Austin Niemiec is the executive vice president of Quicken Loans Mortgage Services (QLMS). HousingWire sat down with Niemiec to discuss the disruption to this year’s home buying season and how brokers can prepare to take advantage of more purchase activity.
HousingWire: Economies are beginning to reopen, and we are noticing that it is coming in waves. It seems many states acknowledge the housing market needs to open up as soon as possible. Why do you think that is?
Austin Niemiec: Housing is the heartbeat of America’s economy. It is as simple as that. It’s also critical people who need a home can get it, whether it is new or existing. That is why, in our home state of Michigan, Quicken Loans advocated for the reopening of both the construction and real estate industries.
Opening the housing market will also create jobs at a time when we continue to see millions of unemployment applications filed every single week.
Whether it is construction workers or suppliers, real estate agents, staging experts, photographers and many more – the reach of these industries is wide and will play a role in allowing people to find work again.
Speaking of jobs: here at QLMS, we are hiring like crazy to ensure we keep up with demand from our broker partners and their clients. While the bulk of our new hires will not be coming into the office for the time being, we have converted our training materials so they can be accessed virtually.
We received tons of positive feedback on this shift and know for a fact that everyone is prepared for what is sure to be a busy summer in the mortgage industry. Supporting our partners with competitive pricing, combined with speed to certainty, is our No. 1 focus.
HW: Speaking of a busy summer, the spring buying season seems to be creeping earlier into the year (sometimes starting in January or February). However, due to the coronavirus, brokers had to put their purchase business on hold. What do you tell brokers about making up for that lost time to achieve their goals?
AN: Although purchases have slowed, brokers should be doubling whatever overall production goals they set at the beginning of the year.
Rates are the lowest they have been in the history of America, and no one knows how long they will last. Brokers should be expressing the urgency and explaining to their clients why now is the time to refinance.
This is also a time when cash flow is on everyone’s mind. We have all seen headlines about the millions who are applying for unemployment each week.
Brokers have an incredible opportunity to help homeowners consolidate high-interest debt or take cash out to have savings in the bank.
As loan officers, our job has always been important but now, more than ever, having the ability to save families $100-200 a month or consolidate debt can help them in incredible ways.
Focus and discipline are so important right now for brokers. They need to focus on speaking to as many refinance clients as possible, while having the discipline to not lose sight of their purchase business.
HW: What can brokers do to guarantee they are achieving or exceeding their purchase goals?
AN: It’s no surprise there was a lull in purchase activity due to the shutdowns and stay-at-home orders. That said, I expect purchase activity to boom.
The demand for buying a home did not go away – in fact, it’s pent up. On top of that, interest rates are at historic lows, and Americans, now more than ever, are realizing the importance of home.
The key to success on the purchase side is to truly trust the process. Although pre-approvals are not flipping like they typically do, they will.
Brokers need to continue to follow up and paint a vision for homebuyers. Those that lose focus and fail to prepare for home buying season will not be set up for success. Purchase is a patient business; brokers must not lose patience.
Same goes with real estate agent relationships. Brokers should be talking to real estate professionals more frequently than ever. The purchases will come.
In the meantime, brokers can be a constant source of information and industry updates. With the amount of change and mortgage news flowing daily, brokers who are pros can help translate it to their referral partners. Aligning with agents will assure brokers are receiving high-quality referrals throughout this coming surge in homebuying activity.
Lastly, brokers need to make sure they are constantly interacting with the account executives at their lender partners. By tapping into materials and resources available from lenders, brokers can make sure they are achieving speed with certainty at the fastest rate possible.
HW: You have made it clear brokers should be ramping up their operations for a busy summer; however, that is only in the short term. What can they be doing to ensure long-term success and sustainability?
AN: A broker’s superpower is choice. What makes them special is their ability to build relationships with all the top lending partners in the country and offer their client what they view as the best option. When strong lenders compete for a broker’s business, the broker and their client win. Period.
Those who realize this, and have built these strong relationships, haven’t skipped a beat over the last few months. We have seen some lenders respond much differently than others during the coronavirus pandemic.
Brokers who have an abundance of choice are able to pivot and serve their borrowers. Those who have limited their choices to a few lenders are not able to move as fast.
We are proud to be one of those great choices for the broker community. Last month alone, we partnered with nearly 600 new brokers, comprising of 2,200 loan officers. Now more than ever, they are benefiting from choice.
Strong relationships with many diverse lenders are key to long-term success and sustainability.