Loan Officers: On the Front Lines of Customer Relationships

September 6, 2016 / Dan Slade, Senior Vice President–Field Sales

Loan Officers: On the Front Lines of Customer Relationships

Flexibility: That's the key characteristic of your job. Whether you help a borrower understand the benefits of mortgage insurance, or work with an underwriter to assess a person's capacity to repay a loan, there's nothing the job doesn't demand of you.

Financial counselors

As a loan officer, you ensure that an individual applying for a mortgage has a strong history of using credit responsibly. That means you need to know the details of a borrower's financial life.

You'll ask individuals and couples uncomfortable questions like, "What is the total of your credit card balances?" "Have you filed for bankruptcy in the past 10 years?" "Are you paying alimony or child support?" "Have you fallen behind on any bills?" What about job stability?" On good days, these questions are merely uncomfortable for some borrowers. On other days, you find you've asked about things the prospective borrowers haven't considered themselves or don't want to confront.

Because borrowers can initially be reluctant to expose their financial lives to someone they've just met, it's important for you to engage customers on a personal level and gain their trust. One loan officer with 30 years' experience once told us about a couple who had just been married.

"I was working with them in my office," said the loan officer. "He was shocked when [his wife] said she had a prior bankruptcy. When we got to the section on alimony and child support, her mouth fell open in shock when he said he was paying child support. She had no idea that he had been married before and had a child."

While that's an extreme example, most loan officers have a story that's similar. Delving deep with insightful questions is the only way to make a full assessment of the individual's ability to sustain a mortgage.

Understanding customers

Creating realistic expectations is another key part of the role. Buyers who are just starting the search for a home often experience sticker shock over the cost of buying in their most desired neighborhoods. It's also common for buyers to have an inflated sense of their purchasing power and a tendency to understate their indebtedness. It's often your job to help buyers arrive at a realistic budget for their home purchase and to help them strike a balance between a house that meets their needs and one that is a comfortable fit financially.

No two borrowers are the same. They may be new to the job market or have decades of experience. Or, you may have borrowers who have never bought a home in their lives or who want to downsize and purchase a retirement home. You know these customer segments are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many people with unique, specific circumstances that could affect their ability to qualify for a mortgage.

Guiding borrowers

Informing borrowers

You've probably come across borrowers who don't know the difference between PMI and FHA, much less why mortgage insurance may be necessary. When people enter unfamiliar territory, stress typically follows, making the loan application process worrisome and confusing—without the assistance of a loan officer like you. By providing the information they need in a way they'll understand, you're empowering buyers to make well-informed decisions.

Home buyers aren't the only people involved in the transaction who sometimes need education, according to a loan officer from Pewaukee, Wisconsin. "I strive to simplify the home financing process for my Realtor referral partners and our mutual clients," she said. "This business can be very challenging, but I believe that it is important for mortgage professionals to remove any and all unnecessary confusion and complication from the home-financing process."

Going the extra mile

Because it's often a major milestone in their lives, many borrowers find the mortgage process to be quite emotional. When difficulties or challenges arise, you do whatever it takes to smooth the way for your customers.

In addition, applicants don't live static lives, a factor that constantly keeps you on your toes. They're on the go for work and personal obligations and have lives that can change outside of the mortgage process. All of these disruptions can complicate the origination process, but you figure out a way to make it work. A loan officer in Rockville, Maryland, describes how he has navigated such a situation:

"I had a borrower get in contact knowing he had to leave the country in one week to attend his daughter's wedding," he said. "We had to change loan programs because the program he was going to use would not allow a power of attorney. I also had to make sure that all conditions were in before the file was even underwritten, as the borrower would only have Internet access while he was gone."

These are just some of the many examples of how far loan officers will go to accommodate borrowers. It's time someone recognized the effort and skill you put into your job. From all of us at United Guaranty, thank you for all you do to help people finance homes they can afford now and in the future.

Dan Slade

Dan Slade joined United Guaranty in 1997. As Senior Vice President, Production, he is responsible for field sales. He most recently served as Senior Vice President, Field Operations for United Guaranty's East region, with responsibility for sales, underwriting, emerging markets, and secondary marketing activities. Prior to that, he was Regional Vice President, Production for United Guaranty's East region. Before joining United Guaranty, Slade was president of Pine State Mortgage in Atlanta. Slade is a graduate of the University of Georgia and past president of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Georgia.

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