"I feel like I’m pushing the boulder up the hill"

Mortgage veteran on how to survive in a tight market

"I feel like I’m pushing the boulder up the hill"

With over 25 years’ experience in the mortgage field, Tammy Wittren (pictured) has learned many lessons – most notably that the people you work with are the key to your overall success.

“We have B players and C players,” she told MPA. “My mistake was I kept my D, C and B players too long. And by doing so, that hurt my A players who I always knew I was going to keep. I decided years ago that I was best when I had a team to support me. I decided that I would always have my own team regardless of what the company was going to pay for. That was my decision - because I knew that the caliber of service I wanted to deliver would be different, but it would require me to have a team.”

Now, as a producing branch manager at NFM Lending, Wittren said that she’s still committed to fostering that dream team – even if it means taking a lower salary herself.

“You do what you [have to] do,” she said. “I dropped my income to the least amount I possibly could a year and a half ago. I’ve really worked to keep my team employed - part of that is that they get a really good base salary but we’re very bonus driven so it’s been tough on them financially.

“Many of them run families. I have a lot of single women that work for me and so it’s been hard - really hard. Honestly, I’ve worked harder the last year and a half than I have in my entire career. I feel like I’m pushing the boulder up the hill because of the amount of work it has taken to just get in front of everybody.”

And this tough market has had a serious impact on the sector. Wittren estimates that around 40% of realtors didn’t renew their license in the Oregon market this year, compelling mortgage professionals to reassess their strategies to maintain and grow their businesses. Wittren’s foundation has always relied on a wide network, appreciating the value even small-scale realtors bring to her business. And despite the great business these small-scale deals offer, she acknowledges the determination it requires to stay relevant and connected.

“It still takes tremendous energy,” she said. “You can’t do it by yourself. I felt like I’ve had to have twice the amount of energy because I wasn’t sure who would be left standing. I think that the old days of a loan officer making a really good income might be over. I think our income is getting consolidated into what we’re going to be paid per deal.”

Looking ahead to 2024, Wittren is doubling down on her core job description—generating referrals from realtors and past clients. This focus requires her to be front and center, dedicating her time to securing deals. Wittren’s approach to team building is central to her strategy, ensuring she has the right people in place to manage the increased volume and maintain the quality of service.

“I really sunk back into my true job description...I need to meet with each client upfront now,” she told MPA.

And Wittren’s philosophy extends beyond just meeting initial client needs. She underscores the importance of trust in her team’s ability to deliver exceptional service throughout the mortgage process. From the intake call to the final stages of closing a deal, Wittren relies on her team’s integrity and skill.

“I trust them to serve at that level, to just do an amazing job,” she added. This trust is not easily granted but is built on the foundation of having “high level, high integrity people” in the right positions. Even in moments of desperation, when the inclination to step back in is strong, Wittren holds firm.

“I have high level, high integrity people in the right seat,” she said. “I have to let them do their thing.”