Residential Magazine

Relationship Building Is Possible Despite a Pandemic Curveball

Networking changed during the past year, and sometimes for the better

By Jammie Jelks

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic threw everyone for a loop and changed nearly every facet of life in its wake. Due to social-distancing regulations, many mortgage originators and other real estate professionals created entirely new frame-works for networking.

Those with extensive pre-pandemic networks were likely able to rely on their connections and take advantage of low interest rates to do more business than ever. But what does networking in the age of COVID-19 look like for those who are new to the mortgage industry? 

Rest assured, networking during a global pandemic sounds daunting, but it has been occurring successfully. There are meaningful ways for mortgage originators and other industry professionals to connect during the pandemic. Some of these methods should continue even after business gets back to some semblance of normal.

Same predicament

You are not alone. Even those with strong real estate connections must continue to network and expand their database in order to keep their edge. Everyone from agents, brokers, loan officers, investors and appraisers are in the same predicament, and they are looking to foster new relationships in order to keep business flowing. Chances are, you’re likely to find a receptive and friendly face on the other side of an email or phone call.

Relationship building during a pandemic is possible. Just because networking is more challenging than it was in the past, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Less time spent on commuting, for instance, has afforded more time to chat with friends, family members, old classmates and colleagues. And social-distancing challenges are breeding creativity. Throughout the pandemic, many companies have changed their business models, some for the better. COVID-19 has forced everyone to work smarter and innovate.

Lastly, virtual communications do not make interactions less valuable. Many people have grown a bit tired of Zoom meetings and virtual happy hours, but this doesn’t mean the virtual conversations aren’t meaningful or enjoyable. Don’t allow the fact that so many are experiencing Zoom fatigue to scare you from utilizing this platform (or other means of meeting virtually).

Engage thoughtfully

One networking technique, irrespective of being in a pandemic, is to wish people a happy birthday. This is a simple task that can be done first thing in the morning, before you even climb out of bed. Just log into Facebook, check for any birthdays and send a private message saying, “Happy birthday!”

This is a great way to strike up conversation with someone you otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to talk to. Wish them a happy birthday and if you have time, ask them what they’ve been up to lately. Even if the conversation is short, this can be a means to develop a new relationship, nurture an existing one or reconnect with someone you’d previously lost touch with.

This way, you’re engaging with individuals who may not typically show up in your feed and ensures that you touch base with them at least once a year. Remember, this isn’t the time to pitch your services or land deals, but if conversation allows, go ahead and share what you’ve been working on professionally. 

While this pandemic has certainly been trying, it also has been somewhat of a unifying force. In the past year, everyone has been in the trenches together, enduring obstacles such as nationwide toilet paper shortages, empty grocery store shelves and — depending on where you live — being stuck at home with our loved ones for weeks on end. 

As a result, everyone has more in common with complete strangers than ever before. If you utilize these experiences as common ground with colleagues or clients, you can finally ditch the dreaded small talk and actually form deeper relationships. So, the next time you hear a baby crying on the other side of that Zoom call, engage and use it as an opportunity to cultivate an authentic relationship that might just turn into your next business deal.

Seek exposure

This one seems like a no-brainer, but it must be said: You must utilize social media. Whether it’s Instagram, TikTok, Twitter or Clubhouse, pick at least one platform and get to work. Follow other mortgage and real estate professionals, then engage with their content by liking, commenting and sharing.

Strike up conversations with other professionals through direct messages. Connect and figure out how you can collaborate and cross-promote your services. Go live on social media with this person using Facebook or Instagram to host your own seminar or Q&A session, and educate your audience on the homebuying process. 

Post to your feed and answer frequently asked questions about real estate finance. If you haven’t joined Clubhouse yet, stop what you’re doing and create an account right now. Social media is probably the No. 1 tool for networking right now. The average American consumes about 11 hours of media per day, according Nielsen, a research group that tracks media usage. News stories are churned out by the minute and people now get information from sources such as social media and podcasts, in addition to digital, print and broadcast news. 

As a result, mortgage originators have more opportunities to disseminate information to the public than ever before. To do so, you must learn and get comfortable with pitching yourself. One great place to start is with smaller podcasts. Find newer real estate finance and other applicable podcasts, then pitch yourself to be interviewed as a resource. Not only will you form a relationship with the podcast host, but you also are able to speak directly to their audience. 

Another great use of time is to look for real estate publications that are in need of contributors. Email the editors, tell them about yourself and your area of expertise, and offer to be a guest contributor. Because of the constant need for information, websites usually find themselves in persistent need of content, which makes this a mutually beneficial way to network and find more business. Be sure to ask permission to link back to your website for increased search engine optimization potential. 

Wins and losses

If there’s one thing that people didn’t hear enough of in 2020, it was good news. This has made many individuals more inclined to engage with positive news stories or posts. Many people, however, may be shy about sharing professional achievements over social media. 

By doing so, you will find that people from various stages of your life will reach out to share their congratulations. Some will ask for advice, while others will offer additional opportunities for exposure via podcasts and social media interviews. So, post your professional victories on social media. You’ll be surprised by just how many people strike up conversations, congratulate you or ask questions about your work.

And don’t just put out the good news. Tell people about your failures (or however you’d like to put it). First, listen to people who criticize the work you have done, even if you don’t always agree with their feedback. Look for areas of improvement. For instance, if a client doesn’t feel that they understand what’s going on with their mortgage, consider creating automated systems to ensure that they get updates each step of the way. Listening to negative feedback can motivate you to examine your workflow and put in extra time to create a stellar customer service experience for your clients. Seek out negative feedback and use it as incentive to improve. 

Don’t necessarily keep it in-house. Consider sharing these negative experiences on social media and talk about how you’re trying to improve. You will likely receive a lot of engagement and interest on social media. People will appreciate your transparency and see value in your relentless commitment to provide your clients with the very best. 

Reach others

The average person is said to own three homes in their lifetime. Because of the infrequency of these transactions, buyers are often uninformed about what it actually takes to purchase a home. By regularly sharing your knowledge via social media, podcasts, live chats, etc., you are making yourself a resource to your friends, family members and followers. 

Eventually, you’ll begin to notice acquaintances and even strangers sliding into your direct messages with their own real estate finance questions. They may not be ready to pull the trigger today, but they might well be a good lead in the future.

Partnering with organizations also can be a great way to reach new audiences. Churches and other nonprofit organizations, for instance, are always looking to educate their members on financial matters such as homeownership. Reach out to local community organizations, offer to host a free virtual homebuyer’s workshop and watch as the leads appear. ●


  • Jammie Jelks

    Jammie Jelks is vice president of operations at Legacy Home Loans. Born and raised in Riverside, California, Jelks is a husband, father and seasoned mortgage professional with a passion for all things mortgage. He has more than 10 years of experience in management, underwriting and processing. Jelks has worked with top-producing brokers, retail branches, wholesale lenders and consumer direct companies, providing a unique take on the different ways mortgage companies can deliver services.

You might also like...