Navigating today's shifting housing market might feel a bit like a rollercoaster ride for loan officers.
Just a year ago, interest rates were cozy at 5%, which seemed high compared to the sub-3% rates of 2021. Then in May, rates went on a wild sprint to 7%, before dropping again to the high 6% range in June. On top of that, there are fewer homes for sale, and home prices haven’t budged.
So, here's the question: As a loan officer, how do you not just survive, but thrive in today’s high-rate, low-inventory market? And how do you set yourself up to ride the wave when the market inevitably swings back your way?
To get some answers, we brought in Nicole Rueth, who is currently rated #18 loan originator in the US by Scotsman Guide, for a friendly AMA-style chat where she answered questions from Homebot’s community of loan officers and agents about what she’s doing to thrive in today’s market.
Prefer to watch a recording of the AMA instead, check it out below:
Answer: Nicole shares that her early morning routine of waking up as early as 3:30am is one of the top reasons she has an edge on the competition.
“One of the things that I’m known for is the fact that I get up at 3:30am, and I have done that literally since the kids were babies… Even in college, I was the first one at the gym when they opened up at 5:00 am.”
Centering oneself, designing the day, and casting a vision are essential to long-term success and growth in the mortgage industry. Nicole also notes that, during this time, she sets up her and her team’s daily tasks and delegates them accordingly.
Does this imply you have to be an early bird like Nicole Rueth to succeed? Nope, not at all.
What Nicole is alluding to is the importance of having a solid routine and work ethic, rather than just clocking in hours at a specific time. It's about being consistent and disciplined in your approach.
Nicole emphasizes that success in the mortgage industry isn't about who's up the earliest or who's working the latest. It's about how effectively you use your working hours and how dedicated you are in serving your clients. It's about knowing your market, continually learning, and being prepared to adapt when the market shifts.
Answer: Nicole’s first non-negotiable is providing direction to her team. She shares that she has a fantastic team where everyone has specific roles, and her job is “keeping the train moving forward on the tracks.”
Delegating responsibilities is essential for any loan officer - no matter their team’s size. Make sure that each team member knows their role and how they contribute to the overall success of the team.
Nicole checks in with herself by asking:
“How am I giving the marketing team enough direction or vision so that they can create the social programs that they have or the social posts or the video content? Am I giving my production partners enough access to talk to enough clients to have enough deals so that they’re feeling fed? So one of my things is… to stay out of the weeds for enough time in a day to identify the next thing that they need to be working on. That’s one of the non-negotiables.”
Nicole’s second non-negotiable is to never stop learning. She recommends reading – whether it’s books, articles, magazines, podcasts or other relevant content – to stay on top of what’s happening in the economy, helping to provide an advantage to her clients and real estate partners.
Answer: Nicole’s #1 tip for generating more business is finding your niche. Don’t limit yourself by trying to be everything to everybody. Instead, identify your niche and dive into it.
For instance, Nicole’s niche and passion lie in understanding the market data and teaching investing, often to first-time investors who feel intimidated by real estate.
Your mission as a loan officer should be to talk about and become a specialist in whatever you are passionate about, whether condos, multi-unit properties, rural property types, reverse mortgages, or another specific area.
“Stop thinking you’re going to offend someone or remove somebody from your opportunity. When you go ‘all in’ on your messaging and you learn everything about [your niche]... and create all the content around it, you become known as the expert… And then people want to be a part of that… You actually start to build a bigger following of the people that aren’t in that because you’re so passionate about something. And people want to be around people who are passionate about what they do.”
Answer: If you've ever seen Nicole speak then you'll instantly pick up on her radiating smile and positivity, no matter what topic she's talking about. It’s no surprise that one of her golden nuggets of advice is to stop with the negative self-talk when the market slows down.
Nicole shares that, unfortunately, this negative self-talk is where salespeople's minds go first when their numbers are down, often thinking things are too challenging to remain successful.
In addition to avoiding negative self-talk, here are a few of Nicole’s recommendations for staying consistent:
Answer: “Doubling down” is also an excellent technique when it comes to goal setting.
“Identify an appropriate, big, hairy, audacious goal, and then go after it like it was ten times that… I told my team a number that would not deflate them. And in my head, I have a number like ten times bigger.”
Setting a big goal is crucial because it helps you continue the activity levels, awareness, and communication to reach a specific level of success.
How can loan officers dive into goal setting? Here are the six key components of Nicole’s approach to setting reachable goals:
Answer: There's so much doom and gloom in the market these days, especially for homebuyers. And let’s not even get started on the media, sharing pessimistic headlines like: “Record Low Share of Americans Think Now Is Good Time to Buy a Home.”
This is why Nicole points out that as a loan officer you have to help your clients understand the whole picture. Nicole shares that she talks with her clients the same way she talks with her team - with intelligence and with a vision.
“We all know that as we enter into a recession and we see the economy slowing down and inflation slowing down, we’re going to see interest rates dropping… And, when they drop, we’re going to see some of that demand coming out… We’re constantly talking [to clients] about getting in now. Before the recession, you’re going to have more opportunity for appreciation and a further upside on the backend. If you wait until it’s over, you’re going to miss another appreciation swing in the market just like you did the last three years while you’re waiting.”
Set aside time to have meaningful conversations with your clients and show them the bigger picture. Explain why it’s in their best interest to buy now, instead of waiting for “ideal” market conditions.
