Lessons learned by top originators

The country’s top producing originators weigh in on their greatest lessons over the years

Lessons learned by top originators

Learning from each other is a big part of the mortgage business. These top producers shared one lesson throughout their career that they continue to carry with them to this day:

To grow your business, you need to have faith and trust people. You can’t micromanage everything; one of my shortfalls was how long it took me to hire. It was about three years before I recruited help to grow my business because I was too scared. I don’t have regrets, but it was a lesson learned to have faith in others. - John Antonelli, Vantage Point Financial

The biggest mistake is letting success get to your head. When you start producing high levels of volume, companies start recruiting you and telling you how amazing you are, you feel invincible. You have to constantly remind yourself that every relationship is important, every deal is special, and every transaction is unique. The second you get conceited is the second your business will turn the other way. I learned this lesson after getting arrogant with an underwriter early in my career. I got called by my sales manager and he told me if I ever wanted to be a leader, and grow in this career, I needed to learn how to talk to other people. It’s important to practice humility and remember that the industry is an eco-system; it takes a village. - Jason Griesser, Guaranteed Rate

Being in front of clients all the time, it’s tempting to promise the moon, but good intentions don’t close loans and if you aren’t able to deliver, you can lose their trust instantly. I’ve learned over time to be honest and realistic about timelines and set expectations from early on. I’ve been in a situation where a borrower had a closing time for their home purchase that was very tight, and I told them we can work with it. Turns out, the deal was more complicated than we thought, and we had to extend their lock period. The borrower didn’t get the house, and it costed money on both sides. - Jennifer Tsang, Better.com

Never put all your eggs in one basket. Many originators look to connect with a big-time realtor or builder but spreading out your referral sources is a much better strategy. I’ve known originators who had single referral sources that gave them all their business, but if that person ends up leaving the field or the builder goes under, there’s no back up plan. You have to recession proof your business by looking at different channels. I get loans and leads from all different types of people, with all different types of professions: realtors, CPAs, firemen, police officers, teachers, waitresses – it’s all over the place. It also helps that I provide the exact same service to someone buying a $50,000 house or a $5 million house. - Laura Witte, Northpointe Bank

The biggest mistake you can make is being unprepared for the ups and downs of the industry. Times are good right now, but you must realize that this job isn’t precious and great all the time. I learned my lesson in the 2008 crash. Even when the market is good, you still need to dig in and try to touch as many people as you can, when it comes to both referral partners and clients. – Jason Smith, Nova Home Loans

Taking on too much overhead too quickly was a big lesson for me. People warned that refinance booms don’t last forever, but it’s easy when times are good to get excited and hire new team members and expand the office. Before you know it, rates are up again, and people are less busy. That was a big pain point for me in my career and since then, I’ve maintained a very small team and scale very carefully. – Gregg Harris, LenderCity

My biggest regret is that I didn’t focus on building my database sooner. I wish I had been more consistent in those early years and stayed in touch with the clients who trusted me from the beginning. That’s where the rubber meets the road, and you begin to build a successful career. When you do a good job and stay in touch, it leads to freedom in this career. – Preston Sims, Homebridge Financial Services

Bad news is more important than good news. Get it out as quickly as possible. The quicker you deliver bad news, the faster you can put a plan together. I used to be afraid to give bad news to realtors but setting the stage upfront is way better than leaving them wondering; in the presence of silence, they start assuming the worst. Set realistic expectations and don’t be afraid. – Jonathan Engler, Guaranteed Rate Affinity.

When I first started in mortgage, I didn’t understand that there is never an end to your relationship with clients. You become an intricate part of their lives for years to come, whether it’s to help refinance their properties, acquire additional ones, or work with their children, relatives, or friends. That’s something I had taken for granted initially and was focused on the one experience before moving onto the next. Now I truly understand the value of these relationships. – Simon Atik, Guaranteed Rate Affinity.