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By: HousingWire

Sarah Volling began her career at Mortgage Cadence in 2007 as a marketing specialist, generating three times the amount of leads as any other specialist during a tumultuous time for the mortgage industry.

Over the next four and a half years, Volling consistently demonstrated commitment to the company’s success by developing original marketing content, solidifying brand development, and creating strategies that brought the company’s vision and direction to life.

In May 2015, Volling became the marketing lead for Mortgage Cadence. In 2016, Mortgage Cadence was spun off from Accenture to become Mortgage Cadence, an Accenture company. During this process, Volling spearheaded a full rebrand of Mortgage Cadence, uniting the company around a unified brand and positioning Mortgage Cadence’s return to the industry as a go-to-market leader.

By: Sarah Volling for CBInsight

Mortgage lending productivity decreased in 2014. With refinance subsiding and purchase loans taking over, community banks are looking at ways to expand market share in order to see loan officer productivity (number of closed loans per employee) rise. This year we have provided a variety of tools including our Millennial Marketing Guide, ideas on reaching the investor market, and, this month, the results of our Realtor® survey. The real estate community is a fantastic catalyst as well as an essential market whenever purchase-lending dominates the market. They are every community banks’ secret weapon for increasing market share.

Some background. More than 1,099,102 individuals, the ranks of which have swelled by more than 10% since 2012, are now members of the National Association of Realtors® (NARs). While not a direct market for community banks, Realtors® can — and do — strengthen origination efforts. They are a catalyst, spending more time with homebuyers than any other party, they also have more influence on the entire real estate transaction than anyone else. Nurture relationships with real estate agents, and expect to see a steady supply of new loans rolling in. Sounds simple — most things do — though most things are often harder in practice. For a better understanding of what it takes to create relationships with real estate agents, we conducted a survey early this month. While responses are still coming in, the preliminary results are enlightening. Three themes are consistent in their responses:

Theme one – network. How community banks can establish or expand their Realtor® network is certainly up for debate. One fact, however, remains unwavering. Community banks must meet agents where they spend most of their time, and Realtors® must meet their potential homebuyers where they spend most of their time. We are in an all-digital age. Mortgages are trending to all-digital, and both Millennials and Baby Boomers are heading to the web daily. With 63% of real estate agents we surveyed using Facebook to connect with homebuyers and many expanding into other online outlets such as LinkedIn and Twitter, this is where community banks must also be. Connecting with Realtors® at the source is the first way to work with them to ‘catalyze’ originations.

Theme two – communicate. Real estate agents have the same goal as community banks — close the loan, and hand the customers the keys. This directly ties into the most profound reoccurring theme we saw in our survey. Across the board, communication ranked highest on why Realtors® would recommend a community bank to a customer and encourage them to keep coming back. While not always easy when times are stressful or a loan seems stuck in the origination cycle, the more proactive community banks are with their customers as the loan moves through the process, the better. Real estate agents also acknowledged that in this highly regulated industry, many factors can impact a loan’s ability to close on time. However, they want banks to be proactive with their communication as delays or red flags arise. For community banks, having systems in place that automatically notify customers as the loan moves through the process can save time across the board. By proactively sharing both good news and bad news, customers and Realtors® alike will feel at-ease.

Theme three – create loyalty. Once a community banks establishes their network of Realtors®, it’s important to maintain those relationships to keep agents coming back time and again. It’s worth noting that more than half of the Realtors® we surveyed said they’d recommended no more than one new community bank to their homebuyers in the past six months. Realtors® are loyal. Keep them happy, and they will keep coming back to you. As long as community banks stay proactive with their communication and treat Realtors® as peers, they will most certainly see their business flourish.

While there is no perfect formula for nurturing real estate agents, our survey does provide a glimpse into what makes them tick. By establishing a network of Realtors®, providing transparency and proactively communicating, the real estate community becomes an effective origination catalyst. The housing market is sure to get hotter; the absolute best way to increase productivity, reduce your cost-to-close, and build long-term, sustainable origination business is through relationships with those that influence the real estate financing decision. Not one has more influence than real estate agents. Start building those relationships today.

By: Sarah Volling for Today's Lending Insights

If it looks like a borrower and talks like a borrower, it must be a borrower. That may be true, but everyone who comes through your doors has a unique situation with unique needs. It’s up to you, the lender, to identify those needs and address them to the best of your ability.

With a purchase market here for the foreseeable future, there are three important borrower segments you should be thinking about. What ties them together? Not much – which means having flexible staff and technology to meet every borrower’s needs will define your success.

There’s been much ado about the Millennial generation as the borrower segment that lenders should zero in on. With 86 million people in their twenties and early thirties in the U.S. alone, there’s no denying that Millennials represent a massive opportunity. However, this generation is unlike any before it, for two reasons.

First, in seeing the 2007/2008 crash firsthand, Millennials heard countless stories of people losing their homes. As a result, these borrowers became nervous about the mortgage process and require a high degree of transparency. Communication throughout the process puts their mind at ease and gets them to the closing table believing they are in good hands.

Second, Millennials grew up with the internet and mobile technology. They expect lenders to have easy-to-use websites with a way to apply quickly, without ever talking to a live person. They want brief, digestible online information – whether in the form of videos, articles, or infographics – where they can conduct research.

So, while Millennials are a great segment that all lenders should target, it’s important to proceed thoughtfully. Make sure you have the proper online tools and technology capable of handling their needs.

