Residential Magazine

Ready to Launch

These steps can help entry-level originators get their careers off the ground

By Mike Millsap

In the world of mortgage finance, relationships are not a “nice-to-have” but a must-have. This does not only include relationships with borrowers. It also includes the people who bring these borrowers to a loan originator, who are often the people that originators work with every day —real estate agents, attorneys and more.

In an industry that is heavily relationship-based, it may be difficult for new entrants, especially younger loan originators, to develop and nurture mutually beneficial relationships. Here are a few steps to help new professionals break into the game and get off the launchpad.

Products and partners

The first and most important step for an originator is to know the products. When an originator knows the mortgage products inside and out, he or she can use them to match up with like-minded real estate agents, attorneys or anyone else in the industry who could be a good partner.

To begin forming these crucial relationships, you should check in with friends and family to see if they know any referral partners who can connect with you. Having a mutual connection helps the originator and referral partner to more easily build their relationship. If there is no one to get a personal introduction with in this way, social media is a great alternative. New loan originators can use platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram to broaden their network.

It also is useful to find others who are new to the industry as they may not have formed any relationships yet. New originators can ask real estate agents if they have new people coming on board, or simply network with their peers. This allows them to form relationships that will grow with them as they move through their career. Whomever an originator chooses to work with, “like-minded” should be the key term. No matter where they choose to look for relationships, it’s important that they find compatible referral partners. Simply put, seek out those with whom you think you’d work well.

In the same way, originators should listen to their new partner’s needs. You want the relationship to be a mutually beneficial one where both people not only work side by side but also help each other out. These relationships should never be one-sided; both parties should carry their weight and bring something to the table.

With this in mind, new originators should use their skills to provide value however they can. For example, offer to assist with prequalifying a borrower at an open house if the real estate agent needs the extra hands. Offer to help an agent create a TikTok account if they don’t know how and are keen on reaching a younger demographic.

No skill is too small to make a difference in the relationship. Originators, however, should be careful that the value they provide to referral sources is not conditioned on the referral of business, nor can it be construed as an implicit agreement to refer business. Check with your company’s legal counsel to make sure your activities are compliant with Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) guidelines.

Branding opportunities

Regardless of how an entry-level originator decides to find new contacts, he or she needs to cultivate a personal brand and brand recognition before asking for referrals. First, you must be consistent with what you publish on social media. Posting regularly helps to show others that you’re active in the industry and enthusiastic about your work.

When posting on social, it’s important that originators know their audience. Younger generations tend to frequent TikTok or Instagram while more established professionals are generally more active on LinkedIn. Facebook tends to have a more diverse mix of ages and interests, so this can be a great place to start if you don’t have a specific target.

With social media activity, it’s also important to know your organization’s policy on what can and cannot be posted. Some companies allow their employees to brand themselves while others require each employee’s content to be approved before it’s pushed out publicly.

On social media platforms, originators must be the subject-matter expert on their products. This helps build trust among new contacts with whom they’re trying to form relationships. Tech-savvy originators should use these skills to help agents or other contacts in a RESPA-compliant manner. Again, this helps to build trust and create a mutually beneficial relationship.

In addition to being active on social media, new loan originators should leverage their local associations or networking groups to their advantage. This will give them a wide range of people to meet, such as certificated public accountants, financial planners, attorneys, and anyone else that may be involved in the lending or homebuying process.

It’s important to note that a huge network is not always better. It’s often better to keep a smaller circle and stay top of mind with them. Meeting often with a few people is often a better use of an originator’s time (and more effective) than juggling too many contacts at once. A few strong relationships are better than a thousand introductions.

Consistent approach

Whatever a new loan originator chooses to do, they must be consistent. The most successful originators have a game plan and stick to it. While there are many options for getting started and building new relationships, each originator has to know what works for them.

Some new professionals will choose to start out as a loan officer assistant and work their way up from there. Others will simply start fresh in the industry. Whatever the plan may be, new originators should stick with what works best and not overextend themselves trying to meet everyone or do everything.

It is key for new originators to have a plan for setting expectations. Being an originator is not a normal 9-to-5 job. Once they have established contacts, the originator must be available to work with their referral partners. This does not mean, however, that an originator is completely confined to another person’s schedule. They can set expectations about when partners are able to work with them.

Some people are often up late at night or early in the morning, and it’s important to share this information so that a real estate agent, for example, knows who they can call during off-peak hours. Some originators may unplug at night to spend time with their families. It’s important to make this clear early on to manage expectations.

Whatever the case may be as it relates to availability, originators must make sure they are providing value to their contacts by being clear about their availability and working with them whenever possible. There are many great pieces of advice for getting started, but even if a new originator follows all the right advice, success will not happen overnight. Getting started is a process that takes hard work, dedication and quite a lot of patience.

Consistent referrals and great results will lead to more business down the road, but it is not instantaneous. New originators simply need to keep working at it. Getting started is often the hardest part. Ultimately, each person will get as much out of the job — and their relationships — as they put in. ●


  • Mike Millsap

    Mike Millsap is a sales account manager at Enact (formerly Genworth Mortgage Insurance), where he helps loan officers in Wisconsin find new business and close more loans with mortgage insurance. The statements provided are the opinions of Millsap and do not reflect the views of Enact or its management.

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