Maryland has over a dozen Eastern European stores that sell products like caviar, pumpernickel bread and salo, a Ukrainian-style bacon. Apart from selling produce that is popular in former Soviet countries, these stores represent a marketing opportunity for Alex Naumovych, a loan officer at Draper and Kramer Mortgage Corporation.
Just before a customer buys a container of pre-made Borscht, they see Naumovych’s business cards and flyers that lay neatly near the checkout area.
This advertising strategy, among a handful of others, has helped the LO connect with Russian-speaking Realtors and win the business of borrowers from former Soviet countries.
“I have my business cards everywhere because the more people that see your cards and face, the better,” Naumovych said. “Borrowers have called me from seeing my advertising in the stores and a couple of Realtors, too.”
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s yearly forecast, purchase mortgage originations are expected to grow by 9% to $1.73 trillion in 2022, while refinance origination will dip by 62% to $860 billion from $2.26 trillion in 2021.
The reasons for the dip in refis this year, the trade group said, will stem from higher mortgage rates –which have already eclipsed 4%, faster than the projections— and fewer eligible homeowners.
With the market shift, LOs whose businesses were mainly driven by refinances in 2020 and 2021, must quickly shift gears and figure out ways to bring in purchase leads.
LOs interviewed by HousingWire say that they have actively ramped up their attempts to connect with prospective borrowers and real estate agents. Some LOs are making inroads with potential clients through use of social media, leaning on their multilingual skills and doing old fashioned cold calling.
Meanwhile, others worry that they will soon wash out of the industry.
TikTok, Facebook and LinkedIn
Christian Hernandez, vice president of mortgage lending at Guaranteed Rate, has leaned heavily on social media platforms to generate new leads and build relationships with borrowers and real estate agents.
In a TikTok video with “Call Me Maybe” playing in the background, Hernandez, who’s based out of Arizona, includes subtitles that have her contact information instructing borrowers to reach out to her.
The mortgage-related content that she makes on her TikTok is then uploaded to her LinkedIn and Facebook profile. Hernandez said that about 30% of her leads flow in from her social media outreach.
“I actively use social media and I have built my brand this way,” Hernandez said. “Once I saw how easy it was to generate content through TikTok and use voice-overs and music, I started connecting with people on an emotional level.”
She added, “The mortgage process can be very intimidating for people and especially right now, there is so much competition. But by putting myself out there and connecting my face to the name and showing borrowers that there is an actual human being with emotions that has had an impact on my business.
The power of being multilingual
Naumovych in an interview with HousingWire said that he uses his connections to the Eastern European diaspora and his knowledge of the Ukrainian and Russian language to generate new leads.
The LO markets himself at Ukrainian-owned businesses, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and at Ukrainian festivals, which happen every year in Silver Spring, MD.
“I have my own booth at the festival,” said Naumovych. “During the festival last year, 40 people gave me their contact information and I’ve been in touch with them. The pastor of the Ukrainian church is currently looking to buy a house and I’m working on his pre approval.”
Fahad Janvekar, an LO at Fairway Independent Mortgage, speaks Hindi and Urdu and relies on a “fixer” in his community to connect him with prospective borrowers.
“This guy is a fixer, and he fixes people’s problems, whatever they are,” said Janvekar. “He’s great at recalling people and he directs me to talk to people that may be looking for a mortgage in the community.”
Hernandez, who speaks fluent Spanish, also said that she uses her multilingual capabilities to connect with more borrowers. However, she noted that she doesn’t limit her outreach to only the Hispanic diaspora and wants to be inclusive.
Finding business the traditional way
And though there are many creative avenues to get purchase business, cold calling and appearing at open houses to connect with real estate agents is here to stay, LOs told HousingWire.
A sales manager, who requested anonymity, said that he helps newbie LOs by reviewing their strategies to pull in business at open houses. Additionally, he said that he helps his LOs clean up their social media pages and sets up plans for them to be more active in marketing themselves.
“There’s a million places you can get business,whether it’s social media, online networking in person networking, realtors, financial planners, it’s finding, where you haven’t explored yet,” said the manager.
Janvekar on the other hand, who has been an LO for over a year, reaches out to human resource personnel and benefits managers at mid-tiered companies that don’t have “a full-fledged relocation set-up.”
“I’m getting on their radar and consistently communicating with them and introducing myself,” Janvekar said. “My strategy is different and it’s a slow burn strategy.”
Janvekar hopes to see the fruit of his labor come to fruition in the spring and summertime when borrowers are most likely to move.
However, some newcomers to the industry haven’t been lucky in growing their book of business.
La Toya Davis, LO at mortgage broker shop Right Now Mortgage, LLC, said that in her year as a certified LO, she has not had the guidance she believes is necessary to be successful in a purchase market.
“It has been very, very slow,” said Davis. “I posted a few times on Facebook and was connected with a Realtor and we closed four purchase deals with her since I started with the company.”
However, Davis’ relationship with the agent turned sour and she has not yet been able to develop relationships with other agents.
“I’m in the process of going to work for a new company where they will train me and teach me the tools of how to be a successful loan officer,” she said.