Top Originator: Waleed Delawari on rising from the ashes

by Kimberly Greene08 Aug 2018

You don’t hear many originators say that the financial crisis of 2008 was the best thing that could’ve happened to their business. But for Waleed Delawari, president of Delaware Pacific Mortgage, the collapse of the mortgage industry meant a complete transformation of the way he does business.

His previous company, Cornerstone Lending, was very large, with multiple offices and more than 100 loan officers. He was successful by conventional terms, but when he restarted his company in 2011 his goal was to rebuild better, not bigger. His approach to business now compared to then is “literally night and day,” and while Delaware Pacific has grown in volume to more than $128 million in 2017, it’s remained small in feel.

“When I first started out I was young, and I was very, in a sense, one-dimensional. I just went after the transaction, and was just about building the company. The best thing that happened for me was 2008, and that gut-wrenching failure and loss and everything that comes with losing a business,” he said. “Looking back, I realized that I actually had the wrong approach. I wanted to keep a very boutique office that was very hands-on and holistic, where the client comes in and they feel the attention. So when I rebranded and I restarted, it was very intentional, it was about the person as a whole.”

Delawari has revamped his style when working with clients, but his business has always been purchase-focused and he’s always taken that holistic approach with his realtor partners. Figuring out what they do, what they like and dislike, what they need, and how he can deliver on that is something that they want—and don’t get—from originators.

“We all are in a sense, cut from the same cloth; we all are selling the same product and doing the same thing. I think the biggest difference is the consistency on my end, where I work heavily directly with the realtors and trying to build more of a relationship with them, than just asking for business,” Delawari said. “It’s a very long-term type of commitment where it takes a year to a year and a half to build this relationship, but once that relationships is built, it’s powerful, because that’s where the business comes through.”

Playing that kind of long game is the strategy that’s going to get originators through the current market swing. Delawari says that the biggest challenge facing originators today isn’t getting clients in the door; it’s keeping in touch and staying top of mind throughout the process that’s taking much more time than it has in recent years due to low housing inventory.

“Prior to the last few years, when a client was referred to us, within two or three months, they got into escrow . . . Now, that same client, you have to connect with over maybe nine months, 12 months, and then that client has now moved through two realtors, and every time they’ve moved, that relationship gets diluted. It’s been very challenging to maintain all that,’ Delawari said.

Challenging, sure. But being able to figure out what your clients need and how you can consistently provide it to them is how originators can make themselves indispensable. Delaware Pacific also operates in a market that has a significant number of entertainers and self-employed professionals who are less likely to have straightforward financials, and therefore need the one-on-one advisory services of an experienced mortgage professional.

That one-on-one connection is what Delawari is all about these days. Delawari doesn’t hand off his clients to other staff; he sees himself as a true consultant, forging that personal connection that enables him to advise clients through and plan for life-changing events, not just the here and now of buying a mortgage.

“Every client speaks to me. Every person has to meet with me, and they’re not passed on. A lot of times, top originators or high-producing people have layers of people—which works, and they do very well. But for me, it’s that first communication and that communication throughout the process is very important, and the client always hears the same tone and the same inflections in someone’s voice, it’s very constant, and I think that makes a difference.”


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