Mortgage icon reveals his biggest 'pet peeve'

It was one memorable, jarring phone call…

Mortgage icon reveals his biggest 'pet peeve'

The moment Ryan Grant (pictured) saw the darker side of the mortgage profession, came later in his career in the form of a jarring phone call.

“A client called to tell me her husband had passed away,” he told MPA. “They had to sell their home because they didn’t have life insurance.”

For Grant, the co-creator of NEO Home Loans, the revelation was a real wake-up call. He quickly realized the mortgage industry’s lack of concern for the broader financial wellbeing of homeowners – and it was a harsh truth to face.

“I have life insurance, I’m a father, I’m a husband,” he said. “But apparently the mortgage industry didn’t care about asking questions that take someone from owning a home to ensuring they become a successful homeowner.”

Grant was curious about the industry’s narrow focus, which often ends once the mortgage transaction is complete.

“Wealthy people aren’t wealthy because they have money,” he told MPA. “They’re wealthy because they have information. Most of our clients don’t have information leading up to the mortgage process, so they’re on their own to figure out if they should buy, sell or finance a property. And then when it’s done, they’re completely on their own yet again to figure out the next years of homeownership. I always felt like my fullest potential was to genuinely help people.”

Mortgage’s biggest pet peeve

And Grant’s biggest pet peeve? Well, it’s a case of self-adulation.

“When people in the mortgage business are asked why they do this and they say ‘well because I love helping people’,” he said. “I hate to break it to you but if they don’t get their loan through you, they’re going to get it through someone else. So, when you think about helping someone do it before they come up with the idea of homeownership and then after they become a homeowner. That’s where the real help is provided.”

At NEO, Grant aims to fill this gap by educating clients on all aspects of real estate and finance.  NEO mortgage professionals have the ability to help clients by offering high yield checking and savings accounts, to actually make clients money, not just save it. They can also help clients in any state because of their banking platform. They can commit to helping clients with their insurance, tax benefits, estate planning and future real estate goals.

“Effectively, we get to offer a better and more valuable product that the client doesn’t know exists,” Grant said. “Our commitment to the consumer lasts well beyond the transaction. We believe we should be so proactively engaged with our clientele that we help them decide when to buy, sell, or finance a home.”

Offering financial advice

Grant likens NEO’s role to that of a financial advisor, offering a lifetime of guidance and support. However, Grant is somewhat concerned that many Americans will never engage with a financial planner – let alone own their own home.

And the data’s there to back it up. According to The Mortgage Bankers Association’s latest purchase applications payment index, the cost of buying a home became even more intense with application payments up by 2%. In October 2023, the median cost of a mortgage payment rose to $2,199 - up from $2,155 in September.

“Homebuyer affordability conditions declined further in October, with the jump in mortgage rates during the month dissuading would-be buyers from entering the housing market,” Edward Seiler, vice president of housing economics at MBA, told MPA. “MBA expects affordability conditions to remain challenging to close out 2023 before a slight improvement by early next year.”

However, with the need and desire for homeownership still very much present, there’s a unique opportunity for the mortgage industry to impact financial futures significantly.

“Because we have that opportunity, we also have that responsibility,” Grant stressed. “We can’t just flippantly give people the loans they want and flippantly sell them the properties they want - then just market to them and hope they make good decisions in their life. That’s irresponsible in my opinion. We want to be the first mortgage company known to make a commitment to the consumer when they say ‘Why did you use NEO Home Loans? They say, ‘Because they were the only mortgage company who actually showed me the game plan for the next 30 years, not just the next 30 days.’”

This commitment to consistency and a dedication to proactively adding value to clients is something that emanates throughout NEO’s DNA. For Grant, when it comes to measuring this USP, it’s a case of slow and steady wins the race.

“I believe that, unfortunately, our industry has said that our value lies in our customer service,” he said. “It lies in our speed. It lies in our interest rates and our communication standard. And so, it’s no wonder that clients are always looking for the cheapest – because if there were five shoes with five different prices, they’re still the same shoe. The consumer sees every mortgage lender as selling the same product, saying the same things and it’s no wonder why they just want the cheapest. 

“We get to show our clients how we’re going to help them through a home concierge service to increase the value of their home by proactive home maintenance, home repairs, home updates – all the things they need to really take care of and grow that asset.”

Grant’s vision for NEO Home Loans is not just about changing a company but about revolutionizing an industry. By shifting the focus from transactional efficiency to long-term client success, NEO is carving out a new path in the mortgage world—one where financial empowerment and client wellbeing are paramount.

“Another pet peeve is when loan officers say, ‘you’re my client for life’,” added Grant. “What they’re really saying is ‘I hope you’ll be my client for life – but I’m not actually going to proactively add much value during your life.’

“We have to fundamentally change that because that’s the only way we’re going to help people create wealth is if we’re the source of proactive information.”