Broker thrives after humble beginnings

A chance encounter led broker on a fruitful career path

Broker thrives after humble beginnings

Cutting a youthful figure in a fashionable suit, it’s hard to imagine Lamont Harris Jr. (pictured) experienced the Great Recession of 2008. And yet he did, and he says it informs him daily – particularly given the volatility of today’s inflation-suffused times.

“I think it really positioned me for what we’re experiencing right now,” he told Mortgage Professional America during a recent interview. “It gave me an opportunity to go in prepared, and it’s informed me a lot. It taught me relationships were key. The one thing I got out of it was sustainability comes from relationships. One of the things I try to instill to my team is five to seven times a day, you need to cultivate a new relationship.”

Tending to relationships is key to growing a business

Tend to existing relationships, he added. But cultivate new ones too. It’s a lesson younger people have a harder time learning, he acknowledged. “It’s a combination of not knowing and the fear of approaching new people,” he said. “We need to get past that. We’re in an industry where we constantly have to deal with people.”

Entering mortgage industry by accident

Harris spoke to MPA in Naples, Fla., where the Hall of AIME event was staged from Jan. 26-28. Put on by the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME), the event celebrated the group’s top producers, including Harris.

He described what led him to the mortgage industry. “I got into the space by accident,” he said. “I was an undergraduate at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. To make extra cash, I sold bootleg CDs and movies. I’m on my hustle, on the grind.”

He recalled one particular customer for his wares: “There’s a guy who spends about $100 on me every time he sees me, but that wasn’t the impressive thing. The impressive thing was every time I saw this guy he was in a 750Li [BMW] or a new Cadillac Escalade. At the time I had never seen a 750Li in person. The next thing that impressed me was he was wearing a t-shirt and a chain. So my first reaction is ‘oh my gosh, he’s got to be a drug dealer’. I asked him, I said: ‘Chuck, I’m not going to judge you, but I gotta know’. The funny thing is he wasn’t a drug dealer; he was a mortgage broker.”

He remembered asking him for guidance on entering the mortgage business: “Dude I want to do what you do,” he remembered saying. But the man seemed reticent unless he brought him a person willing to purchase or refinance. “‘The way you get in my world is you show me you have someone who wants to purchase or refinance,’” Harris recalled the man saying. “When you show me that, I’m going to walk you through your first loan.’”

And he did, Harris said. “That was the beginning of a crazy run from ‘05 to ‘09 before I had to kind of revamp. Today – after stints as an on-air television host, trainer, author, coach and other roles – Harris heads up Las Vegas-based Harris Capital Mortgage where he has served as CEO for more than three years. Under him are 46 licensed loan officers and another 53 with licenses still pending at a shop that does some $20 million in volume each month, he said.

Memories of that first deal

“I got into the mortgage space in December 2004,” he said. “I liked to call this year 19, but to be frank, I didn’t get my first loan until 2005.”

In an earlier conversation with MPA, he recalled that first loan: “My first mortgage deal came from a lady sitting in a pedicure chair,” he said. “it was a $400,000 cash out refi in Maryland.”

Grateful to Association of Independent Mortgage Experts

Apart from receiving his award at Hall of AIME, Harris expressed gratitude for other benefits he’s received. “I feel like I’ve got heavy hitters that have my back,” he said. “This allows me to enter a room with a different kind of confidence that 10 years ago I wouldn’t have had.”