Early in my career, I started a full-service mortgage brokerage while also leading a capital development group for real estate investing.
During that time, I paid close attention to the residential sales side and was often dismayed at how the local agents struggled to grasp my side of the real estate transaction. My loan officers were continuously frustrated by agents’ lack of understanding about the process, and they didn’t seem to have an initiative to learn.
I came to the conclusion that with proper training, agents could become much more than salespeople and move into the trusted advisor role. Trained in real estate law, I was already serving in that role, but believed I could expand upon it, and in the process increase my mortgage capture rates. That led to the creation of CARLILE Realty and Lending in 2005. We recently affiliated with ERA Real Estate becoming ERA CARLILE Realty Group.
Integration in action
After launching the multi-faceted, vertically-integrated company, we started recruiting agents and offered enhanced training on the more technical side of the real estate transaction including title, appraisals, inspection and legal among others. Additionally, we worked with our agents on their negotiation skills. The results of this unique approach were immediate as our agents quickly became better equipped to counsel their clients on all aspects of the transaction, gaining greater confidence overall.
Today, we bring our real estate agents and loan officers together during our weekly sales meetings. Rather than have each side serve as a guest speaker at the other’s session, the ongoing integration has proved to be invaluable and both sides are better for it. We use these one-hour meetings to address challenges and opportunities that emerge, and everyone is free to provide their ideas and commentary on how we can improve.
I lead the discussion and bring up topics so the entire group can learn together about the home-buying and -selling process, loan qualifications, contingencies, issues on the legal side along with new construction and development. We often follow-up these meetings with a lunch-and-learn with another ancillary partner – with both sides of the house participating.
Extension to consumers
Our joint training sessions led to another enhancement for the company. We developed a consumer approach called the Purchase Planning Meeting (PPM), which gives agents, loan officers and clients the opportunity to address the financial aspect of the home-buying transaction much earlier in the process. In fact, this meeting is our first step with buyer clients and serves to put everyone involved in the home purchase – including family members and friends who may be involved in funding it – on the same page. The result has been a more informed buyer, the elimination of searching for homes beyond the buyer’s financial means and the ability to get them through the process so that a purchase agreement can be pulled together in record time. This program is also used for move-up buyers to fully understand their purchase power with the use of seller proceeds.
Expanding everyone’s scope
Exposing real estate agents to loan officers and vice versa has certainly expanded everyone’s knowledge base, but we’ve taken it one step farther. We regularly discuss recent real estate articles in industry publications and dive even deeper into topics with our book club. Because our agents, loan officers and staff come from different walks of life with different perspectives, these discussions enlighten all of us, build shared viewpoints and force us to continuously learn.
I believe these efforts challenge our entire team to fully understand the issues and trends in the real estate industry. We learn about new opportunities and work together as a team allowing for new learned opportunities among our experiences within the industry, our colleagues and our peers. Our agents and loan officers now better understand the intricacies of a successful client relationship with all partners.
It’s good to have a highly effective and integrated team, but only if that improves the business. I’m happy to say that in our case, it has. Where once we closed 400 transactions a year – 80% on the mortgage side – we closed 700 last year with a third coming from residential real estate sales.
We’ve also seen our loan capture rate rise to 90%. The reason is pretty simple. Our agents have not only trained with a client’s potential lending partner, but they also know them extremely well and have built-in trust. The client feels more comfortable by the cohesiveness of the team in referring their business to the mortgage side of the house.
Our training has resulted in some great successes for our firm, but we understand that not every brokerage has the in-house lending side. For those who don’t, my advice is to invite your mortgage partners for a short segment during a sales meeting and work together to create mentoring programs so your agents can shadow them.
Not only will your agents learn what works and what doesn’t, but they’ll also learn to be better partners and develop stronger relationships, on both the partner and client side. There will be less “baton passing” and more integrated collaboration – a win for everyone inside the company as well as clients outside the company.