do that until the cows come home. If they have a call from another LO, they don’t know the difference between what you’re offering and what they’re offering; the deal could be $2,000 better and they won’t know. You could lose them.”
In order to hold onto those borrowers and capture their attention longer, Root has learned that she has to build connections with borrowers faster than she thought. Building trust is a particular challenge with an online lender like Better because they’ll never see their clients face-to-face, so they have to have more meaningful conversations with them earlier in the game. Root is able to get potential clients to open up fairly quickly, then she can get a handle on where they in the process, where they are mentally, and assess their needs and wants.
“One thing I’ve been trying to do is just in general asking more questions because that’s something that was really successful for me as a loan officer during the latter part of the year last year. Instead of telling someone why they should go to Better, ask them what is important for them, [so] they can speak to it,” Root said.
She’s also found the act of questioning to be a useful tool as she’s begun managing a team. It sounds “super simple”, Root said, but it doesn’t come naturally to many people, so she’s been getting the entire team to focus on asking more questions of their clients as well as using that strategy herself.
Part of passing $100 million in loan volume so quickly has been jumping in quickly with both feet. Because Better’s loan originators start off as associates before they get licensed, they’re learning on the job from day one, and looking at real loan scenarios from real people. The structure of origination, i.e., the products, the points and credits, that kind of knowledge of the job came quickly, Root said. The little things didn’t come so easily, and it wasn’t until she had experienced a number of unique scenarios and strange situations with qualifying borrowers that she started to feel more confident.
Even when she can’t resolve an issue, she’s confident in being able to give the borrower good feedback and not lose their trust.
“I’m never going to know every single one-off, and the answer to everything, nowhere near it. I’m just not going to know everything. But there’s a point at which I became confident and okay with not knowing everything, and I felt like I could take a step back and think critically about a situation,” Root said. “The industry is complicated. You’re never going to know everything and you’ve got to be at peace with that, and confident around it.”
Root’s first two years in the mortgage industry have been exhilarating, and the natural inclination is to think about the years yet to come. It takes time to build a strong foundation and a winning sales technique, but time is relative; Root found her own way of doing things, with and a company that matches her personal style. Whatever numbers are on her horizon, there’s just no telling how far she’ll go.