HousingWire recently spoke to Alex Elezaj, chief strategy officer at UWM, about the work independent mortgage brokers can do right now to prepare for when rates drop and how to go above and beyond for clients.
HousingWire: Why should independent mortgage brokers embrace today’s market?
Alex Elezaj: It’s only a matter of time before rates drop, and when they do, there will be a clear difference between those who have been preparing and those who have not.
The way I see it, there are two types of people in the mortgage space right now: those who are simply waiting around for rates to drop and those who are putting in the work to better their business. The winners have spent 2023 focused on strengthening relationships with real estate agents, educating borrowers and improving their marketing strategies.
The reality is, we can’t control the rates, but we can control the service we provide and make sure we stay in front of past clients. Those who are focused on how they can get better and taking the steps to make improvements to their business are the ones who are going to come out stronger and more successful for the long term.
HW: What can independent mortgage brokers do right now to prepare for when rates drop?
AE: It’s important to leverage tools, technology and services that streamline operations and enhance your productivity now so that when volume increases, these steps are already part of the process. At UWM, we ensure our clients have a full suite of resources to help them grow their business in any market.
For example, PA+ is an option for UWM clients to receive an additional level of loan processing support, with the goal being to ease some of the most time-consuming parts of the loan process from setup through closing. Most recently, we enhanced this service to allow brokers and their processors to choose which part or parts of the loan process they’d like a UWM loan coordinator to handle.
Not only does this give them more flexibility, control and support, allowing them to scale their business immediately, but it also offers brokers and processors additional assistance during busy times and makes them more available to have meaningful touchpoints with borrowers.
Some of UWM’s most successful clients are taking advantage of PA+ today to ensure their businesses are set up for success when rates eventually drop. Preparing is all about using the resources available to you.
HW: Providing a great client experience goes a long way when it comes to referrals and repeat business. What’s the secret to making long-lasting impressions?
AE: The reality is, nobody wants a mortgage. They want the house. This is why, as an independent mortgage broker, providing an elite client experience should be the main priority for every loan. When a borrower looks back at the homebuying process, we don’t want them to think about potentially stressful parts. We want them to remember how seamless and easy their broker made it.
To help with this, UWM recently announced Memory Maker, which allows independent mortgage brokers to send their choice of customized thank you items to borrowers and real estate agents. This includes personalized thank you emails or handwritten notes and gifts for borrowers, such as a cutting board, ice bucket or welcome mat.
It’s these types of gestures that leave a lasting impression in someone’s memory bank that can lead to repeat business down the road. On average, a person will own three homes in their lifetime. That’s a potential for three separate mortgages in addition to refinances. Believe it or not, a handwritten thank you note to a real estate agent or a customized cutting board for a borrower can go a long way in making sure that broker is top of mind when those needs arise.
HW: We know rates will drop at some point. What will things look like in the wholesale channel when they do?
AE: The wholesale channel reached a new milestone last quarter with the broker market share achieving its highest level in over a decade. We’ve seen a massive shift in retail LOs transitioning to the wholesale channel, and we expect this trend to continue. The broker channel continues to prove it’s resilient and thrives in all market cycles, and we are prepared for the day rates tick down, just like we were prepared when the market shifted to purchases.
Brokers who are embracing this market and taking the time to improve their processes, marketing and client experience will win. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the doom and gloom surrounding the housing industry right now, but if we block out the negativity, outwork the competition and do right by every borrower we interact with, the independent mortgage broker channel will continue to dominate and be the obvious choice for consumers and real estate agents.