Here comes the sun

Crowdsourcing solar energy has potential to disrupt the energy industry—and give originators an additional revenue stream

Here comes the sun

Business owners looking for a way to boost their bottom line are wise to consider adding an additional revenue stream. The tough part is finding something that either complements their current business model or doesn’t take too much time away from their primary roles.

Thomas McGoldrick has been in the mortgage industry for almost 35 years as a former originator and account executive in both the retail and wholesale channel. He had “semi-retired,” he calls it, and moved to Arizona.

Then he found solar.

Solar power, that is. He became an independent contractor with Powur, which essentially crowdsources access to solar energy, both in terms of awareness and in terms of installation. In other words, anyone who hooks up with Powur acts as a broker of sorts for solar companies in getting their product out to consumers.

For broker owners who are dealing with multiple originators whose production is down, they might be facing tough choices in the months to come, among them deciding whether or not to keep those originators on board. But incorporating a new revenue stream that’s complementary to origination can add income, and offering solar energy in particular can give originators a reason to reach out to borrowers.

“Right now, if you bought a house in the last five years, or any time, if you haven’t refinanced by now, it’s too late. And every loan officer went through his whole list of homeowners in the last two years and refinanced then. So what’s a loan officer going to do today? Call them up and say, ‘I know you got a 3% rate a year ago, but how’d you like a 5% rate now?’ Doesn’t go over really big, it’s not a good reason to call a homeowner.”

Instead, McGoldrick said, originators can solar this as a way to provide an added value to their clients, offering them the opportunity to get solar panels with no out-of-pocket costs, a decrease in their electric bills, and increasing value to their homes.

“You know what the biggest pushback is? ‘Sounds too good to be true! Where’s the catch?’ And I say, there is no catch.”

That’s not completely true. There is a $499 buy-in. And although the easiest way to gain income is by individually arranging solar proposals, there’s also a team model, where someone can encourage their team to meet certain levels of production, and everyone gets paid a bonus.

You may have heard this before. It may seem distinctly . . . pyramid-like. But, McGoldrick said, it’s not an uncommon system as it exists today.

“If you look at any corporation, you’ve got the huge number of employees at the base, you’ve got the middle managers as you work your way up, you’ve got your regionals, you’ve got the divisionals (a smaller group), and you’ve got the executives at the top. Any way you put it, that is corporate, that’s a corporate flow plan.” MLMs have gotten a bad rap, he said, because you typically have to continually pay to play and/or to obtain more product, neither of which exist with Powur. “I get it. I get where that mindset has come. That’s not this company.”

Powur was established in 2014 and operates in 42 states, with about 7,400 independent advisors and consultants who generate referral leads. The company works with more than 100 solar companies, and aims to put two million homes on solar by 2025, something that appeals to many homeowners, especially in light of the recent report on the impacts of global warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report.

“I don’t want to be sitting there and my nieces and nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews coming up to me 20 years from now and saying, ‘hey, Uncle Tom, climate change was a big thing. You guys knew about it. Why didn’t’ you do anything?’ I want to be able to say, ‘You know what? I did a boatload.’”

Mortgage originators are in a position to profit from this system more so than even realtors, who tend to have fewer transactions a month. It’s as simple as reaching out to their homeowners and offering them solar, McGoldrick said, with the added bonus of helping the planet.

“I’ll be blunt: Leads suck. You may buy 45,000 leads and if 1% of them are qualified leads, you’re lucky. What we do as a company is, I train these people on how to create a real qualified lead, so we don’t even contact the solar companies until we know we’ve got somebody who’s really interested in getting this done,” McGoldrick said. “As a mortgage broker owner, I can say ‘you’re giving me a tool that actually allows my loan officer to call the homeowners that I want them to stay in touch with and provide something of incredible value, and it costs the homeowner nothing, and all we do is make money.’”