May 25, 2023

7 Expert Insights for Success in the Mortgage Industry: Takeaways from the MBA-NJ Regional Conference

Navigating the mortgage industry has been anything but a walk in the park lately.

Interest rates have shot up dramatically, homes are in short supply, and prices have gone through the roof. 

We know that you’ve been weathering one of the most difficult markets in recent memory, so hats off to all of you who've stayed strong and resilient amidst these challenges.

To offer a helping hand, we’ve pulled together 7 insights from top LOs and mortgage execs during our time at the MBA-NJ Regional Conference. 

What’s the MBA Regional Conference? 

The 39th Annual Regional Conference of MBAs is an event where members of the mortgage industry come together to swap stories, share wisdom, and get the latest insights into what’s most effective for thriving in 2023 and beyond.


This year’s conference was packed with conversations about everything that's hot in the world of lending. We're talking about marketing trends, top tech offerings, strategies for forming partnerships with agents, growing through renovation lending, and more. 

So, buckle up! We're about to dive into some expert insights that will elevate the way you do business for years to come.

Insight #1: Seize the Moment and Grow

Let's kick things off with some positivity.

While hanging out with loan officers and mortgage execs for three days, we of course saw some concern about the current market conditions, but what really stuck out was the strong vibe of optimism, toughness, and camaraderie - even between competitors.

There was one moment when Laura Brandao, Chief Growth Officer & Partner, EPM, CEO of Lighthouse Lending Capital, took the floor. Everyone was hooked on her every word as she shared how now is the time to seize the moment and grow. Laura gave one of those speeches that gives you goosebumps - truly inspiring and motivating.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Stay positive and resilient: No matter how tough things get, now is not the time to slow down and play scared.
  • Focus on personal growth and self-improvement: Use these challenging times as a chance to learn and grow.
  • Laura’s advice: “Develop a mission and vision mantra” — this can help keep you motivated and aligned with your goals.
  • Embrace vulnerability and openness: Don't be afraid to network and build relationships - it could open doors you never expected.

There’s an old saying that goes something like this: 

“Sow your seeds now, so you will be ready to reap when the seasons change." 
quote - sow your seeds now so you will be ready to reap when the seasons change

Putting in the work and effort now means you’re prepared and can benefit when circumstances improve, or when new opportunities arise.

The market conditions might not be ideal now for everyone, but conditions change. This leads me to our next insight.

Insight #2: Get Ready for Interest Rates to Drop

Barry Habib, Founder & CEO of MBS Highway, rocked his keynote presentation, drawing in a crowd that hung on his every word. 

Not only did he give his two cents on where interest rates are headed, but he also shared how loan officers can predict interest rates, keeping their clients in the loop.

Barry foresees that mortgage rates are about to take a dip as inflation starts to drop.

Check out the image below, where Barry shows us how interest rates are tied to inflation. As inflation goes up, so do interest rates. And when inflation cools down, interest rates follow.

Don't hold your breath for rates to drop below 3% again, but Barry reckons the upcoming dip could be just the kickstart the market needs.

In fact, he predicts that rates will start to slide around May 10th, which is on track with the latest inflation figures showing a slowdown to 4.9%. That's some pretty good news for interest rates.

Source: statista
Source: Sstatista

Just remember, interest rates won't nosedive overnight. It's going to be a slow ride down. But, according to Barry, we’ve reached a turning point.

Barry goes on to mention the ongoing shortage of homes on the market. With just 563k active listings nationwide, prices could keep climbing. But he's still optimistic that interest rates dropping to around 5% this year could bring more buyers out of the woodwork.

So, what's Barry’s golden nugget for originators?

Use this time to sharpen your skills and gear up, because chaos often opens the door to opportunity.

Insight #3: Be an Advisor to Your Clients 

Let's face it, we're all swimming in a sea of negative information these days, especially your clients with news like this constantly being published by the media.

Source: CNBC

As a loan officer, you know that you don’t have to consume everything the mainstream media feeds you. 

But your clients don’t know this.

