When Jeremy Engle, senior loan consultant at Country Club Mortgage, talks about “this year,” he’s not talking about 2018. Instead, he’s already looking ahead to 2019 and planning for that to be a year of maintenance, sowing the seeds for the future and hopefully maintaining his current volume. That’s not a bad thing, given that his 2017 volume was nearly $100 million and he’s close to that in 2018.
This kind of forward thinking is how he operates, and how he executes the plan for his business.
The mortgage industry tends to be reactive, but the originators at the top of their game are proactive in their approach. They don’t wait for clients or partners to come to them with issues; they actively seek out responses from their clients and partners. Engle said that makes a difference all the way down the line, and automated updates throughout every transaction help with staying on top of things.
“Being proactive rather than reactive is huge because if you ever get behind, whatever systems you have just kind of go out the door at that point,” Engle said. “If you’re proactive, it cuts down 90% of your phone calls and emails so you’re able to work on doing more business. However, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s taken years for me to get that system perfected, but that’s huge. You could do five loans a month and be behind on them because all you’re doing is talking to agents, borrowers . . . and telling them ‘I should hear from the underwriter tomorrow.’ It’ll just suck your time to death.”
Time is precious, and the biggest game-changer in Engle’s process has nothing to do with a marketing technique or a CMS. It’s not even time blocking, the darling of time-management evangelicals everywhere. Engle’s secret to managing his time is not checking his emails.
“My assistant filters through all my email and I see 10% of what comes through,” he said. It’s a full time job to sort the wheat from the chaff, and it was easy to shift that responsibility “because my most valuable time here is not sitting in front of my computer watching and responding to emails, especially on updates and stuff.”
If the sales motto is Always Be Closing, the originator motto—or Engle’s motto, anyway—is Always Be Marketing. The way he sees it, it’s worth it for originators to spend the time and money getting in front of clients now so that when the market switches again, they’ll have set themselves up for a gold rush. It’s happened for him before, in 2008 when other originators started falling away. He got in the trenches and marketed himself like crazy and in the years that followed, he says, he kept growing and growing and growing.
Today, however, Engle is coming up against new challenges, including tactics by online lenders that are near impossible to fight. Engle has noticed that he’s getting shopped a lot more; it’s pretty easy for a borrower to go online and find a rate that’s “ridiculously” lower than everyone else.
“Believe it or not, the general public don’t realize rates are higher,” he said. “The general question is, what’s my interest rate? And I tell them, and if I start with a 5, they’re like ‘oh my god,’ and then they go shop and find some online broker shop out of a big city that’s probably full of sh*t that’s doing it way cheaper, then I lose all credibility. Even if they stay with me, it’s just tough because they’re looking at me like I’m just ripping them off.”
It’s the age old rate versus service question, and what the borrowers don’t see is the fallout—failed deals by online lenders that come across his desk. Some he can save, some he can’t. He said that these shops, especially refi shops, are trying to stay in the game with every little piece they have, and even though they’ll fizzle out eventually, there’s a lot of time between now and then.
“Obviously you’re going to have to make changes, you’re going to have to be competitive right now, you’re going to have to cut your margin if you have to, whatever it is, but in the long term, those guys are going to be gone. You can’ be delivering packages to Fannie Mae with a negative amount every month forever. Eventually you run out of money,” he laughed.
Engle is an investor as well as an originator, and although he primarily works with first time homebuyers, he does work with small investors who not only come to him because of his product expertise, but because he’s been on that side of the table and can offer his opinion on the purchase itself, including how much they’re going to get in rent, what the payments look like, whether it’s advisable to buy two houses for the same price and increase their yield. Working with someone who “gets it” goes a long way with all borrowers, but especially with investors.
There’s not really a secret to success anymore, Engle said, or at least the people who manage to be successful in the current mortgage climate aren’t doing anything new. It’s primarily execution and consistency that make all the difference.
“I don’t think I’m doing anything differently right now with the market slowing down, but I feel like you have to do whatever you are doing two times more right now than you did six months ago just to maintain the business.”