What makes a top loan originator in the VA space?

UMortgage exec talks VA lending pathway

What makes a top loan originator in the VA space?

By his own admission, Patton Gade (pictured top) “eats, sleeps, and breathes” VA loans – and the national director of military lending at UMortgage has plenty to say about the space and what mortgage professionals need to keep in mind when originating loans there.

A West Point graduate and former Army officer, Gade realized immediately after starting out in the mortgage space that VA loans were the niche most suited to his background and experience. “I was at a call center, doing consumer direct, and I figured out very quickly that the people I connected with the most were fellow veterans,” he told Mortgage Professional America.

“When I talked to somebody that was ex-Army, Navy, Air Force or whatever… we’d start talking about that and [I’d] realize it was much easier for me to make a connection with somebody when we could talk about something that we have similarities on. I naturally gravitated a lot towards veterans.”

Another realization from those early days was a big gap in the market, with VA loans representing a tiny slice of most loan officers’ yearly business and many having only a passing knowledge of the space.

Gade knuckled down and set about learning as much as possible about VA loans – and building a strong reputation and track record in that sector was helped no end by his ability to call on an extensive existing book of contacts.

“All the people that I really interacted with for the first 15 years of my adult life were military people,” he said. “If you go to my Facebook page now it’s got a ton of mortgage people in it – but 10 years ago it was nothing but ex-military people.

“So my natural sphere of influence was with veterans as well. Those things kind of just combined to make me go ‘Hey, this is probably a good place for me to focus.’”

How loan officers can find their niche

Finding a specific sphere of expertise is a recommended move for any loan officer – not just those who want to specialize in the VA space, according to Gade.

“My advice to new loan officers is it doesn’t really matter what your niche is. You just have to figure out what it’s going to be – it doesn’t have to be VA,” he said. “You just have to figure out the community that you already naturally exist in.

The questions to ask, he said, are as follows: “Where’s the place that I have already a natural connection with people and then how do I lean into that to make sure all of those people in my sphere actually know who I am – what I do, what my business is? And then how do you kind of join those things together?”

Education, expertise crucial for loan officers in VA lending

Gade stepped into his new role with UMortgage towards the end of last year, having put up huge numbers in VA loan originations since starting out. He said a concern in the VA space was lack of knowledge among real estate and mortgage professionals, feeding into misleading and incorrect information being provided to veterans about their options.

“We’re working on building within UMortgage an educational platform where the truth is being told [about VA loans] and trying to get that out… having the real information there because there’s just too much misinformation,” he said.

“You’ve got to have loan officers that are great – so we’re working really hard to train our loan officers on the truth about VA loans. There’s the educational component for realtors. And then the third prong is you’ve got to have a borrower that’s being trained in the right information.”

For loan officers hoping to do more in the VA space, Gade’s advice is simple: good training is key. He’s also keen, he added, to pass on his own insights and knowledge wherever it can be used.

“My phone is always on. People can pick up the phone and call me,” he said. “I [help] realtors where I’m not even involved in the transaction, but they’re calling me and going, ‘Hey, here’s what the loan officer said – what’s the truth?’

“I would say that everybody needs to have somebody like that that they can pick up the phone and call. Even if you don’t have that, you can call me and I will help you get your veteran served in the way that they deserve.”

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