This is why you need to be the person who educates your clients when they're getting  doom-and-gloom overload.

Here are a few more nuggets of wisdom pulled from MBA:

Be a Guide

Don't just be a face in the crowd. Know your stuff about the real estate market, the financial world, and the ins and outs of what drives mortgage rates.

If you can be the guiding light that helps your clients understand where interest rates are headed, you’re more likely to win business in the interim.

Help clients who are stuck with high-interest rates

One trick that was presented - help clients with debt consolidation. 

Sure, a 7% interest rate might sound rough, but your clients have to look at the bigger picture across all of their investments and debts. 

For instance, many homebuyers have high interest rates in other areas. If you can show homebuyers how consolidating their debts can save them money, then that 7% rate won't seem so high. This is where the real magic happens.

Aim for and educate first-time homebuyers

First-time homebuyers make up roughly 39% of real estate transactions.

Only 11% of first-time homebuyers know they can buy a home with a 5% down payment.

And almost half of potential buyers think they need a 20% down payment.

This is another reason why being an advisor to your clients could just be the single biggest differentiating factor that drives growth and sets you apart from other loan officers.

Insight #4: Back to the Basics

MBA rolled out the red carpet for top loan originators from New Jersey and leading mortgage execs. With so much experience and success in one place, it’s worth taking notice.

MBA Panel

During panel chats, moderators asked what loan officers should be doing to crush it in today's market.

The resounding answer? 

“Go back to the basics.”

But what does sticking to the basics really mean? Let's break it down:

  • Steve Grossman, Chief Strategic Officer of New Jersey Lenders, shared that for him, getting back to the basics means making it a point to call his past clients at least once a year. He knows there's a goldmine of opportunities waiting in his existing database.
  • Michael Santos, Mortgage Loan Originator at MLB Residential Lending says getting back to the basics is daily follow-up on active preapprovals, hitting networking events, and face-to-face appointments, even in our digital world.
  • Justin Freedman, Loan Officer, NorthPointe Bank swears by picking up the phone and being fast and efficient with clients to earn their business.
  • Marvin Rosenberg, "Mortgage Marvin" of Absolute Home Mortgage credits his success to being a problem solver and having a killer work ethic.
  • Taylor Stork, Chief Operating Officer of Developers Mortgage shared —  “Delegate. But don't just hand off tasks, hand off authority too.” He's all for learning from mistakes and tweaking things on the fly.

This 'stick-to-the-basics' mantra was a common thread that wove its way through the entire event.

Insight #5: Winning Over Agent Partners

Another common theme at the event was around building relationships with real estate agents.

Here's the snag though - realtors are up to their eyeballs in calls and emails from loan officers looking to buddy up. Believe it or not, agents get buzzed by loan officers as much as 35 times every week as noted in this post.

During a session led by Laura Brandao, we were treated to a moving story about Paula Huhn, a Branch Manager at Crown Home Mortgage, who took over a year to build a solid relationship with a potential realtor partner.

The turning point came when Paula gave the agent a lift to a golf event. But here's a thing — Paula didn't do this as some clever tactic. She genuinely cared about the agent and forging a relationship. At the end of the day, you've got to be authentic and you've got to bring something of value to the table.

So if you're hitting a wall trying to build relationships, don't give up. Keep at it, because as Paula's story shows, persistence and authenticity pays off.

What else can you do to forge these crucial relationships?

Well, we gathered some top tips straight from a panel of real estate pros who spilled the beans on how loan officers can become irreplaceable allies to agents.

Here's their wisdom:

  • Don't just say that you offer decent customer service, go the extra mile to provide a knockout, tailored experience yourself.
  • Find ways to add value to an agent's listings.
  • Support your realtor partners via co-branding.
  • Make every second count - if you've got a couple of free hours, look into your agent's CRM and find opportunities to lend a hand.
  • Keep communication flowing with your partners and clients to make sure everyone's in the loop.
  • Help educate agents, empowering them to get their heads around the mortgage process and better serve their clients.
  • Stay efficient - use systems and tools to streamline your workflow, so you can focus on nurturing relationships and closing deals. 

