(One in an ongoing series of articles highlighting strategies used to develop niche markets.)
Realtors are one of the most obvious niches for loan originators. While some would prefer to work with other professionals, many originators have established a strong network with both veteran and newer real estate agents.
Loan originators provide agents with educational materials, share marketing strategies and look for other ways to develop long-term, business building relationships.
Simple, Yet Effective
There are basic marketing elements that most originators have either tried or at least added to their “to do” list. It may mean just implementing a “common sense” strategy that you have somehow overlooked or making a slight variation on a proven action.
Providing Leads–One of the most essential, often ignored ways to add to your network is to provide agents with a lead, rather than only asking for referrals. “I’ve found that one of the most effective things you can do is to give an agent a good lead of a borrower who needs help finding or selling their home,” said Sam Rosenblatt, Academy Mortgage, Baltimore, Md. “I’m surprised that more originators don’t do this.”
Rosenblatt looks for opportunities to share leads with agents he would like to work with as well as those with whom he’s already done business. “Of course, when a client asks me for a referral, I’ll give them the name of an agent in their area and then let the agent know I’ve done so,” he said. “In other instances, I’ll ask the borrower if they’re happy with their current agent and if they express dissatisfaction, I’ll offer them a few referrals. This has worked very well for me.”
While that seems overly simplistic, the point is that Rosenblatt is proactive about sharing referrals. He makes a concerted effort to find leads that will be appropriate for specific real estate agents.
Personal Contact— Sending personal e-mails, rather than mass broadcast notices is a technique that has helped Laura Sosa-Rocha generate a loyal Realtor following. “I send agents a regular e-mail update that I call ‘Touching Base,’ which is a brief notice about rates, the market, or an update on a lead they gave me,” said Sosa-Rocha, the Truth and Lending Mortgage Team at Heritage Bank of the South, Atlanta, Ga. “In addition, I’ll often mention that I’m working that weekend if they need to pre-approve someone. The key is that it seems more personal because I am not using an automatic program. I also know that having a subject line such as ‘Touching Base’ is more likely to be read and not get caught in a spam filter than if it was called ‘Interest Rates,’ ‘Market News’ or something similar.”
Sosa-Rocha noted that this type of personal communication takes more time but is usually more productive. “I may send out 20 notices one week and 25 the next. Adding the personal touch takes longer, but I get a great response. It’s simple, free and it works.”
Providing Value-Added Support
Sharing Resources—One of the best methods to enhance your Realtor relationships is offering special resources that will help them be more successful. For example, in addition to having regular lunches with Realtors to discuss mutual areas of interest, John Weller, Megastar Financial in Denver, Colo., has shared the concepts featured in the 7 Minute Difference and the accompanying planner. “I realized that many of my real estate partners could benefit from the specific business planning and priority management,” he said. “At my business planning lunches, I explain how the planner helped me and how it might help them. I even share copies of the book.”
A Different Open House–Amanda Sessa, SWBC Mortgage, Boulder, Colo., developed a variation on the traditional open house caravan. “We rented a bus with couches and saddles for chairs, provided refreshments and taken tours of condo units and homes,” she said. “It has given us a chance to highlight several different projects and to emphasize what we can do for the agents.”
She noted that the caravans (conducted with another SWBC originator) have been effective and worth the expense, which they share with the Realtors. “They have helped strengthen relationships with new and existing agents, and we always got a couple of deals after each one.”
Teaching Classes— David Kuiper, First Place Bank, Holland, Mich., expanded his “lunch and learn” sessions for real estate agents to include more extensive on-site training. “In addition to teaching new member orientation at the Realtor association level, I’ve found it effective take it to the individual office level,” he explained. “I’m currently teaching a monthly class with one office, including such topics as Mortgage Financing 101, Business Planning and Measurement Tools, Engaging Clients and Database Management.”
Still More Ideas
Loan originators have incorporated a variety of other strategies in their marketing programs. For example:
*Amanda Sessa also has offered movie nights for Realtors. She, another originator in her office and an insurance agent rented the theater and provided their guests with refreshments prior to the show.
*Brooks Grasso, Fulton Mortgage Company, Lutherville, Md., developed the First time Homebuyer Programs Cheat sheet that is laminated and distributed to his Realtor partners. The guide details specific loan programs, amounts allowed, use of funds, income limits and how to apply.
*Larry Montani’s (First Interstate Financial Corp., Shrewsbury, N.J.) open house spreadsheet strategy has helped him foster stronger ties with key Realtors and generate solid business. Montani has prepared spreadsheets detailing various loan program options, along with fliers and sign-in sheets for agents holding open houses.
Realtors will continue to be a major source of referrals for many originators. By mixing the basic with more creative marketing strategies, you should have an even better chance of distinguishing yourself from the competition.
David Robinson is Associate Editor of Broker Banker.