Residential Magazine

Break These Bad Habits for Mortgage Success

If you’ve fallen into a rut, take specific steps to get back on track

By Douglas Smith

As many mortgage originators advance through their careers, they acquire specific skills, knowledge and talents essential to the job. Along the way, they also pick up certain habits. Some of these are good habits but others are bad. It’s the good habits that help them move forward, while the bad habits often hold them back.

Ask any mortgage originator what they need in order to become more successful and they will typically say things like lower rates, faster processing, better technology or new loan programs. In truth, what many of these same originators need if they hope to improve their results is to break free of some of the bad habits they have formed over the years — bad habits that are now a predictable pattern in the way they work. Here is what you should do to leave these bad habits behind.

Be dependable

Some originators will register to attend a webinar and then cancel. Others plan to participate in a business networking event, a group luncheon or a team meeting and then don’t show up. 

This habit of blowing things off at the last minute because something came up or another matter is deemed more pressing is damaging to an originator’s all-important reputation for reliability. People’s trust in them is soon lost. 

Their clients and coworkers stop counting on them to deliver on their commitments — to be where they said they would be and to do what they said they would. This habit starts harmlessly, with few consequences, then becomes a critical character fault that is difficult to correct.

Follow a plan

There are essentially two ways in which to work: proactively and reactively. Proactive loan originators operate with plans. They have annual business plans, monthly marketing plans, even to-do lists for what they plan to accomplish each day. 

Reactive loan originators, by contrast, have no plans. They choose to fly by the seat of their pants, randomly jumping from one task to another, and constantly change direction without any semblance of priority or importance. This habit of “winging it” leads to poor time-management practices, bad decisionmaking and inconsistencies in just about everything they do.

Sell consistently

Central to success in the mortgage business is getting the phone to ring — a lot. The phone rings with leads, referrals and inquiries when an originator is busy selling, prospecting and reaching out for business. Some originators maintain their sales activities consistently week after week, while others sell in spurts only when they have few closings coming up and they need more loans in the pipeline. 

This on-again, off-again approach to sales and marketing creates a roller-coaster effect in their loan production results: good month, bad month, good month, bad month. When an originator’s focus constantly shifts back and forth from selling to servicing, it’s hard to maintain the momentum he or she needs to be a consistently solid producer. 

Put in the hours

One big benefit loan originators typically enjoy is the freedom from conforming to a rigid 9-to-5 work schedule. But there’s some serious baggage that comes with this benefit: fighting the urge to “skip in and skip out” from work all day long. 

Some originators who give in to this impulse have the habit of packing their week with personal errands. Between their day-to-day loan originating activities, they run to the bank, get the car washed and meet a friend for a long lunch. They go out for groceries, drop off some dry cleaning and pick up their kids from soccer practice. 

Without even realizing it, these originators are now working in their profession part time. The important job-related activities they need to be doing throughout the week simply aren’t getting done because they don’t have any time left to do them. Realize that you need to put in the time and effort for the level of success you wish to achieve.

Communicate better

There’s no argument that email is an efficient way to communicate with others. Nevertheless, too many originators today have the habit of relying on email far too much, believing that it’s the answer for everything. 

Instead of going out to visit with a real estate agent they haven’t seen in a while, they choose to send the agent a “how have you been?” email. Rather than picking up the phone and calling a homebuilder to set up an appointment, they resort to sending another email. Need to let their processor know there’s a problem with a loan? Use email. 

Before long, these originators realize they haven’t seen or spoken to any of their clients or support-team members for weeks or even months. The great relationships they once had gradually fade away. As the COVID-19 pandemic subsides and circumstances allow, pick up the phone and get out the door to keep these relationships strong.

Tackle the work 

Every mortgage originator who has been in this business for any length of time knows that the more time you spend looking for loans, the more loans you will find. Yet so many of these same originators choose to mold themselves into nothing more than glorified loan processors, occupying the bulk of their day with paperwork and file details.

Some originators are control freaks and operate from an “if you want something done right, do it yourself” mindset. This demonstrates a lack of trust in their support team. Many originators who have the habit of babysitting their loans use processing busywork as an easy escape route to hide their reluctance to sales.

Many originators aren’t fond of the sales aspect of their job, while others have never been taught how to sell and some are simply afraid of rejection. So, for them, the safe place to stay is at a desk, in front of a computer screen, looking at a loan they have already originated.

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As business icon Warren Buffett puts it, “The chains of habit are often too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” He’s remarkably right. The longer you perpetuate a bad habit, the more difficult it is to free yourself from it.

It’s likely that every mortgage originator has some good habits and some bad ones. Remember that bad habits don’t make you a bad person. They just stand in your way of greater success. ●


  • Douglas Smith

    Douglas Smith is president of Douglas Smith & Associates, a sales-training and performance-coaching company specializing in the banking and mortgage industries. He is a nationally acclaimed speaker and author who helps lenders find more clients, close more loans and make more money. Visit 

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