In short, building solid relationships with real estate agents isn't just about networking. It's about genuinely caring, adding value, and being a reliable partner.

One easy way to provide value to your agent partners is by co-sponsoring an agent on Homebot. When you co-sponsor an agent, their clients will receive co-branded digests and you can help your agents educate their clients about their mortgages.

Cosponsor agents

Looking to dig a bit deeper? Check out this post where Fairway Loan Officer Kelly Rogers shares why acting like a coach to your agent partners is a game-changer.

Insight #6: The Opportunities In Renovation Lending

During the event, we received a master class in renovation lending and how it can help unlock growth while strengthening your realtor relationships.

What's renovation lending all about?

It's a type of loan that homeowners can use to fund anything from a full-blown renovation to sprucing up a fixer-upper.

renovation lending

Andy Thaw, from Jet Direct Mortgage, led the chat. 

He hammered home how renovation lending is like a sturdy ship - it keeps sailing no matter how choppy the market gets.

He also threw in a curveball – refinancing. Contrary to what some people think, it's not dead and buried. It's still a solid option for funding renovation projects.

But the biggest takeaway? Renovation lending is a powerful tool that can help homeowners build wealth and improve their lives.

Andy gave us some real-life examples that drove the point home.

The first, a couple who were outgrowing their home. They had a low-interest rate and loved their school district, so moving was off the table. Their solution? Use renovation lending to add more space to their home.

Second, the story of grandparents bracing for their kids and grandkids moving back in. Renovation lending came to the rescue, enabling them to expand their home, fitting everyone.

Lastly, Andy shared touching stories about homeowners on the Jersey shore, devastated by Hurricane Sandy, using renovation lending to rebuild and improve their homes.

Can you see the power of renovation lending?

It's not just a surefire way to drum up more business as a loan officer in today's market, it’s also a goldmine for referrals, from real estate agents to fellow loan officers and builders alike.

Insight #7: Embrace Technology

We have to give a shout-out to mortgage tech because, after all, we're Homebot - a tech tool that helps loan officers and agents rake in repeat business and referrals from their client database of clients.

So, while there was a ton of buzz about the old-school basics and the magic of face-to-face chats, don't be fooled. Tech's making some serious noise in the mortgage industry and we caught all the juicy details.

It's clear that loan officers and mortgage execs are embracing the digital era. They're not just rolling with the trends - they're getting creative and using new tools to up their game.

So what’s working now?

LOs are casting a wider net, taking notes from experts outside their region, staying on top of the latest social media and video trends in the mortgage industry.

They're cashing in on the video and social media hype, which really picked up speed during the pandemic.

(PS - Need some top-notch video and social tips? Check out this webinar with Neel Dhingra)

Neel Dhingra

Here's a game-changing tip that could totally revolutionize your pre-approval game: video pre-approvals. 

One savvy LO spilled the beans that sending video pre-approvals has been a total game-changer. Tools like BombBomb, that makes it a breeze to send video pre-approvals to your homebuyers.

But it's not all about flashy video and social media. 

We also heard a ton about the power of engaging your existing database through email, CRMs, and client engagement tools like - you guessed it - Homebot.

In a nutshell, the name of the game is to adapt and evolve. Taking on innovations in tech isn't just about keeping pace with the competition - it's about blazing your own trail. And with the latest leaps in AI, the mortgage tech scene is heating up.

Final Thoughts

To wrap up — the mortgage industry in 2023 is obviously very challenging right now, and yet, those who can adapt will end up as leaders themselves on the other side

The insights shared by top lenders at the MBA-NJ conference can guide you through the rest of the year. Remember, it's about staying positive, embracing change, getting back to the basics, coaching your clients, building relationships, and seizing the opportunity. 

Looking for more? Check out these great posts below:

  1. How Fairway Loan Officer Kelly Rogers Grew Her Business by 400% (5 Tips for 2023)  
  2. How to Build a Magnetic Personal Brand That Lasts: Advice from a Top Producing Loan Officer

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