Try a little kindness, broker says

She touts the tactics of compassion

Try a little kindness, broker says

In the sometimes cut-throat world that is the mortgage industry, one doesn’t often hear the word kindness. Collegiality and professionalism, sure. But kindness?

And yet, that is the virtue most associated with Melissa Nelson (pictured), senior loan originator at Barrett Financial Group. After her daughter was the victim of bullying in her Idaho school, Nelson tried to spread acts of kindness on campus – sending 26 single, yellow roses anonymously to the school – in the hopes compassion would bloom. 

The simple gesture took root, spawning the Community Kindness Movement sprouted by 2015. In the intervening years, Nelson’s brokerage firm would donate $1,000 to a community campus each year – triggering broader community giving. Clad in special t-shirts, youthful kindness ambassadors perform acts of kindness throughout the week – sitting with a new student devoid of friends, for instance – in buttressing the movement that has secured mayoral and gubernatorial proclamations.

“We’ve funded 58 schools so far,” Nelson told Mortgage Professional America with palpable pride. “It’s about kindness in the home and kindness in school.”

An important offshoot of the Community Kindness Movement is the Kindness Begins with Me annual program to heighten awareness at schools. During Community Kindness week, community initiatives are identified and various tactics toward compassion are implemented citywide.

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Nelson spoke to MPA during a break in the fifth annual Fuse conference staged by the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts that took place in Las Vegas from Sept. 29-Oct. 1. Her hope, she said, is for other brokers to emulate the movement in their own cities.

Inevitably, the conversation turned to challenges in the industry of late, what with rising rates and inflation. True to form, Nelson advised fellow brokers to stay positive given the cyclical nature of the business. While the refi wave has receded, slower times have yielded opportunities – both personal and professional for Nelson, including more focused conversations with clients and the ability to work out a couple of times a week, she said.

“I think positivity is key,” she said. “We have to evolve with what’s going on. I’m always on social media being uplifting, and I think that’s key. Friends and family bring referrals,” she said, alluding to her newfound luxury of greater rapport now that refinancing activity has slowed. “I was super busy during the refi wave,” she said. Given the choice, she’ll take the current slowdown to the grinding halt created during the peak of COVID-19 and the need for isolation: “I was stuck in a chair for two years!” she noted.

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She would remind fellow brokers that most homeowners move from home to home in their lifetimes, and the opportunity to close deals en-masse will return: “Most people are moving every three years,” she said, predicting lower rates by the time such moves are made.

Slower times in terms of activity have yielded opportunities to truly educate clients – wholesale versus retail, for instance and why she believes brokers are better. “They’re coming to us shopping,” she said of would-be customers. “They’re becoming smarter shoppers.”

Because no broker is an island, Nelson gave much credit to AIME for its support to the industry. “I love AIME,” the nine-year industry veteran said. “I wish I had known about them years ago.” Nelson said she’s especially benefited from the various mentorship programs AIME has to offer.

Beyond that, it’s the human factor – the kindness from colleagues, if you will – that keeps her engaged. Her attendance at Fuse was the second consecutive one for her, she noted. “I got some mentoring, which I loved and appreciated. “That’s what AIME did for me is weed things out that I needed to figure out. But the main thing is when we actually get a hug or shake hands and say ‘hello’ once a year. That’s really the thing that binds us all together as a broker family. It’s personal relationships. I really think it is so important”

She joked that not even her husband fully grasps the intricacies of her occupation, but those gathered at the convention – to a person – fully get it. “These people understand what I do every day,” she added. “When we come together in person, we can celebrate each other. That’s what I love the most. That’s why I love being here.”