With the Millennial generation entering adulthood, the U.S. finds itself with 65 million empty nesters not yet ready to settle down. Many are looking to move, either because they are downsizing, relocating, or looking for a fresh start. The potential for serving empty nesters is vast, but their needs vary greatly. While they did not grow up with the internet or cell phones, some empty nesters helped create these technologies and many have used both for the past two decades. They are likely to begin their search online, using mortgage calculators and reviewing helpful information on the process, yet most will ultimately prefer speaking to an actual person when they do apply.

Lenders serving empty nesters need to provide flexibility. Some may apply online and others in person, while the remainder will pick up the phone. In the end, the experience should be the same. This generation often feels that great customer service is extinct; it’s up to you to prove them wrong. Well-trained staff using the latest technologies can – and will – please this segment.

Perhaps the most-bang-for-your-buck segment is the investment borrower. Unlike millennials and empty nesters, these customers aren’t defined by age. Instead, their desire to buy a new property every few years, often renting or flipping as they go, is the defining factor.

What does the investment borrower segment desire? They know what they’re doing; little education is needed. Instead, their first priority is an efficient experience from application through closing. Often, investment borrowers are on the go. They want to apply online and see their loan status whenever convenient for them. Make sure you have an online portal in place to support this. Communication is nearly as important as efficiency. As mentioned, this group is well aware of the process, but rules change, and each loan is different. Educate the borrower upfront on recent changes (think: Know Before You Owe) and keep the lines of communication open so that there are no surprises. Make an investment borrower happy once, and get a customer for life; that’s the ultimate goal for any lender.

So what is the factor unifying these three segments? As the saying goes, proper people, processes, and technology define success. And it’s true. When a borrower reaches out, you only see a very narrow picture; you need to find out more. Addressing the borrower’s unique needs is all it takes to gain a life-long customer. Make the process easy with the right information available at the right times. Educate your people on how to provide a level of customer service that even the savviest Millennial can appreciate. And, finally, make sure you have the proper technology to support a vast array of borrowers efficiently. Do all this, and you will be able to serve “ducks” from any segment.

By: Sarah Volling for CBInsight

We’re already a quarter of the way through 2015. Spring is almost here, and the flowers are getting ready to bloom. Planting a garden offers great opportunity to reap reward. Annuals are nice; with proper nurturing, you see them grow from just a small seed to a bountiful harvest. Perennials are even better. With the same nurturing, you see them grow not once, but many times over many seasons, giving you a bounty each year.

The same can be said for borrowers. Annuals come in daily. They are first time homebuyers, millennials, empty nesters, and everything in between. Over the last few months we gave you the inside scoop on millennial homebuyers. With this generation being the largest since the baby boomers and reaching an age where buying a home is a possibility, the opportunity is real. However, there’s another market segment you don’t want to miss out on: investment borrowers. If you keep these perennial borrowers happy, they are more than likely to come back the next time they find their next investment property or home. As someone who has purchased multiple properties and is back looking for another, allow me to provide some insight on targeting this group.

Perhaps the most-bang-for-your-buck mortgage segment, investment borrowers seek to buy a new property every few years, often renting or flipping as they go. With homeownership rates still sitting at record lows and interest rates doing the same, investors are looking to capitalize on this rent-centric market. These investors face one problem: housing prices are rising. Many that could once use cash-on-hand to buy properties are now more likely to need a loan.

That’s where you come in. If you want to target these potential borrowers, there are a couple of things you must keep in mind.

First, investment borrowers know what they’re doing; little education is needed. Instead, their first priority is a smooth, trouble-free experience from application through closing. Often, investment borrowers are on the go. They want to apply online and see their loan status whenever convenient for them. Make sure you have an online portal in place to support this. The portal should also allow document upload to streamline the process. Unless these tools are in place, investment borrowers are likely to take their business elsewhere.

Communication is nearly as important as efficiency. As mentioned, this group is well aware of the process and will be sure to tell you so. However, rules change, and each loan is different. Educate the borrower upfront on recent changes (think: Know Before You Owe), and keep the lines of communication open so that there are no surprises. Perhaps more importantly: educate your loan officers. They are the lifeline to the borrower. Set your team up for success through proper training. This will allow the best customer service experience possible.

Finally, investment borrowers are number crunchers. They track to dates, totals, and cash flow. As a result, every deadline, amount they owe, and date you give them will be added to their spreadsheets. Set proper expectations. The mortgage process doesn’t always go according to plan. Dates get pushed out, and unforeseen issues arise. It’s important to let your investment borrower know as soon as possible if things change. In addition, having the proper origination technology in place ensures the right people are working on the loan at the right time. The efficiency gained from workflow automation, rules, and triggers can make the difference between closing on time and having to reset expectations.

As we all know, the origination process isn’t always easy. Each borrower is different, deadlines change, and regulations evolve. Just as in a garden, inclement weather can prove challenging. Fortunately, the basic tools needed to please investment or “perennial” borrowers are the same tools needed for most “annual” borrowers. Provide great customer service and the proper technology, and your mortgage garden will surely bloom.

That is why it is so important to educate your people on how to provide a superior level of customer service. Your loan officers should know how to provide transparency, set expectations, and give proper guidance. You also need to make sure you have the proper technology in place to streamline your processes while keeping up with the times. An easy-to-use borrower-facing web portal is no longer optional. Equally important are the back-end tools. Make sure you have an advanced system capable of streamlining the origination process and getting borrowers to the closing table on time. Begin nurturing your borrowers now, and pretty soon you will have a garden full of both annuals and perennials – the combination every lender needs to be successful.