If you want to talk about mortgage disruptors, then Better.com has to be a part of the conversation.
Better came onto the scene in 2016, and in 2018, five of their mortgage originators—who have fewer than 20 years in the business combined—became top producers, closing more than $500 million in 2018. Most of them had no experience with the mortgage industry before starting at Better, but have clearly tapped into a combination of factors that have allowed them to excel.
Lucy Randall is a purchase sales manager at Better, and although she didn’t know what she wanted in a company, she knew what she didn’t want.
“I was pretty anti startup, and I found Better to be pretty different in the way that it approaches customers and the way that it was used to solve problems, and I was really inspired by the mission. I didn’t know exactly what my role was going to going to be and found the people to be really compelling,” said Randall.
Corin Menuge and Charlie Edler both came from startup backgrounds, and Menuge was craving that “mission-oriented” feel in a company.
“I really had a lot of belief that the people here cared about the mission and that was, more than anything, what sold it for me when I went through the interview process. And that’s come to be true; the whole time I’ve been here, I felt like, everyone here is very aligned, is very driven, and it’s really compelling to be a part of.”
Buying into a mission, a culture, and an ethos is a recurring theme from Better’s top producers. Even Andy Kilburn and Christian Volker, who have been doing mortgages for seven years and nine years respectively, were attracted to Better because it was unlike any other mortgage company where they’d worked. Kilburn, now a sales manager at Better, had had a “super good time” while at New American Funding, but wanted to get out of the bricks and mortar mortgage industry, and Volker, West Coast purchase manager, found himself stuck at a mid-tier lender and wanted to work “somewhere that could probably propel into a really big thing.”
Propel is the perfect word, given how quickly so many of these originators have risen above their peers in closed loan volume. Menuge, a sales trainer and loan consultant, boils their success down to three ‘Ts’: technology, teamwork, and transparency.
“We’re pretty ahead of the industry average for how fast we go. Technology is key, teamwork is huge, we just all work together, really enjoy working together, and I know in a lot of other more conventional mortgage jobs, you’re a lone wolf on your own, competing against other people for business, I think that would be a little less motivating. And then transparency is the other one, I think that’s huge just because that’s where we build our trust with borrowers, and it makes it a lot easier and more friendly to have a conversation with a borrower,” Menuge said.
From sports to the boardroom, crediting a team for success is pretty standard practice. But you get the sense that Better originators aren’t just towing the party line. They’ve come to the company not because of the work, but because of the people. They’re in the unique position that they’ve grown together as a team and at this point are uniquely invested in each other’s success. Competition still exists, but there’s a collaborative aspect to it in a way that isn’t typically a hallmark of the profession.
Better’s mortgage originators who believe in that collaborative and transparent vision are no longer selling mortgages; they’re providing a service to people and being advocates for borrowers. At some other companies, Kilburn said, borrowers aren’t shown loan estimates, they have to pay fees before locking a rate, they aren’t shown rate sheets, and Better makes everything available to borrowers upfront.
“The whole purpose of the company is to cut through the muck of the mortgage industry and to bring transparency to the consumer’s experience,” he said.
Because so many of these originators have learned what they learned about the mortgage industry in the past couple of years, they’re often on the same level with a lot of clients, particularly on the purchase level. One of their biggest value propositions, Randall said, is how their sales team sounds on the phone and the quality of conversations that they have.
“This industry is designed to be confusing, and because we are relatively new to it, or relatively young, or we’re seen the lay of the land and the way other loan officers operate, we’re really able to be that advocate, and they walk away feeling like we are an advocate for them, and I think that that is actually the single biggest thing that makes [them choose us],” Randall said. “Of course we want to win, but there is this love of people and love of actually educating our borrowers that I think comes through, very, very clearly on our calls.”
These originators are looking to both expand their knowledge as well as keep their company culture intact. It’s not just about teaching and learning the mortgage side of business, but maintaining the emphasis on Better’s mission and every originator’s commitment to make the process clearer and more streamlined from start to finish.
“All the successful people here at Better are just ready to dive in. If you don’t know the answer to something, that’s alright; as long as you’re willing to go the extra mile, find it out, get back to the customer, it’s totally fine to not know something,” Edler said. “People that just jump in and are ready to take things head on and are okay with failing, I think has been a consistent trait for those successful at Better. And probably everywhere.”