Top Originator: John Antonelli doesn’t chase easy money

by Kasi Johnston14 Jul 2020

In a time of historically low interest rates and one of the biggest refinance booms, money is flowing through the mortgage industry, but John Antonelli isn’t interested in taking the easy road. Rather, he yearns for complexity, building quality relationships and continuing to build his business on a foundation that can last through any economic peaks and valleys.

“My highest focus has always been relationships and making sure every transaction goes as smoothly as possible. During the easy times, loan officers tend to jump for easy money, but I’ve played the long game from the start and it has served me well.” said Antonelli, president and CEO of Vantage Point Financial.

That focus on deep connections has never died throughout Antonelli’s 15-year career. Even as COVID-19 continues to push everything toward digital, he believes relationships will always matter. This core principal stems all the way from when Antonelli jumped into the mortgage world in 2005, in an era of subprime loans and cold calling. Even back then he understood that networking with real estate professionals, CPAs and financial advisors, can aid in building a business that is residual.

“People treat the mortgage industry as a commodity and only care about the lowest rate. At this point especially, rates are close bank to bank. [At Vantage Point] we work with 19 different banks, so we add value in terms of accessibility, speed and follow through,” said Antonelli.

He believes that accessibility and custom experience is hard to replicate online. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Antonelli says his team has found new ways to maintain relationships and keep their foot on the gas.

“During this time in our marketplace, it’s difficult to poach our clients, especially because we stress the importance of staying in touch, so there’s not much our competitors can do.”

In 2019, Antonelli closed $127 million in volume and is on track to surpass that this year, targeting $160 million. While he understands the root of his success, the journey hasn’t come without its challenges. When he started Vantage Point Financial in 2009, he spent the first few years grinding on his own. Understanding the importance of building a team of support in order for business to grow was a challenging lesson to learn.

“Learning to delegate has a lot to do with understanding your own strengths and weaknesses. You need to find people that can cover up your weaknesses with their strengths. Over the years, I’ve learned to assess myself, focus on my strengths and rely on others for the rest.”

Growth has been very organic at Vantage Point Financial. Antonelli was never in a rush to expand the team, but instead, waited for the right people that would be a good fit. That involves having a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude, a genuine care and concern for clients, and the ability to collaborate well with others. There are now 15 people at the office, including five loan originators and ten support staff. Having more processors than originators is a model that helps manage pipelines and client experience so originators can find new business and maintain current relationships.

“We train, help each other improve our systems and process, but really, everything is built on just having a group of good people,” he said.

This year is all about finding efficiency by getting down to the nitty gritty details and examining each part of the process carefully. Antonelli says they are moving their online application process to Floify, in order to make the qualification process as simple as possible. Another interesting factor to Antonelli’s business is their total independence from marketing plans.

“Most people think it’s crazy, but we don’t even have a mailing list to our existing clients, let alone an attempt to capture new clients. We’ve never paid for Google or Zillow leads. We attract clients based on how efficient and knowledgeable we are; that’s how we grow our business.”

While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, Antonelli says future marketing plans will start with looking at their current database first. An advantage to working with realtors and other professional services referrals is the ability to quantify business and control the speed and flow of business coming in, resulting in an outstanding level of service on every deal. Just because there isn’t a strong focus on marketing, it hasn’t stopped both new and return business from coming in.

“Return clients continue to increase year over year. About 35% of our business this year is from past clients that we haven’t marketed to. When you work hard to leave a lasting impression, they reach out when they are ready to buy their next house or need to refinance.”