Answer: Loan officers shouldn't approach real estate partnerships with the “This realtor is mine” mentality. Nicole shares that she’s never thought of the agents she works with as exclusively hers.
She also mentions that some loan officers try to woo agents with lunch, coffee, and sporting events. while this tactic might be helpful for some, it isn’t always necessary. In fact, Nicole doesn’t attend sporting events with her agents and rarely takes them out for lunch or coffee. Instead, she’s there for her real estate agents where it counts: rain or shine.
If you're using Homebot, you're in an ideal position to solidify your relationships with real estate agents by inviting them to co-sponsor your Homebot account. Nicole notes that she has thousands of clients in Homebot and is cosponsored with close to 100 agents.
Answer: Education is Nicole’s primary lead-generation tool. She started with a monthly in-person class and later began a weekly online class. She and her team also have large yearly events such as, The Next Big Thing.
If hosting educational events isn’t your thing, don’t sweat it? You can still use your industry knowledge to help generate leads!
Try sharing your mortgage insight through blog posts, videos, podcasts, or social media posts, which help to build your audience’s trust. As an example, check out how Nicole brings value, sharing information-packed videos on YouTube.
Another way to drive new business, while building trust, is by using the Homebot Digest.
The Homebot Digest is sent to your clients every month to educate your them on their home equity. By empowering your homeowners, they'll be able to make informed decisions and utilize you as their trusted expert to guide them.
Nicole uses Homebot to streamline the process of connecting with clients and real estate agents in her sphere of influence. She loves that Homebot helps her educate and excite people about growing their home’s equity.
“The home value report from the Digest goes out every month… We just upload it once a month through Homebot… And it goes out with our information, but in a way where we’re continuing to educate on what you can do with that equity.”
Interested in taking the Homeowner Digest for a tour? Check out this interactive demo.
Answer: An excellent first step in standing out from the competition is to ensure that your mission is clear to people. Nicole recommends asking a recent client or a real estate partner for feedback on your website or social media posts.
Looking for some inspiration on how to niche down? Here are a few examples:
In addition to being clear about who you are and what you represent, you should create a unique brand identity. Hone in on what makes you stand out, develop a brand statement, and find ways to connect with people.
For instance, check out Nicole’s website. She makes it easy to know that she works with first time homebuyers and investment properties.
Answer: Nicole notes that many loan officers love to count and compare themselves to others. Nicole notes that LOs count their realtors, referral partners, units, and loans. Then, they get upset and frustrated when things don’t add up how they think they should.
“The moment you let go of counting is the moment that the countless comes into your life. Loan officers aren’t necessarily taught how to be abundant because we’re taught to be competitive… That we need to make sure that we’re hoarders. We’re literally the best hoarders on the planet because we want to protect… I think that they need to stop being hoarders and start being givers and stop counting.”
One important thing to remember is that loan officers shouldn’t fear others stealing their business. Of course, you want to win every deal, but if and when you don’t, get up and make the next phone call. Work to replace what you lost.
If you lose out on a deal to another lender, support that prospective client anyway. That way, if something happens and their deal falls through, you’ll be available and ready to help them secure their next loan.
Answer: Nicole shares that she no longer does hybrid events where attendees have the option to attend in person or via Zoom. Instead, she does either an online event or an in-person event. She offers both separately so people who are uncomfortable attending a live event can still enjoy the action.
If you plan on doing an in-person event, Nicole recommends calling people to invite them. She’s found that emails and social media posts aren’t nearly as efective as picking up the phone.
Nicole points out:
“You personally invite them. You let them know how important they are to you, and you make sure they know the value that you’re bringing to the class that you’re holding.”
Once your attendees are solidified, follow through by giving them the value they crave, whether that’s action steps on how to grow their business or ways to have their best-ever year on social media. There’s nothing worse than attendees feeling like they’ve experienced a “bait and switch."
Answer: Nicole loves learning all things economics, so she spends a lot of time watching CNBC. She also utilizes Google alerts to learn about shifts in the mortgage industry or real estate market in Denver, CO.
“I’m trying to assimilate it in a way that gets us out of the fear of the headlines and puts us into a space of abundance. So, I try to stay as positive as I can with the news that’s happening because, in every market, there are winners!”
Anyone can film a video on their smartphone and upload it. But it takes posting engaging, valuable content to truly stand out online. Here are a few key ingredients:
Finding and “winning” top producing real estate agents doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. One of the best ways is to establish a local presence. Make it a point to meet agents who may become prospective partners. Another great technique is sharing successful agents’ social media posts and supporting them when possible.
One of the best techniques is simply to listen. Many loan officers focus on selling themselves without being willing to listen to people about their concerns or pain points. Once you realize what their problem is, you can work to create a personal connection and help provide a solution.
Many clients will shop around for the best rates - there’s no way to avoid it. First, fix your mindset. Realize you won’t win every deal, don’t let it overtake your emotions. Second, work on providing more value than other loan officers and building rapport
Yes! A first step would be to work to overcome your fears by using video confidence-boosting tactics. However, if you know that speaking on camera just isn’t for you, consider utilizing text-on-screen techniques or using a voice-over artist. There are also other business boosting strategies like writing informative blogs and creating unique social media posts.
We all know the housing market is ever-changing, but Nicole Rueth has given much insight into her techniques for maintaining a thriving business through all of the shifts.
As a quick recap, here are a few of Nicole’s top tips for getting more business, even with a fluctuating market:
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