The same brand, the same phone number and the same email address. While many things have changed throughout Robert Painter’s 24-year career in mortgage, those have always stayed the same.
“There were three people at New American Funding when I started. Now, there are over 3,000. I stayed committed, I didn’t move around and I actually learned all the different loan products,” said Painter.
Loyalty, commitment and consistency are the pillars that supported Painter’s business from day one. He closed $140 million in volume in 2018 with just 114 loans at an average of $1.1 million in loan size. Painter said he’s surpassed those numbers in 2019 with over $170 million for his best year yet.
“Where there’s money, there’s competition and this is a very competitive business. So how you distinguish yourself is very important, and you aren’t going to do that by moving around companies to get a higher pay cut. Educate yourself, specialize in something and stay loyal. That’s what I’ve done.”
While technology continues to impact the mortgage industry, Painter says he leaves that up to his support team. Marketing isn’t a big focus for him either. At the start of his career, he spent a lot of time in coffee shops, churches and laundromats, building his base and getting to know his clients. Laying that groundwork has really paid off, because now Painter says his phone just rings, and that’s how he gets his business.
“I answer the phone every time somebody calls me, whether it’s 8 a.m. or 8 p.m.,” he said.
The first 10 years of his career was no walk in the park, Painter said. But during the recession, when a lot of his industry peers fell of the wagon, he held on tight, continued to grind and found his niche.
“Around 2012, property values went up, guidelines got super strict and non-qualified mortgage lending became really important because clients who were self-employed or retired couldn’t get traditional loans anymore. I was able to create the niche of non-QM mortgages and I was at the forefront of that, and today it remains about 90% of my business,” he said. Now, when someone needs money out of their house for capital, wants to get a lower rate, or is looking to buy a second home, they give Painter a call.
“They trust me. I didn’t do anything special. I just stayed committed and stuck it out through the highs and the lows,” he said.
Aside from his classic approach, another big thing that Painter says sets him apart is simply being upfront with the people he works with. Even though big banks can sometimes offer better rates, Painter said he always takes the time to explain to his clients why they are getting a certain type of loan, and why the best rate might not always be the right fit. “We’re also a direct lender, so I have bank type loans, but I’m also a broker if you can’t fit into that box, and I can go outward to get it done for them,” he added.
For newcomers to the mortgage world, Painter says it’s all about striking a healthy balance. “This industry can suck you in if you let it. You start working too much, you become overweight, and it can become very stressful if you don’t remember to take care of yourself,” he said. Painter spends a lot of his spare time surfing, doing yoga and being with his family. Without the support of his wife, Painter said he wouldn’t have had the same success.
His advice is to make a 10-year plan, focus on what you’re good at and do the best you can. “I’m good with people and I’m good with pricing. I’m good with economic indicators and getting the loans closed and funding. I am not good at data entry, sending out disclosures or ordering appraisals,” he said.
One of the biggest mistakes Painter sees in the industry is new professionals just going through the motions. They aren’t taking the time to learn about the products and gain the knowledge and experience to tackle issues head on.
Painter has a 10-year plan himself, and that plan includes retirement. That being said, he’s not making any big changes between now and then. “I want to go out consistent and loyal to New American Funding because they’ve done a lot for me,” said Painter. His plan for retirement is to surf a lot, play golf and spend time with his wife.
“I like to have fun. I enjoy what I do and I’m passionate. I have a great family and a great company that supports me. You have to have those things or in this industry, you will fall apart.”