If you’re a new mortgage broker, you’ll realize soon enough that there’s actually a great deal in this business that we have no control over.
Large economic forces move the interest rates. Lenders control underwriting turnaround. Investors, insurers and regulators set the policies and guidelines.
So, what do you actually control? Your process.
Build a strong process and everything else will improve. You’ll have more time for business development, clients will appreciate the quick communication and underwriters will reward your clean submissions with faster responses.
In this article, I’ll share a few tips that each take about 10-15 minutes to implement and that will make your life as a mortgage broker easier.
Tip 1: Define your mortgage process
The mortgage process can be sliced up in a dozen different ways depending on how you see the world. But, at the end of the day we’re all following the same path.
What’s important is that you define each stage in the process so it’s clear in your mind, then figure out how to get an application to the next stage more quickly or in fewer steps.
This is what my process looks like:
Write out your process somewhere you can reference often. Now that the stages are defined, you’re in a better spot to identify opportunities to make key steps a bit more streamlined. For example, you’ll probably notice that pre-approvals often get stuck moving from stage 4 to stage 5, especially in the current sellers’ market.
If you’re losing clients at that stage to competitors, maybe give your clients a little more attention during the pre-approval stage and check in with them by giving regular market updates.
Tip 2: Figure out your booking process
Funding ratios start with how many leads you get on the phone. Calls turn into applications, which turn into mortgages. So, you can imagine how getting a new lead on the phone for that first call can make or break your business.
Whether they realize it or not, the speed and efficiency of your response tells clients the kind of broker you’ll be while handling their application. Clients want to move at their own pace, whether that’s fast or slow. But when they’re ready, they want service instantly.
Get yourself a call scheduling application. There are a dozen out there, but the most popular is Calendly. Whichever software you choose, get one with SMS and email reminders to reduce no-shows.
Put the link in your email signature, share it with your Realtor partners, and invite new leads to pick a time in the first email.
Tip 3: Draft a discovery call framework
It’s important to keep your notes organized. I always break my call notes up into seven sections, then write everything down in bullet points. Make it a habit to spend 5-10 minutes after every call cleaning up and organizing your notes. Trust me: when you look back in a couple months you’ll forget all the context of what the client said unless you clean up your notes.
Here’s my call framework:
Goal & timeline What stage in the process are they? Should you give them a bit of breathing room or push to get documents today for a quick approval?
Income Employer, job title/role, income amount, pay type, length at employer, length in industry, etc.
Liabilities Balances, payments, debt types
Credit Don’t get stuck in the weeds here. The biggest thing is to confirm they have two trade lines for two years, and tell them not to cancel any credit cards. Then ask them, “Are there any issues I should know about? Missed or deferred payments, bankruptcy, consumer proposals, high card balances?” You’ll learn this anyway when you pull credit, but it’s better to discuss it early.
Down payment Amount, account, institution, source (gifted, savings, sale of property, etc). Tell them not to move money around. Confirm the money is in the country. Explain the 90-day history requirement so they don’t complain later.
Subject property Property value, property taxes, strata, heat, rental income (estimated amounts for pre-approvals), location.
You need something quick where you can store notes and keep track of where clients are in the sales process. Eventually, you’re going to need a proper CRM to act as your reliable single source of truth, but that’s a decision that has a long-term impact on your business. If you’re starting out, you might not want to fully commit to a particular CRM just yet until your process is fully fleshed out.
For now, consider something like Trello or Notion so you can use a Kanban-style board to keep applications organized.
If and when you do set up a CRM, my biggest tip is to avoid tracking unnecessary information. I don’t track data in Salesforce unless it’s necessary in order to know 1) the status of the application or 2) for future marketing automation.
For example, is the SIN necessary to track in your CRM? No. You only need to enter it once, and it belongs in the file submission platform (Finmo/Filogix/Velocity). Copying it from the T4 to your CRM and then to your submission form doesn’t add any value.
How about a precise breakdown of your client’s individual liabilities? I put those in a quick note field based on the discovery call. Liabilities tend to change and get paid out, so you don’t want to keep updating your CRM every time.
Tip 5: A simple database for lender rules
Rates change too often to be worth tracking. Just create a folder in your email and save them all there. Rates are what they are and I rarely get into rate discussions on the initial calls anyway. Product guidelines, on the other hand, are very important to track.
Over time you’ll internalize most of the rules, but it’s still a good idea to build a database of your knowledge as you learn things. That way, you can quickly decide if a lender is a good fit for a client.
You can track these in a tool like Notion, then eventually add it to your CRM for quicker reference. Create an outline similar to the discovery call framework so you maintain consistency across lenders. Do this by looking at the product sheets for three to five lenders and decide what makes sense to track.
Tip 6: Summarize your pre-approvals in an email
We understand pre-approvals can’t be 100% accurate because you’re assuming a lot of numbers. But, clients don’t always understand that, and they might take the number as rigid. It’s important to show your client some of the mechanics behind the scenes and involve them in the assumptions so 1) they can help you course-correct and 2) so they feel a sense of ownership of the numbers.
What I do is send the pre-approval assumptions via email along with the buying power. Here’s an example of a summary:
Hey, Isabelle, please confirm or correct the following details and assumptions for the place you want to buy:
Income: $174k/year (household)
Debt: $0 non-mortgage debt (credit cards, car loans, personal loans, etc)
Down payment: $500k (100% savings, 0% gift)
Calgary property (existing rental you plan to keep)
Property tax: $2195.78/year
Strata fee: $420/month
Purchase assumptions (the place you want to buy)
Property tax: $5,800/year (We could reduce this a bit if you decide to look outside of Oak Bay)
Strata fee: $0
Rent: $0 expected
Tip 7: Create resources for your clients
You can’t explain everything to everybody. It would take too much time and clients don’t always need the same things explained. The most efficient solution is to create searchable resources so clients can help themselves.
In my own business, the document collection email was getting a bit unwieldy with all the explanation text. So, I just created a page on my website with a list of common mortgage documents so my clients can get answers to questions on their own terms. It’s a living document, so whenever somebody asks a clarifying question or wants to know something I haven’t explained, I’ll answer them and then go update the page so future clients can benefit from that information.
When you’re starting out, don’t worry about making a nicely formatted webpage. Just create a Google Document and make it visible (but not editable) to anyone with the link so you can start sharing it right away. You can always add a page to your site later on down the road once you have the content figured out.
A lot of brokers (myself included) fall into the trap of trying to build a perfect system all at once. When that invariably fails, they put off making changes because they don’t have time to overhaul the entire process. The most effective way to improve is to clearly define your process at the beginning, then make small incremental changes over time.
Anytime something doesn’t go perfectly in your business, try to look back and see what you could have done better. In Agile tech teams, that’s called a ‘retrospective’ and it’s a way of identifying ways to improve and take responsibility without laying blame on anybody. For example, if the lender took too long to issue a commitment, maybe next time you need to follow up with the underwriter sooner or check turnaround times with the BDM before selecting a lender.
All of these little tweaks add up over the years to make your business a finely tuned machine.