Sometimes, getting lunch with a good friend means light gossip over Caesar salads and french fries. Sometimes, it changes your life. This was the case for Kelly Argall, who in 2002 was a middle school teacher nearly a decade into her career.
A friend invited Argall out to meet her boss, and she left that lunch with a job as a wholesale account executive for home equity lines of credit (HELOCs). “I knew nothing about commissioned sales; I didn’t know anything about mortgages except that I had one,” Argall said.
“You just have to be willing and open-minded and savvy enough to be able to pivot for whatever the market trends are, and go chase after that business.”
But she took the leap of faith anyway, left her teaching job and dove into the world of mortgage lending. She stayed in her wholesale position until the housing crash in 2008, then remained in sales until the HELOC market reopened. In 2015, she joined TruWest Credit Union in Arizona as a HELOC specialist, this time as an originator, and has grown her business to become the second most-prolific HELOC originator in the country, according to Scotsman Guide’s rankings. Last year, $50.7 million of her $67.6 million in volume was tied to HELOC originations.
One major perk of working for a credit union, she said, is the warmth and trust she feels from other mortgage and real estate professionals, as well as her clients, thanks to the clout that credit unions have developed as members of their communities.
“There’s just this real feel-good about working with a credit union,” Argall said. “Even with clients that I speak with on the phone, when I say I’m with a credit union, you hear them sigh because they know it’s going to be a really warm relationship.”
Argall loves originating HELOCs because they offer homeowners an affordable way to consolidate debt, do home improvements and more without refinancing their existing mortgage at a higher rate. These second-position loans are particularly attractive in the current market to homeowners who financed their homes at sub-3% rates in 2020 and 2021, and Argall said they’ve been good for business.
There are some challenges, however, to HELOC originations. Argall said that homeowners sometimes come to her to consolidate credit card debt, but the debt has reduced their credit scores to the point she can’t get them qualified. “It’s a really tough call to make and it’s probably the most challenging part of my job,” Argall said. But there are plenty of positive moments too. She cited the “really outstanding professional relationships” with her referral partners as a part of the job she loves.
“And when I get to see the homeowners, they’re always so nice,” Argall said. “It’s great to be a solution for them and be part of their financial puzzle, to help them out.”
A lifelong lover of learning, Argall has two master’s degrees from Northern Arizona University. Her daughter is off to college this fall at Arizona State University. Outside of her busy work life, she enjoys yoga, travel and cooking classes. She’s poised to pivot frequently to embrace the market she’s in. While she says that market conditions will dictate her future growth, she’s always putting herself in front of the best possible connections.
“You just have to be willing and open-minded and savvy enough to be able to pivot for whatever the market trends are, and go chase after that business,” Argall said. “My market strategy is just to align myself with the utmost professionals in the industry … and just keep moving with the market. You can’t assume anything in this industry and you can’t sit idle.” ●
Tips of the Trade
Always stay humble and kind. Taking things back to the basics is never a bad idea. Be authentic, reliable and relatable. Be a good listener and an effective communicator. Those are some of the basics that I think are overlooked too often. Do all of those things and then align yourself with the best of the best in the industry.