Developing a Robust Mortgage Referral Network Beyond Realtors

Develop a varied network of business partners to exchange referrals with.
Develop a varied network of business partners to exchange referrals with.

Variety is the spice of life and as a loan officer, it should also be a critical part of your sales and marketing plan.  As referral based loan officers, we all love our realtor partners and recognize that they are the source of most of the loans in our pipeline.  Unfortunately, due to the recent increase in interest rates and subsequent decline in refinance activity, many loan officers who had been riding the refi wave have hit the streets to aggressively market to realtors like never before.  Additionally, online hubs like Zillow, Realtor.com, and other websites that attract buyers have created another crowded marketplace where loan officers are competing with online lenders and each other to capture the attention of potential home buyers.

Some of the loan officers at our company are finding success by investing time and energy in referral partners who don’t happen to be realtors. Here are some ideas and best practices when engaging these valuable business allies.

CPA

We review tax returns on just about every transaction and we frequently see less than optimal tax planning. Having a reliable CPA to trade referrals with not only helps your business, but more importantly, provides a great service to your borrowers. You can have several different partners in the CPA group as you find specialists for self-employed, corporate, and straight forward W2 wage earners.

CPAs can answer mortgage deduction questions and help your clients understand how this impacts affordability based on your clients’ specific tax profile. Additionally, an annual check-in with a CPA early in the year is a good tax planning move because you’ll have time to implement any recommendations.

CPAs are generally pretty receptive to being contacted, but don’t try to get a meeting on the books from January-April as they are slammed with preparing returns for their existing clients. Many also take a vacation after the April 15 tax deadline so the best time to reach out is probably early summer or in the fall after vacation season.

FINANCIAL PLANNER

In addition to reviewing taxes, we also pour over our clients’ asset statements and often see large sums of cash or other assets that are lying around in low, or sometimes, zero growth investments. Some borrowers are also very unsure of how a huge purchase like a home is going to fit into their overall financial and retirement planning and can use the advice of a trusted adviser. These clients are perfect referrals to a good financial planner.

I work with several financial planners who have referred clients to me who are looking to lower monthly payments, need to downsize, or need to pull cash out for various reasons. One note before you start to refer clients to a financial planner – make sure that you meet with them first to find out how their fee structure works and how they view real estate as part of someone’s overall portfolio.

ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY

Many borrowers (especially first time home buyers) are not aware of the very real need for estate planning once real estate enters the picture. The last thing on a young buyer’s mind at this exciting time in life is death but accidents happen and being prepared is critical to insure that those left behind can avoid probate courts and costly taxes. I was recently at a seminar put on by an estate attorney and she shared some truly heartbreaking scenarios involving people who owned property and who died intestate (without a will). The grieving surviving spouses and partners were left to pick up the pieces while also dealing with mounting bills and web of legal entanglements.

A loan officer who works for me exchanges referrals with a great estate planning attorney. Together they created a “Free Initial Consultation” gift certificate from the estate planning attorney that the loan officer gives to all of his borrowers after they close a purchase transaction. This makes his clients feel cared for and keeps the referrals flowing back and forth.

BOOKKEEPER

This is a great source of referral exchanges for borrowers who are running small businesses or who have trouble with household budgeting and cash-flow. A good bookkeeper is worth their weight in gold and can put you on a sound financial footing and a path to growing your net worth. The bookkeepers in my network refer me clients who are looking to lower payments, purchase second homes and investment properties, and who are looking to use the equity in their homes for debt consolidation.

DIVORCE ATTORNEY

When people split up, the assets are usually divided and real estate is generally a tricky asset to divide. In many cases, one party is staying in a property and buying out their soon to be ex-spouse. Often, this triggers a refinance for cash out and to remove one of the spouses from title. Lending guidelines can be tough to navigate in this situation and requires a lot of careful communication between the loan officer and all parties. Borrower eligibility can be impacted by where they are in the legal process and exactly what documents have been filed with the courts. Teaming with, and being a trusted adviser to a divorce attorney in your area can result in a steady stream of business. Hopefully you won’t have too many referrals going back to them but, unfortunately, statistics tell us that you probably will.

CONTRACTOR

The first thing that most people want to do as soon as they buy their new dream home is to tear down the walls and change everything. Whether it’s a quick fix or a whole new kitchen, a referral to a qualified, licensed contractor is always very helpful. On the inbound side, we have had great success with our contractor partners in receiving referrals for homeowners wanting to tap into their equity for repairs and renovation.

CHM also offers in house FHA 203(k) and Fannie Mae renovation loans. Pairing with a qualified, licensed contractor makes the loan process for borrowers choosing those products a lot easier. We have been able to use these products to help panicked borrowers who were referred by a contractor and who were in the middle of a major renovation. Unexpected cost overruns drained them of all of their cash, but we were able to help them complete the work by appraising the home based on the value after renovation, despite the current state of disrepair. This ability to use post-construction value can be a real life saver in these situations.

GENERAL HOME IMPROVEMENT PROFESSIONALS

Even if new homeowners are not ready for a full blown remodel, there is a good chance that they’ll want to make some minor improvements or alterations to the property once they move in. A referral to a skilled handyman, painter, plumber, roofer, electrician, landscape designer, or interior decorator is always in high demand. We let all of our borrowers know that we have a great network of professionals that we work with and encourage them to ask if they need a referral to any of these tradespeople. This solicitation lets us take care of our borrowers and our referral partners, which results in an even larger stream of inbound mortgage referrals.

“Working with and exchanging referrals with tradespeople is great because they’re so appreciative and I love knowing that my clients are being taken care of.”

– Todd Galde

CHM Mortgage Advisor

STEP ON THE GAS!!

Once you have established your referral network, the next step is to invest in the relationships in order to maximize success for everyone involved, including your borrowers. Remember, the better you know your partners, the better your clients will be treated once you introduce them to each other.  Consider creating a reference guide for your clients with all of your referral partners listed, along with their contact information.  You can send this out to your clients after every transaction and can make it a regular part of your post-closing campaign.  Also, make sure that you are connected to your business partners on social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

In today’s online world, the social media connection is critical, but don’t lose sight of the fact that nothing makes a relationship flourish like good old fashioned face to face contact.  Get out of the office and invest in these relationships by setting up time to meet each other one on one at lunch, coffee, or happy hour.  If you really want to turn up the heat, organize and host a networking event where all of your referral partners can get together and exchange information with each other.  You’ll be helping everyone, which feels great, and as the referral hub you’ll benefit from the growing success of all of the spokes on your referral wheel.

Be the hub of the referral wheel…