Mortgage Processing: What it Takes to Be the Best
Twenty loans in a pile on your desk, fifteen more wait to be looked at, a loan officer asks if you can get them all closed by the end of the month, borrowers are upset because you ask for more documentation, and you still haven’t had lunch or gone to the bathroom. Sound familiar?
Navigating the complicated world of mortgage lending can be frustrating. Between new regulations that seem to come out every week and the pressures of getting the loans closed on time, it is easy to get lost in a paper jam. But, there is a way to become the best processor in your company.
I began processing mortgage loans in the late 1990s. During that time, processing was completed by hand on paper and placed in manila folders. You remember paper, don’t you? The flat, white stuff you can take a pen and scribble information onto it. Today’s world is much different from this antiquated way of processing loans. Most companies run paperless systems, and data entry has taken the place of the old-fashioned paper and pen. Hooray for no more paper cuts!
As processors today, we must be mindful of a computer’s flaws. Technology makes our lives easier on some fronts, but when computer systems malfunction or fail to produce the document you intend, chaos ensues. Technology is not the only problem that arises. Third party vendors can also cause issues meeting close dates. Don’t wait for problems to arise; instead anticipate problems before they occur.
In an example of a loan gone wrong, a processor told a borrower they could close the following week without taking into consideration the appraisal could take up to three weeks to be returned. Borrowers were upset, realtors fumed, and the loan officer looked incompetent. It is important for a good processor to know how to stop the madness before it starts. Following these simple steps could have changed the outcome:
Learn all you can about the system you use, what the common problems are, how to fix them, and the phone number or procedure to contact the help desk. Learning not only how the system functions, but why it functions the way it does will help you foresee issues that may arise.
Organize each file to ensure your files move smoothly. Keep a checklist for each file you work on throughout its process to ensure nothing has been overlooked. Don’t rely solely on the filing cabinet in your mind to remember everything.
Communicate clearly to everyone involved. Each party should have a clear understanding of where the loan file is in the process, any issues that arise, and estimated time frames for closing. People naturally fear the worst if weeks go by without hearing a word. The old adage “no news is good news” does NOT apply to mortgage lending.
Set expectations clearly and realistically to everyone involved. Buying a home is one of the most stressful decisions people make. Borrowers anxiously await their dream of homeownership, realtors anticipate a paycheck, and loan officers count on a pleasant experience for future referrals. Remember to under-promise and over-deliver.
Underwriting guidelines are the oil that keeps the machine running. Know and understand the standard underwriting guidelines. Underwriters appreciate a file that has been put together well, but also follows the guidelines perfectly. Gaining knowledge of the guidelines will put you in a better position with every file you touch. A file that has been pre-underwritten will fly in and out of the lender’s work load with minimal conditions, and the underwriters will begin to look forward to your clean files.
Learning, organization, communication, expectations, and underwriting are all important, but a processor who stands out from the rest is more than simply an expert in coordinating a loan from application to closing. One must be a loan officer’s assistant as well. A good processor knows mortgage loans do not walk in the door by themselves.
A loan officer relies on repeat business, referrals from realtors and other sources, word of mouth, marketing, and networking. How can a loan officer go out into the highly competitive mortgage marketplace if he or she is stuck in the office taking care of data entry and document collection? The answer is simple: they can’t.
It is up to the processor to become an assistant in addition to ensuring every loan closing goes smoothly. Become the person the loan officer turns to first to take care of keeping the business growing. Here’s how:
Lead management – Loan officers receive leads from outside sources, such as real estate agents. These are mutual customers that are in the beginning stages of searching for the home of their dreams. To be a stellar processor, take the initiative to help the loan officer keep track and coordinate appointments with these new customers.
Appointment management – Top performing processors know a loan officer’s calendar is essential to keeping up with the various appointments he or she needs to attend. From networking events to closings—help manage the loan officer’s calendar to ensure no appointment goes unattended.
Customer service – Stand out customer service is the key to earning and retaining repeat business. Loan officers rely upon word of mouth as advertisement. Smaller mortgage firms have tight marketing budgets, therefore having a processor that is easy to work with and treats every customer as if they were the only one, aids in easing the already stressful home-buying process. Treat each customer as a person, not as numbers in a pipeline.
Mortgage lending is a high energy, constantly moving, and somewhat chaotic industry. With each customer interaction, remember to communicate often, set clear expectations, provide excellent customer service, understand the underwriting guidelines, and apply what you have learned. Taking these steps will set you on the right path to earn a reputation as a top mortgage professional. Who knows? Maybe your current processing position will turn into an underwriting position in the future.
*This article was featured first in Mortgage Women Magazine on January 3, 2017*