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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   May 2018

Are You a Risk or a Reward?

Originators should learn to stay on the right side of their underwriters

Are You a Risk or a Reward?

Underwriters are the risk experts of the financial world. Lenders and mortgage companies rely on them to determine if a lending risk is worth taking. Mortgage loans are approved based on a combination of an applicant’s income, credit history, debt ratios and savings, and underwriters ensure that borrowers meet all of these requirements. Underwriters also review property appraisals to ensure they are accurate and that each home is worth the purchase price and loan amount.

More importantly, for mortgage originators, underwriters have the power to approve or deny loans. It’s a big, important job, and originators should do all they can to make this job easier. To build allies in the underwriting department, you need to decide if you are going to be a “Risk” or a “Reward” for your underwriters.

If you are a successful originator, you already realize that you have to have a lot of great relationships to maintain and many balls you must keep in the air at any given time. Think about all of the people you have to keep happy: Buyers, sellers, builders, Realtors, escrow agents, lenders and your managers.

What some originators don’t realize is that they must keep their internal team happy as well. Your operations team is your bread and butter. You have to keep your team happy to have happy files. Processors, document drawers and funders are obvious, but don’t forget about underwriters.

Having a great relationship with your underwriters can make the difference between being a successful lender and falling flat. There is a trust that can be built between the two of you, and that trust must never be broken. They need to know you will give them rewards and not extra risks, which means providing great files.

In other words, are you going to provide files that are risky and take up a lot of time, energy and effort? Or, are you going to provide clean files with all information included, questions answered and everything organized clearly? The goal is to make the job of your underwriters easier and build solid relationships that you both can depend on.

Having great relationships with your underwriters means you get someone who’s on your team that you can depend upon — a consistent, knowledgeable and helpful partner who is in your approval corner. It also means they can depend on you to provide clean files and give them everything they need to make a positive decision on every file.

It takes time to find and build this type of special relationship with your underwriters, but once you do, never let them down. Here are some tips to get you started.

Be inclusive

It is important to make underwriters feel included. The best way to do this is to make sure you invite them to join your various regular business meetings. You want underwriters to be a part of your team, so get their buy-in by letting them know about your mission and business planning. They will learn what your objectives and direction are, and they will become familiar with your business promises, agreements, accommodations and relationships with your larger clients. You may find underwriters want these relationships as much as you do and will become engaged with your efforts to provide great service levels.

To bolster the sense of inclusiveness, make sure you invite under-writers to your monthly closing planning and your operations meetings. You also can send underwriters an e-mail with your monthly closing report so they know what to expect each month in volume and can plan their schedules accordingly. This shows that you honor and respect their time.

You have to keep your team happy to have happy files.

Finally, include underwriters in any monthly campaigns or contests that you plan for your operations staff. Again, it’s important to make them feel like a part of the overall team working in tandem with your processors, doc drawers and funders.

Your underwriting team is one of the most important elements to your business and your promise of delivering great service. If you make them feel like they are a part of your team, your team can learn from them, interact with them more easily and ask questions. Many times, underwriters are off-site, which makes it hard to establish a relationship. In that case, you can video-conference with them to provide that important time for bonding and learning from each other.

Be professional

One of the most important things you can do for your underwriters is to create great files. Complete loan applications, documentation and a clean file with no unanswered questions and that will help your loans sail through underwriting.

Make sure to have a detailed information sheet about the file as well, so the underwriter gets a clear picture of what the file is about and how you have calculated income, bills and contract or appraisal items. This will make your underwriter partners happy to get your files. Once underwriters know that your style is to provide clean files, they may start grabbing your files first when they come in and get them done quickly, because they know your files will be winners, and they can move on to the next file quickly.

To produce clean files, you must understand your products and their parameters. There is nothing worse than originators who don’t do their homework, don’t know their programs and waste everyone’s time by throwing pasta against the wall to see if it sticks.

You will anger your underwriters faster than anything by not knowing what you are doing. It’s your job to sit down and learn every aspect of your products and programs so when you submit a file you are confident you chose the right program for the buyer and will get an approval because you have taken into account all the parameters of the program.

This knowledge will pay off for you in the field as well. Builders and Realtors recognize when someone knows their products — and when someone doesn’t.

Be a partner

You want your underwriters to know they can count on you ­— that you are a true partner in the relationship. To do that, you must ensure that you don’t drop the ball and let them down. Let your underwriters know they can count on your word and your promise. If they do a favor for you and say, “get this to me by this date,” make sure you get it by that date. No exceptions. Never break your word.

Don’t be the firefighter who…always has a problem and always has a story about why the underwriter has to get it done right now. 

It’s also important that underwriters know you have their back. Don’t ever talk about them negatively to a client — don’t blame them. Don’t do anything but talk about your great team and the amazing underwriters you have. Also, include your underwriters in your team flyers and in team introductions to new clients. Many times, your underwriters have years of expertise they can lend to your brand and your skill sets.

Avoid being a firefighter as well. It’s OK to have a rush every now and then — and then ask for forgiveness. Everyone understands the mortgage business is made up of that on occasion. But don’t be the firefighter who always has a rush, always has a problem and always has a story about why the underwriter has to get it done right now.

Most underwriters will be forgiving on occasion. Abuse that forgiveness, however, and you will ruin your reputation and trust with them. Plan your files. Have a great status report so you know where each file is and give ample time for each stage along the way to the finish line — closing on time.

Finally, buy lunch every now and then, especially during busy times. Whenever you’re buying lunch for your operations team, be sure to include your underwriters. They can feel secluded when working on files all day, many times on communication blackout. Being included in end-of-month lunches is a nice gesture for a job well done.

•  •  •

This process of team building takes time, but what you will find when you apply these tips and become a “reward” and not a “risk” to your underwriters, is that you will become a better originator. Having a solid underwriter relationship is just one of the essentials for large volume production, and one of the most important things you can do to build your business.

If you practice these tips, you will build better internal relationships, which makes for better external relationships. Happy selling!


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