Confessions of an In-House Lender

There are definitely pros and cons to being an in-house lender. To be honest, I think the cons often outweigh the pros. But I wanted to hear from someone who’s making it work.

Robin Ackerman works for Success Mortgage as an in-house lender for four local real estate branches in Delaware. She was an LOA for seven years before she got her license last year.

What a time to get into the mortgage industry, right? Robin is learning to swim upstream and has a good flow going. That’s the way you want to do it. Then, when you’re not having to swim upstream, you’ll be in even better shape. Robin has been following the Daily Success Plan for about five months now, and that’s actually how she got her job as the in-house lender. 

She and I sat down together recently to talk about what it’s like.

Working In the Office vs. Working Remotely

Robin spends time at each of her four branches once a week—a half-day at each branch over two days. She said she likes to just have a presence there.

I asked her how important it is that she be physically present. Does anything magical happen when she’s there in person? Not necessarily, she told me, but it’s nice to see people face to face and get to know them better.

We did a little point/counterpoint where I gave her a little bit of respectful pushback. I asked her if doing Zoom meetings instead of going to the branches in person might be a better use of her time. The branches are a 90-minute drive from her house.

She said she thinks about that a lot (the wasted time driving), and she would consider testing it. She does accomplish more when she doesn’t have to travel. She’s thought about letting them know she’s available for open houses on the weekend, but she’d set up Zoom calls during the week. “I do feel more productive when I can do the things that I know that are going to bring me the most business,” she said.

I told her to try using those six hours a week actually on Zoom meetings and not scrolling Facebook. I bet those six hours would end up making her more money. I learned during the pandemic and the lockdown that the remote things can work pretty darn good as long as we exercise discipline. It has changed the way we do a lot of things in our mortgage company. 

The Biggest Challenge of Being an In-House Lender So Far 

Robin said that breaking the ice with agents is her biggest challenge so far. She is currently the only in-house lender in Delaware, but they’re looking to expand and add more loan officers. I asked her how many buy sides those four offices do in a typical month. She didn’t know but she bought the list of qualified agents we’re always talking about so she could find out. 

I asked her if the mortgage company is writing a check to be the preferred lender. She said yes, and she believes there’s some sort of incentive for the agents to work with them. I told her to contact the broker or their assistant and get a production report to find out how many buy sides they get each month. The goal would be to get 22% of those. So if they have 100 a month, then 22 of those would be expected to run through the in-house lender. She needs to find out the number, so she knows what she’s shooting for and make sure the broker is doing their part to give her some face time.

She’s found that, when she first sits down with a realtor, they’re very cold at first. But almost every time, by the end of the conversation with each agent, they’ve done a complete 180. When it’s time for her to leave, they’re leaning forward, they’re interested, just because she’s offering the Daily Success Plan and it’s just something that they don’t hear on a regular basis—if ever. They’re not used to getting referrals back from their loan officer. It’s like a unicorn.

I told her to just keep using the Daily Success Plan, to have a warm introduction to those people to start getting deals from them. A big part of the DSP is that, when agents send us referrals, we get those referrals to send us even more referrals, then we can refer back to those agents who sent us the initial referrals. So I don’t just take an agent’s referral and convert that lead to a closing. I also get more leads from those people going forward to refer back to that agent who referred them to me. That’s why it’s so successful.

I asked her if she markets to other real estate agents who aren’t part of those offices. She said yes. She does both. She builds relationships inside and outside of the lender. 

A Typical Day in the Life of an In-House Lender

What does a typical day in the office look like for Robin? Does she knock on the office doors of different agents or hang out in the coffee room or what? 

She said that, post-COVID, there aren’t a lot of agents in the office. She usually just walks in and goes straight to her desk. Then she’ll ask about lunch or coffee or “can I sit in your office for a minute and have a conversation?” Once she can get them to agree to a conversation, she can get that cold shoulder to turn warm. Once you get past that first thing—and especially when you tell them about how the Daily Success Plan can get them more referrals—that breaks the ice. 

Robin told me she decided to invest in a coach early on, because she wanted to make sure that as she transitioned in the business to a loan officer, she was doing it right, in a way that would make her successful as long as she stuck to a plan and was consistent.

“I’ve definitely tweaked a lot of things,” she told me, “as far as the conversations that I have. I’m always changing it up, trying different ways to get the realtors interested in meeting with me.”

One new thing she has tried is: “Hey, you know, I’d love to discuss our goals for this new year. Let’s meet for coffee and talk about our goals and see what we can achieve together.” 

I love the angle of telling them about the Daily Success Plan and bringing them more referrals. A personal referral from a loan officer has an exponentially better conversion rate than Facebook or Zillow leads.

All you need is one good success story with a real estate agent. I think this journey is really going to turn out great for Robin. 

How Do You Push Through the Fear?

Fear is a very real thing when you’re putting yourself out there as a loan officer. Robin told me she’s learned to do things while she’s uncomfortable. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable was her number one thing. She read my book, Crushing Call Reluctance for Loan Officers, and learned a lot. 

“It just made me get past that point of fear,” she said, “and cross over into the uncomfortable. Everything great happens when you’re uncomfortable. You just gotta push past that and honestly, it’s really, really hard at first.”

She recommends starting with just 10 calls. That’s what she did the very first week and she got two meetings out of it. That set the bar and gave her confidence in herself. She slowly became more comfortable being uncomfortable.

“Then you change things and you just kind of grow and move and shake with it and try to find new ways to meet with agents, because once you meet with them, it’s a cakewalk.”

I love Robin’s energy, and it’s easy to see why agents are excited after talking with her. She’s telling them things that most lenders won’t offer them. 

Robin is going to reach back out to me in about 90 days with an update. We’ll see what’s changed, what’s working, and what didn’t work. So stay tuned. 

If you’d like to know more about the Daily Success Plan that’s working for Robin, we’d love to walk you through it over a Zoom call. We’ll give you the exact scripts, the exact paint-by-numbers walkthrough of what to do each day of the week and how you can start referring back to agents with these warm referrals that you get from doing it. It’s a very unique thing in our industry, and it really does set you apart. Click HERE to set up your FREE call TODAY.