During my recent conversations with sales leaders, managers across the board expressed concern about their originators adapting to the new environment of rising interest rates and the shift to purchase money. The decline in refinance business is a reality with mortgage applications dropping 43% in the last week, according to the MBA. This raises a critical question: How many lenders and originators will be able to transition to a purchase money marketplace when the easy money of refinancing fades away and is replaced by the hard work of finding customers who want to purchase and finance a home?
Every experienced mortgage lender has certainly witnessed big changes in interest rates over the last 20 years. Sometimes it happens quickly; other times it can be a slow climb to higher interest rates. This time, it is a little of both. The global pandemic caused the Fed to drop interest rates to historic lows and now, with the end in sight, rates are inching back up.
The real question for lenders and originators that have 90%+ refinance business is can they switch to the traditional purchase money market that still depends on local relationships or, will they decide to sell out to other, better structured lenders? Frankly, the selling out strategy has likely already run its course, leaving lenders that have not invested in digital technology or sales training with few alternatives.
Five Steps to Success
That said, what changes should originators who have been living off of refinance lending make to succeed in a purchase money environment? Here are five recommendations:
- Develop a marketing plan. Yes, I know having a plan doesn’t seem like the right strategy when a loan officer is panicked and needs income. But, setting aside some time to analyze the market and identifying underserved opportunities is a worthwhile activity because where producers commit their time and marketing resources is always a balancing act. There are only so many hours in a day and spending them correctly matters a lot.
- Understand growth in the local area. An originator’s marketing plan should determine what home building activities in their local market are driving growth. Is it new construction, retirement homes, second homes, etc.? Every market is different and understanding where growth will be coming from is critical. Looking at the research the local municipality has already done is a good start.
- Identify underserved market opportunities and the people associated with them. Every market has underserved opportunities that some individuals have already recognized — you want to know these professionals. Rarely is an underserved market completely void of participants. An originator’s job is to develop relationships with the parties in the market before other loan officers decide to market to them. Building relationships takes time and requires originators to form relationships with builders, attorneys, real estate agents and other professionals.
- Don’t forget about previous customers. Since developing and building relationships is time-consuming, originators must also work their database of closed loans over the last several years. Former customers are already familiar with an originator’s service levels and a certain percentage might be interested in purchasing a second home or investment property. Some clients might be receptive to listening to a webinar on the latest trends in the local real estate market. This is a great opportunity for originators to partner with a Realtor to target a particular audience. The real estate agent can provide his or her perspective as part of the webinar or live stream event. However originators reach out, they should avoid sending mass emails and direct mail. Consumers want a more personal, customized approach.
- Rekindle referral business. Originators who have a plan, determine their niche and develop relationships with referral sources and customers in an underserved marketplace are on the path to success in a purchase money environment. Working former customers is a smart way for producers to generate current business while establishing relationships with new referral sources.
Implementing all five strategies is a great way for originators to position themselves for robust performance in a purchase money market.