Top Originator: Irwin Goldberg’s unbelievable ride

by Kimberly Greene26 Sep 2019

Irwin Goldberg wants to tell everybody in the mortgage business that success is all about being persistent.

His persistence and his likeability allowed him to walk through doors that otherwise would’ve remained closed, but he doesn’t think that everything that worked in the past would work for mortgage originators today. Today, advising people is most effective, and he recently changed his signature from ‘loan officer’ to ‘mortgage adviser’ to reflect that change. This is particularly important for Goldberg, who works almost exclusively with builders.

“Having the incentives is a huge part, but the other thing is also explaining to people—lenders that don't deal with builders and new construction, it's a different animal, it's almost like doing a reverse mortgage, it's completely different. There are processes and things that have to be done that these people just aren't used to. And then of course, the most important thing is that they get their loan closed on time, which we are notorious for.”

Goldberg and his wife moved to California from New York to open a deli. That particular adventure was short-lived; after five or six years, he told his wife that he was going into real estate instead. The first year, 1998, he wasn’t planning on making any money. “On accident,” Goldberg said, he made around $60,000. The realtor lifestyle, however, left much to be desired. He bought and sold another deli before he found himself doing telemarketing for a mortgage company. He went through many fits and starts at various levels in the business—from telemarketing to secondary marketing, to being an account executive, to managing a reverse mortgage division at a company where the head of the builder division was “a nightmare.” Ultimately, that manager was fired and Goldberg found himself in a position to capture all of the business that had been in his pipeline. Goldberg started traveling and visiting anywhere from six to 12 new construction sales offices each week asking to do the deals that their current lender was unable to close. Doing this, he became the backup lender for almost every builder in Southern California for years before one asked him to be their primary lender. Now, he has to preapprove all of the builder’s clients before they can sign a contract (even if they end up going to another lender), and in order get the incentives that the builder offers, the borrower has to go through Goldberg.

He hates to say it, but it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

“I don't pick and choose; I try to close tough loans. But I won't lie, I unfortunately just don't have the time to spend with people that aren't in our guidelines now. We're actually in the middle now of trying to build a second team that's going to pick up all the business that we're not doing, because I probably get 50 applications a month from people looking to buy with this builder. And we probably close about 15 to 20 loans a month.”

That’s not to say that he’s raking it in hand over fist without any effort. It’s just that instead of dining with realtors and attending closings, he’s just going to builder sales offices and meeting with their agents once a month instead of once a week. He and his team hosts buyer seminars for the builder’s potential clients, and they do events such as grand openings for a new project or a new phase of a project.

Persistence has paid off for Goldberg, but if he had to start all over again today, he’d do things a bit differently. He still believes in ‘out of sight out of mind’ but instead of spending eight hours on the road on a travel day to stay in front of people, he’d be all over video marketing.

“That’s the way to go now if you need to go get business, because now you're putting yourself in front of these people's faces,” Goldberg said. He’s picking it up slowly but surely, even though it’s not his style. “Do you know how many more people I could've hit with this video texting and emailing nowadays? . . . I could have seen everybody every week!”

Goldberg also wants to work on follow up. He’s almost entirely purchase due to his status as a builder’s preferred lender, but he also has a ton of leads that he lets fall by the wayside because he’s too busy with new business to do otherwise. If he could just capture a fraction of that business, he said, he’d be satisfied.

“I don't need to make $5 million a year. I'm very happy right now. And I do want to keep that balance of having a life. But we're losing a ton of business,” Goldberg said. He’s thinking about bringing on another originator or two who would work solely on refi business. Not all of the applications that he preapproves go into contract with the builder, and those leads—free leads—simply disappear. That’s a lot of business down the drain.

“It's funny, because when I first started out, and I wasn't busy like this, I used to keep a file with my leads,” Goldberg said. “I called those people every single week until they said I'm ready; you're the most persistent person I've ever met in my life, or listen, I'm tired of getting your phone calls; drop dead, leave me alone. But it was going to be one of those answers I was going to get before I throw away that lead.”

Most of Goldberg’s builder business has been pretty straightforward and he didn’t even personally speak to many of his clients, which he admits is “horrible.” This year, he’s made more of an effort to speak with borrowers at least four or five times throughout the transaction, and letting his team (including his son) do more processing, preapproving, and locking in rates so that he can spend  more time showing clients that he’s “actually a human being.”

This year, Goldberg is going after new business. Because whether the target is a realtor, a builder, or a borrower, the deals only come from chasing them. So, Goldberg says, keep chasing.

“This is not a get rich quick scheme. You have to earn a business. It's almost no different than a retail store; just because you opened up, people aren't going to run to you or stay with you, and the trick in this business is to get people to stay with you.”