A. As a VP of mortgage lending, the goal when turning in a file is to set up the processing team for a successful loan transaction. The key to delivery occurs during the loan application; it is important to ask questions and find out as much about the consumer and the transaction in order to proactively address situations before underwriting the loan. What steps can the agent take to set up their lender partner for success? They should discuss a couple of main topics with their clients in their initial discussions: employment and assets.
In regards to employment, there are two scenarios in which the lender will need to collect more documentation than standard W-2s and paystubs: if the borrower is self-employed or if they have two years of consecutive work history. If a borrower is self-employed, the lender will require the most recent two years of federal tax returns, as well as two years of business returns if applicable. In addition, the lender will require third-party written verification of employment instead of the standard verbal verification. If the borrower has not been employed for the most recent consecutive two years, any job gaps will need to be addressed in writing, and depending on how recent the job gap is, the number of interested lenders may be limited.
The other big topic for all buyers is the source of the down payment. If the borrower has the funds already in a liquid account, only the most recent two months statements from that account would be required. If the funds are in a stock account or a 401k, then more documentation would be required. The lender would need to see the most recent statements for the non-liquid account, show the transfer of the funds into a liquid account and then re-verify the liquid account with the new, increased balance. The same documentation would be needed for gift funds: copy of gift check, proof of deposit and documentation of the new balance. In addition, for all assets, lenders will require all pages of statement and would need to source large, non-payroll deposits.
By asking these questions, agents can better prepare their clients for the documents needed for loan approval, as well as alert their lender partner and increase the ease of the transaction.
Q. Consumers are always evaluating the service they are receiving – whether involved in a real estate transaction or when working with an agent when there is not a current transaction. How can I deliver a consistent level of great customer service at all times?
A. My belief is that referral-generating customer service is a level of service that is given when the agent will not be directly compensated for the service that is given. In the initial transaction, the agent has a vested interest, as they will be directly compensated for the specific transaction. The test of true “customer service” will surface when that is not the case. There are numerous times consumers will contact the agent either well before the real estate transaction (prior to signing a contract) or after the transaction with follow up questions. Consumers, especially first-time buyers, are very inexperienced with the process. They may have numerous questions and concerns well before they begin their property search. The agent must address these individuals with the same level of service as clients who are currently under contract.
The same situation is true and maybe more evident after the transaction. Consumers often have questions about their home warranty, punch list items, property tax appeals, current property value and other questions unrelated to a current transaction. A lender who handles these inquiries by passing them off to a colleague instead of addressing them individually may shift the consumer’s view of their level of service. An individual who was pleased during the transaction may now question why they are not receiving the consistent level of service that they had while the transaction was ongoing. These moments are paramount for agents, because they are opportunities to solidify the relationship with the consumer. The agent is not going to receive a direct monetary benefit by assisting the consumer at this juncture. However, a negative feeling of the situation by the consumer may directly impact the future number of transactions of that specific agent. The consumer, who at the consummation of the transaction was willing to refer the specific agent, may now change his/her opinion of the customer service received and may even question the level of basic service they received.
Consumers are constantly evaluating the service they receive. Agents need to deliver consistent service not just during the transaction, but before and well after the transaction. Excellent customer service, delivered at every opportunity, will resonate with the consumer and lead to more transactions.
Bob Carr is a vice president of mortgage lending at Guaranteed Rate and has been in the industry for more than 10 years. He specializes in first-time buyers and jumbo lending, covering the greater Chicago area. He can be reached by phone at 773.328.6643 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.