It only takes one miscommunication or slip-up to derail a deal and send all credibility out the window. Because of this, stellar communication skills are a must for any top originator.
What top producer Michael Lipari values even more than communication, however, is the client experience.
“It’s a nerve-wracking process. Just because you do this every day, don’t take for granted that there’s a lot of emotion involved,” Lipari said. “Make sure you focus on that client experience from start to finish and make sure they fully understand everything about the loan they’re getting—or even applying for.”
Lipari is a senior vice president of originations at Bond Street Mortgage, a full-service mortgage lender based in New Jersey. He places a lot of value on past clients, where he receives much of his business, along with realtors, attorneys, financial professionals, and personal relationships. Clients return to Lipari because he isn’t just focused on helping them qualify, but on determining where they’re comfortable qualifying.
The in-person or phone call consultations at the very beginning of Lipari’s client relationships is the most crucial part of the process, especially with new purchase business. During that consultation, Lipari tells borrowers that he sees his most important job as determining their level of comfort regarding monthly payments, the down payment, and the amount left in their bank account after their down payments and closing costs. Borrowers lean on their realtor for the property preferences and location side of the purchase, and they lean on Lipari as a financial resource who stays engaged throughout the search.
“The process that we have in place is there to really be a dialed-in, focused approach,” he said. “I always tell our new clients that if their realtor sends them listings that meet their criteria, they can forward them to me to calculate the monthly obligations for them before they see the property, so they know if it’s even worth their time and they’re always comfortable. That’s really, really playing that advisory role, not just telling them what today’s interest rate is.”
Prior to joining Bond Street, Lipari worked on the retail side of origination, but finds that the direct business model puts him in the best position because he’s more in control of the files and can also shop the market for their clients before transferring the loans to the secondary market.
“It’s really the best of both worlds because although we do a lot of business, there’s just so much more attention to detail, where I know every file that I’m working on by name and I know everything about the file,” Lipari said.
In 2018, Lipari closed more than $84 million, and that kind of volume makes it increasingly difficult to know the ins and outs of each and every file. He’s only able to do that, he says, because his support team—two other loan officers, two processors, and a processing department to handle any overflow—is always available to answer the client’s questions in a timely manner, and the files always run on time. Without proper systems in place to ensure that the days are as efficient as possible, it’s difficult to handle heavy volume while still maintaining intimate relationships with both files and the borrowers.
As he continues to grow, Lipari doesn’t want to lose his hyper-focus on files and borrowers. He graduated from college with a finance degree and liked origination because it was a good balance between calculations and personal interactions. Rather than merely sitting at a desk crunching numbers, Lipari wanted to be the means by which people become homeowners.
Lipari is supported by a marketing team that handles his digital marketing. The other part of Lipari’s marketing strategy, however, is much more personal, and much more fundamental to his business.
“I really have stuck with a lot of the basics, where it’s really being in front of a lot of the real estate community, of adding value, of explaining our process to the real estate community and communicating what we can do to keep the process running smooth for them,” Lipari said.
Technology can facilitate a smooth process, but Lipari actually thinks that the industry is in danger of becoming too automated. It’s concerning when the human element doesn’t come into play until underwriting, he says, and it can be dangerous for a client.
Efficiency is more valuable than speed, and the industry would be wise to keep that in mind.
“I’m all for technology to be efficient, maybe to help collect the information sooner, but any file we take on, we’re validating everything with phone calls and reviewing the documentation,” Lipari said. “I think the business is getting a little too automated, and sometimes maybe other places try to do too much volume. That’s dangerous, and it’s not really fair to the consumer because they don’t know any better. They’re doing it to the best of their knowledge but then all of a sudden, there could be a problem.”
Lipari actually wants to take the time to walk clients through every aspect of the mortgage process and the documents that they’re signing. As he’s gotten more experienced, he’s able to spend less time agonizing over structuring deals and dealing with challenging files, freeing up more time for those one-on-one consultations.
Maybe slow and steady doesn’t cut it in the mortgage industry anymore, but Michael Lipari has found that staying hyper-focused on the client experience always allows him to win the race.