Top Originator: Chris Keelin is a $105 million chameleon

He says a 6% interest rate is coming; are you ready?

Top Originator: Chris Keelin is a $105 million chameleon

If you were to use a home run analogy when it comes to Chris Keelin’s career, it would be more appropriate than you think. He’s a former professional baseball player, and he knows what it’s like to kill it on the mound.

When it comes to his role as a mortgage originator, however, his success obviously hasn’t been due to pitching drills. Instead, it came from learning everything there was to learn at each step of the way. He learned how to process, he learned how to prospect, he learned how to close, all by himself. At each stage, he added the next piece, and was able to grow organically.

“Most people get thrown into this business and they’re literally told, ‘go sell.’ But what are you selling? Why are you selling it? How does it work? . . . Doing it that way allowed me to make the mistakes and quickly learn from it, and capitalize on what the next set of things that I needed to tackle were.”

Something that Keelin has found to be valuable when planning for long-term success is knowing products, and that means both knowing the products that your market needs now as well as planning for what it might need in the future. He’s been among the top in FHA purchase loans in New Jersey for years, but he says, he knew FHA loans when no one else wanted to do FHA business at all. 203k, same thing. He advises being at the forefront by knowing everything, and when there's a need for it, you’re aehad of the curve.

“[It’s having] constant maneuverability in the work environment of mortgages. How do you say to yourself that today, I’m only selling FHA or tomorrow I’m only selling X? You don’t know. I’m looking at my desk, there’s 30 deals on my desk, and not one of them is the same. So how do I sit there and say, I’m an FHA expert? No, I need to be a mortgage expert, I need to be able to talk intelligently about any one of them.”

Education doesn’t just stop at mortgage products. Education expands into the mortgage market as a whole and what makes it tick. In a refinance market, the conversation is about rate, and some originators have been slow to shift that conversation to look at the bigger picture. Keelin said that people who are originating loans and working in the industry need to better understand markets and what makes the economy work.

He thinks that rates will continue to climb in order to facilitate an even better economy.

“Do I see the rates going the 6s? I do, and I think that scares a lot of industry people because they’re only selling rate as opposed to what the experience is and understanding what is going to happen and why this is happening. What I think is more important is being versed at your craft and your trade. Most people see it as transactional, I see it as, the only way I can build a residual in this business is by being informative, educational, as well as consistent every day.”

He got into the business during the fast, flashy times. His baseball career had come to an end and his friends convinced him to join the mortgage game instead. His “laurels, morals, and ethics” didn’t allow him to engage in the types of business behaviors of his (now former) friends, and that in and of itself allowed him to succeed when the tide started to turn.

Now, he says, he focuses on service and being a chameleon of sorts, able to blend into whatever the environment—and clients—demand. Last year he made the move to Family First Funding, which he’s proud to say has solidly established pillars of business as well as a focus on giving people right and fair service.

“There’s still predatory people out there and that’s not something that we believe in. At the same time, I will not put a person’s right of home ownership as well as the experience or the cost of home ownership over my bottom dollar. I try to keep things as vanilla as vanilla,” Keelin said.

What he found at Family First was the “perfect” marriage of technology and a personal touch, and they’re preparing to grow their team in the remainder of 2018 to position themselves better for the year ahead. He advises originators who are stuck in a rut and not growing financially or in terms of brand building to take a good hard look in the mirror before doing anything else.

“Self-assessment is one of the most important things in this business and realizing what I did good and what I did bad, and what can be different, and what can be better and so on and so forth. I think that is absolutely huge, and being transparent [with] yourself.”

Keelin did $105 million in 2017 while focusing on fairness, good service, and knowledge, and there’s nothing vanilla about that.