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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   October 2011

7 Tips for Self-Improvement

Rookie and veteran originators can always get better — starting now

7 Tips for Self-Improvement

It’s never too late — or too early — to upgrade your mortgage skill-set. For some loan originators, that means modifying an expertise from a previous profession. For others, it means tapping a trade organization or other industry oracle. Regardless, when it comes to your professional aptitude, constant maintenance will keep you ahead of the competition.

Whether you’re a new mortgage originator or a seasoned pro, you’re facing a brave new world. Despite massive changes implemented by legislators and lenders, opportunities abound for those who dedicate themselves to this profession.

Recent upheavals and ongoing tensions don’t need to drive you crazy. The following seven tips can help you build your business and maintain your income stream for as long as you choose to originate loans.

1. Know yourself

Many mortgage professionals enter the field after successful careers in banking, finance, accounting or sales. If this applies to you, build on the skills you have. Your sales, organizational, financial, managerial and marketing skills transfer easily to the business of loan origination. Don’t feel as if you must reinvent what you already do well. Instead, embrace and market your best assets.

For example, if you formerly practiced as an accountant, use your financial background to implement the accounting and record-keeping systems necessary for a successful mortgage business.

On the other hand, if this is your first career, you can acquire time- and money-saving skills quickly and inexpensively by asking questions of your colleagues, lenders and vendors. Many mortgage professionals want others to succeed and are willing to help. Lenders and vendors especially know that the more you succeed, the more they do, too.

As you look to form new relationships, consider becoming an active member of your local trade association. The people in these groups can teach you things you don’t learn in mortgage school.

2. Have a plan

Successful enterprises build and shape their business plans carefully. You should, too. Your plan can include formal graphs, charts and appendices or it might be a simple list of goals. Either way, it’s important to know where you want to go and how you intend to get there.

Your plan should be dynamic. Today’s mortgage industry changes constantly. Your plan must react appropriately. Review your business plan periodically. Update it to reflect changes in the following areas: your lifestyle, the market, the overall economy and technology.

Include concrete and quantifiable goals. For example:

  • To have $300,000 in net income in 2012
  • To increase net income by 25 percent in 2012
  • To diversify mortgage-origination activities in the next three months by adding reverse mortgages

Other goals can be less quantifiable but equally important. For example:

  • To achieve a reputation of quality, service and timely closings
  • To develop automated procedures to achieve maximum results from operations
  • To increase and enhance your quality of life

Don’t forget to include your personal plans. They should reflect your professional success and focus on the things you love outside your job. Having a hobby or other way of relieving stress is vital to your mental health and, in turn, your professional achievement.

3. Lead with service

Service drives the mortgage business. Excellent service translates into referrals. Referrals translate into lower advertising costs. Building a referral network takes time but is worthwhile.

In many ways, service is your only product. At the least, it’s your most important product. Providing good service isn’t enough. Like it or not, your clients can get the same mortgage you offer — or a better deal — from many other sources. Win borrowers’ business and referrals with excellent service.  The more honest, open and forthright you are, the better.

Additionally, your ethics should exceed federal and state requirements. Negative press about our industry continues to pervade the mainstream media. Your honesty and integrity should be a breath of fresh air to everyone you meet.

4. Read something

The most-important publications you can read are your local newspaper and trade journals.

Your local newspaper will provide you with information that enables you to converse intelligently with your clients, lenders and associates. It will also provide local and national real estate trends, along with leads from the real estate section, articles and advertisements.

Call and introduce yourself to people mentioned in the newspaper who may be able to use your service or refer you to others. Clip articles and keep track of everyone you contact. Most important, follow up.

Reading trade journals, meanwhile, will keep you informed about the mortgage industry. Also consider reading journals covering related industries, such as those intended for real estate agents, appraisers and others. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to market yourself effectively and adjust your business ahead of the curve.

5. Learn constantly

Whether inside or outside the classroom, never stop learning. Consider concentrating your education in the following areas.

  • Mortgage origination: State and local mortgage associations, mortgage lenders and many community colleges offer courses related to loan origination. Choose classes that enhance your knowledge of the business, including in the areas of market niches, underwriting and processing.
  • Marketing: Many groups offer courses related to sales, marketing, public relations and advertising. You can always become a better salesperson.
  • Technology: Technology affects all aspects of today’s mortgage business. If you’re not a master of Microsoft Excel or similar spreadsheet software, for example, becoming one can increase your productivity and revolutionize the way you operate. The same can be said for many other software applications and hardware devices. The programs you already have on your computer are likely capable of more than you realize. Make a point to become proficient in new skills.
  • Trends: Innovations in this industry occur at a frenzied pace. The more you know about changing guidelines, borrower groups, etc., the better equipped you’ll be to analyze developments and respond. For example, do you know what large-scale trends are taking place with baby boomers, Generation X and Generation Y borrowers? You should.

6. Submit excellence

The best way to prove your capability as a mortgage professional to lenders is to submit flawless loan packages. You can do this by asking clients probing and open-ended questions that elicit information about their financial desires and offer insights that help you complete accurate applications.

Remember, it’s better to provide more documentation than lenders request than to provide too little. When you do the latter, you’ll inevitably need to ask clients for additional paperwork.

Review your files before you submit them. Explain any items that are unclear or present the client improperly. You also should:

  • Be neat;
  • Use the proper forms;
  • Submit paperwork in your lender’s preferred order;
  • Explain anything that isn’t obvious; and
  • Overdisclose.

7. Keep superb records

Your files and records should be complete and up-to-date. Keeping excellent records facilitates easier governmental audits or other reviews.

Your closed and dead origination files should be neat and complete and filed accurately in one place. Your current origination files should be filed conveniently for secure and easy access. Phone and activity logs should be attached to each so anyone who handles a file knows its status.

A “response due” log also should be kept. It should track items people need to return to you, including answers, telephone calls and documentation. Any escrow account you may have also should be kept in good stead, and your financial records should shine.


Whether you’re a new or veteran loan originator, you can always improve the way you do business. By striving to enhance your knowledge and performance at all times, you can carve a long-term place for yourself no matter what the market brings next.


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