Ashley McKenzie-Sharpe was just a week into her job as a bank manager when an armed robber held up the branch at gunpoint. Within a month, it happened again. “I’m there for less than a week, and I’m driving tellers to the hospital, who had been shoved around and whatnot,” McKenzie-Sharpe said. “They were all OK, but it was really, really crazy.”
She knew she had to get out of that branch. McKenzie-Sharpe found an opportunity — a job as an assistant to a mortgage originator. After a couple of weeks, the mortgage company management told her she wasn’t assistant material — because she should work as an originator instead.
She was initially hesitant to work on commission but gave origination a shot. She survived the 2008 financial crisis and the bankruptcy of her former company to land at Fairway Independent Mortgage. She built up her business over the past 11 years and generated more than $300 million in loan volume in 2021.
This past summer, McKenzie-Sharpe moved her team to Neo Home Loans. “Neo has an amazing platform to really educate the clients and the agents,” McKenzie-Sharpe said. “I think they really are going to help me step up my game and give that real concierge service to our clients.”
And McKenzie-Sharpe has plenty of clients to provide that service to — she called herself a “units queen.” Last year, McKenzie-Sharpe closed 1,494 loans, good for No. 17 in the nation in Scotsman Guide’s Most Loans Closed rankings. More impressive, she closed that volume with a team of just five; two are her sisters.
It’s not transactional for my team; we invest in every borrower. We get to know their story. We care about whether or not they close.
“We all just really dug in, did the work, worked the hours, and got everything done. But it was so hard,” McKenzie-Sharpe said. “It’s good to have a little bit of a reprieve this year, to soak it in, take time to implement new systems.”
McKenzie-Sharpe works with everyone: first-time homebuyers, young families, investors, physicians and residents from the local hospitals. She said she believes her clients choose to finance with her because they feel they receive genuine care from her and her team. “I think that they can feel the love. It’s not transactional for my team; we invest in every borrower. We get to know their story. We care about whether or not they close,” McKenzie-Sharpe said.
She said about 95% of her business is local, and the remainder is previous clients who are purchasing homes in other states. The draw of the Winston-Salem, North Carolina, area, she said, is the low cost of living, family-friendly atmosphere, and proximity to the mountains and the beach, both within a few hours’ drive. She’s noticed an uptick in migration to the area since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sharpe said that she did more than $150 million in business in the first half of this year but is slowing down to let her team settle into the new company. By next year’s spring homebuying season, she said, her team will be well positioned to put up good numbers. Now that she has a moment to breathe, McKenzie-Sharpe is enjoying life. She loves spending time with her brother’s kids, is involved in her local church and is constantly on the go with her three English bulldogs. She’s sporty, testing out tennis and golf, and loves the Pure Barre workout class. She exercises daily with one of her best friends — who’s also one of her top referral agents.
“It’s fun because I get to work with my friends,” McKenzie-Sharpe said. “That makes it so much better and so much easier. It’s been a very rewarding career for me. I’m glad God put me here.” ●
Tips of the Trade
Dig into the knowledge that is around you — pay attention to all the different products, read a lot and learn to be creative. Be willing to grow and keep an open mind and an open heart. It should always be what’s best for the client, not your wallet. If you approach with humility and refer clients out when you’re not the best fit, they will remember that and will pass on your name to others. Have knowledge, have heart and find people you love to work with.