Top Originator: Risha Kilaru moves at $268 million knots, no smoke

Preapprovals are her strength

Top Originator: Risha Kilaru moves at $268 million knots, no smoke

Risha Kilaru is a force to be reckoned with. Her dollar loan volume ranked tenth highest in the country on Scotsman’s 2017 Top Dollar Volume List, closing a total of $268,046,607 on 475 loans.

The numbers are impressive, sure. But to be honest, she doesn’t even look at them.

“I’m the loan officer that never looks at her numbers. Ever. Because for me, if I do that, a) you get cocky, but more than that, you do one loan at a time . . . whatever comes my way, I will take it, and that’s the only way I grow,” Kilaru said.

“It’s going to be the best that I can do any given day and I will fight my darndest for any loan that comes my way (or not). And I think when you look at it from that perspective, it keeps you grounded and you treat every client the same.”

Kilaru moved to Guaranteed Rate in January 2018, and it was the first time as an originator that she’d ever chosen where she wanted to work. Her previous employers were the result of acquisitions, and although her last company was a good fit for her, she knew that she needed a bigger company behind her that could offer better tools such marketing and business development in order to get to the next level of production.

While she doesn’t keep track of her overall numbers or individual loan amounts, Kilaru places enormous value on the preapproval process and doing the heavy lifting on the front end of the process. She’s worked in all aspects of the mortgage business, and her experience as an underwriter means that she basically can do—and does—a full underwriting of a file before she issues the preapproval. She doesn’t even give a rate until she’s seen all the details.

“Anything and everything is reviewed up front, and because of my name in the industry, a preapproval from me holds a lot of weight. It’s treated as good as a cash offer because they know my reputation and that if I have issued it, it’s a slam dunk deal that’s going to close without any issues,” Kilaru said. “Loan officers today will take a file in, issue a preapproval letter like candy, and hope that when they submit it, it will work. And we’re completely the reverse. We never submit until we’re 100% certain that it will go through.”

By ironing out any potential issues beforehand, Kilaru’s method ensures that the loan will move smoothly through processing and eliminates any surprises that may otherwise arise. Her referral partners appreciate this, and they know that once she gives a preapproval, it’s as good as guaranteed.

“The realtors know that if I write an offer, the loan will close, they will get paid. The seller knows that if I’m behind it they will get their money. So when I have that kind of a reputation, it’s easier to compete versus somebody that’s just working at a big bank and is quoting it but hasn’t really done their homework.”

Kilaru cares about the nuts and bolts of origination, which means knowing guidelines and keeping abreast of any changes. The competition, she says, is “tremendous” and very “cutthroat” and you have to go in knowing that you’re going to fight for every loan. Because origination can be very lucrative, anybody and everybody thinks it’s easy to do and make boatloads of money, but many originators rush to the finish line and ignore the basics.

“Nobody takes the time to understand guidelines, read rule changes, and be abreast of anything new that’s coming your way,” Kilaru said. “So when you’re talking to a client and if you don’t know what’s going on or what’s driving rates, if you’re not cognizant, you can’t guide your client to make the right or the wrong decision. And loan officers today just know what they know and nothing beyond that. You can’t be an expert in the industry unless you know almost anything and everything about the market.”

Kilaru is based in Northern California, which she says is a harbinger of market conditions in the rest of the country. The good news is that inventory there is up. The bad news is that isn’t necessarily a sign of the easy road ahead; instead, it’s ushered in a period of uncertainty for borrowers.

“Sometimes when you see an increased number of homes, most buyers at that time will take a backseat and say, ‘You know what? Let’s just wait and see,’ because every other home coming on the market is coming at a slightly lower price than the one before. So the fear of overpaying is predominant in their minds right now.”

Doing a high volume of high-quality loans isn’t about having more clients. It’s about giving people the right advice, even when that isn’t the best move for your business. A great originator will not only be able to show clients the best move for their financial and personal situation, but explain why it’s the best move depending on individual and external factors beyond their control.

Rather than taking the short-term approach of working solely for commission, the best originators make a long-term commitment, not only to the health of the business, but to clients. Clients who trust their loan officer will return again and again. The rest, Kilaru said, will follow.

“Loan officers will do anything and everything to make money, they will get the one loan but nothing else after that. You’ve got to guide them on the right path, whether it’s buy this house or not, whether it’s refinance or not. If it is not in the client’s favor, you will always say that: Stop, this is not the right choice for you. You have to be upfront. Even if it means [me] walking away from a deal. We’ve got to do what’s right.”