The importance of the loan officer (LO) and real estate agent relationship can not be overstated. Having a trusted lender to recommend to new clients is a big help since many homebuyers have little or no experience in borrowing to finance a home purchase. The bond between LO and agent is a source of new business and referrals. It offers a unique co-branding opportunity that extends your reach, while providing a reliable stream of business to the lender.
What should a real estate agent look for in a loan officer and lender?
- Reliable pre-approvals. As you take on new clients you want to be sure you have a lender that can turn around both pre-qualifications, and more importantly pre-approvals, in a timely fashion. In today’s highly competitive market, you want to know that when it’s time to make an offer, your client’s financials have been properly vetted.
- On-time closings. Turning a loan application around requires a certain amount of hand-holding by the LO. Pulling together required documentation and processing it through underwriting to get “clear to close” requires a high level of competence across the lender’s organization. A seasoned LO knows where the pitfalls are — and how to avoid them — to make sure that everything is in place for the closing and that closings are on-time.
- Products. Because you have clients with a wide range of needs, you want a lender with an array of loan products. Aside from the standard Conventional, FHA, and VA loans, you’ll want a Jumbo product, home renovation programs like the 203(k), USDA rural development, and loans for clients who don’t meet the standard income and asset requirements. These so-called Non-QM products evaluate income based on bank statements and asset holdings. These programs are ideal for sole proprietors and investors who have the cash but not the stable income stream. If you don’t have a good working knowledge of the loan products available, having an experienced LO partner always helps.
- Marketing support. A good lender has marketing resources readily available to support you and your LO’s cobranding efforts. From open house flyers to social media posts, a lender’s marketing team should be able to promote those efforts across multiple channels. Your LO should also be able to assist in providing presentation materials for first-time homebuyer seminars, social media training, etc.
- Superior customer service. Expectations naturally run high when one professional hands off a client to another. You want an LO that shares your commitment to providing excellent service — an LO that listens carefully to your client’s needs and can find the best loan program, interest rate, and terms to meet those needs. A knowledgable LO who takes the time to explain the importance of your client’s credit score, available down payment options, the underwriting process, and exactly what is needed for a smooth closing. You want an LO that will pick up their phone whenever possible and always returns calls in a timely fashion. And, you want an LO you can depend on to communicate proactively, keeping your and your client up-to-date on the progress of their loan application.
- Transparency. Lastly, you want to work with an LO and a lender that you can count on. One that won’t fail to disclose an issue as soon as it arises and has an alternative to remedy the situation whenever possible. Trust is very important. When something goes wrong — a closing is delayed or, worse your client’s loan application is declined — the LO alerts you immediately, takes responsibility, and is able to explain the lender’s decision to you and your client.
The bottom line
Obviously, from time-to-time things can go wrong. Your top choice may be unavailable, or lending volume is such that closings may slip. That’s why having a shortlist of reliable LO’s and lenders with the resources to back them up is an absolute must.