We’ve all heard the adage to fake it ‘til you make it. Surely, that has to work for some people, in some circumstances. The problem for Jennifer Martinez, however, is that she can’t fake anything.
A vice president of mortgage lending and a producing branch manager with Guaranteed Rate, Martinez has been in the industry for 18 years, closing more than $83 million in 2019. Even though there are plenty of other originators in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, her clients and partners tell her that the reason they choose to work with her is because of her big heart.
“You can’t fake it. I truly care about every one of the clients that I’m doing business with. I know their names, I know their kids’ names, and if you truly care about what you’re doing, if you take care of others, God’s going to take care of you,” Martinez said. “I care. It’s not a number, it’s not a paycheck.”
Martinez’s business is heavily realtor based, and although she’s big into purchase business, she recently made a shift to go heavy into the refi world. It was a very conscious shift, she said, to reach all of her past clients for refinance opportunities before anyone else did, and with opportunities that existed in the market, she knew that she didn’t have much time. So she made a “ridiculous” amount of phone calls, and got at least a $15 million boost from making the extra effort. And now that the refinance conversation is more prevalent nationwide, Martinez is seeing more refinance opportunities trickle in via word of mouth, people that she may not have made an effort to reach otherwise. She’s always wanted her business to come mostly from word of mouth, although she has shifted into the modern environment, getting online reviews from clients and building her name recognition there.
Martinez actually moved back into the refi world, as that’s where she started once she got into origination. At the age of 18, she had built her own house, and really like the process, and she passed up a college scholarship to follow what was essentially a calling to help and serve people, and merge that with the interest in the housing industry. She knew someone in the mortgage industry who got her a position at a large lender, where she started in foreclosures and quickly found herself blowing through goals, and starting to learn the ins and outs of origination.
“I was driven toward serving people; how could I serve people to the highest ability. So I just kept getting drawn into, what’s the biggest thing that you’re going to buy in your life? It’s going to be your house. So I could help people either purchase or refinance and stay in their house. I’m really good with numbers, math is my strong suit, and serving people and talking to people, that’s really what makes my heart happy,” Martinez said.
Even then, she decided to hone her skills with refinances before moving to purchase, because she didn’t want to work on purchases until she was confident that she knew the guidelines inside and out. The stakes were a little lower with refi, she thought, and only once she mastered that did she move onto purchase, making a name for herself in Tampa Bay. Martinez eventually found that she wanted to work primarily with VA lending, serving those who had served her. Today, even though she’s returned to the refi side, she’s chosen to focus her efforts in the suburbs of Tampa, which she says are more heavily concentrated on FHA/VA/government loans and first time homebuyers. She didn’t shift her strategy in 2019—or rather, her strategy was to stay focused on her current area and not to get into other parts of the city that had higher dollar amounts.
“I just continue to go deeper instead of going after bigger dollar figures,” she said. “I don’t know if that was the right move, but I could’ve gone into south Tampa, where there are average sales price is between $600,000-$700,000, but I just said, I don’t know if that’s going to make me happy. It really does make me happy to help our veterans and home buyers,” Martinez said.
Martinez has a mortgage coach, which she alternates with a personal coach. She’s had multiple coaches over the course of her career, and she keeps changing because she thinks that multiple people provide different perspectives, all of which are helpful to her growth as a person and as an originator.
Her biggest lesson to date, however, actually came from another originator, who reminder her that no one was going to die if something went wrong on a file. When things get a little heated, when realtors start to micromanage a file or clients call at all hours of the night to get a question answered, or when Martinez is struggling for a work life balance, this is what she remembers.
“We want perfection, and we want the highest level of customer service, and I hold that very highly, but sometimes I just take a deep breath and say, nobody’s going to die. If this doesn’t close in eight days like everybody wants it to, nobody’s going to do. It’s more of a life lesson,” she said.
Apart from that, Martinez works hard and plays hard. She says that she can pretty much call every one of her agent partners a friend, so the events and parties that she hosts are essentially gatherings of like-minded people. It’s not a particularly high-powered marketing strategy, but she’s happy with the outcome, and how it reflects on her day-to-day life.
“Keep[ing] it personal, I think that’s going to do more for me than going out there and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on Zillow or any of that jazz. That’s not how I want my money spent. I want to have memories and have a good time,” she said.
When you’ve got that kind of attitude, there’s no room for fakers.