Career advice: How to become a mortgage broker

Learn how to become a mortgage broker by targeting companies that are right for you and marketing yourself to them successfully.
As a mortgage broker, you will have the opportunity to help your clients purchase their dream homes, lower their expenses, and invest wisely. You also will have the opportunity to make a good living – potentially a great living – for yourself, limited only by the amount of business you can generate.

The first step in becoming a mortgage broker is deciding what kind of brokerage you would like to target in your job searching efforts. There are two basic types: affiliated mortgage brokerages and independent mortgage brokerages.

Career advice: How to become a mortgage broker

Affiliated mortgage brokerages are often owned by the same bank or institution that is selling the mortgage. The loan officers sell only that bank’s mortgages. The advantage to this is that loan officers are able to offer superior pricing by selling directly to consumers. The downside is that your affiliated bank may not have a program that is well-suited for a particular client of yours. That is, the bank able to offer the best pricing on a $1.5 million jumbo loan may not have the best product offering to service a waitress whose income is largely unreported on her tax return.
Independent mortgage brokerages are often much smaller than affiliated mortgage brokerages. They have the advantage of being able to pick and choose the best programs for their clients, sometimes from as many as 20 different banks and 100 or more different mortgage programs and rates. They are able to handle a broader variety of clients and have more autonomy in deal sourcing and execution than their compatriots at affiliated mortgage brokerages. However, because the independent mortgage brokerage must charge its own fees on top of the bank fees, sometimes independent mortgage brokerages find themselves at a disadvantage price-wise.

From a lifestyle perspective, affiliated mortgage brokerages are often larger and therefore more stable, and more corporate in feel. Smaller, independent brokerages may have just two loan officers and are often more collegial.

The type of mortgage brokerage you’re considering will affect how you look for companies that may be interested in hiring you. Mortgage companies looking for new loan officers often advertise their needs in standard ways: online, through college campus recruiting offices and through local job fairs and newspapers. But many mortgage companies will wait to hire until the right person comes to them. How do you find these companies?

If you’re looking for an affiliated mortgage position, the fastest way to find out about the job market may be to give your personal bank a call. Be direct. Ask if the bank offers mortgage programs, and when a mortgage broker gets on the phone explain that you are interested in a job as a loan officer and you’d be interested in his or her perspective on the job. Ask a few relevant questions, and then ask if you could send him/her your resume and give him a call back in a few days to follow up. You may want to try a few other banks or brokerages in your area.

Another way is to talk to real estate agents. Many real estate agents know a number of loan officers, usually from independent brokerages, that they use to help their clients obtain financing. Real estate agents will usually be happy to connect you with the right people, and you can take it from there.

Both types of mortgage companies frequently advertise in real estate publications, such as those freely available in your supermarket or convenience store. Not only will you be able to identify target companies in these publications, but you will also gain a level of comfort with the companies’ marketing spending, which as a loan officer will be critical to your success.

So, you’ve figured out which companies you should be calling and talking to. Now you need to figure out what to say to them to interest them in what you have to offer. Mortgage companies are looking for three basic qualities in loan officers: motivation, customer service and interest in real estate.

Motivation is critical because mortgage brokering is fundamentally a commission-focused business. A company will want to make sure that you have the desire to become a top loan officer and the motivation to stay at their firm long enough to build a strong business. To convey your motivation and your qualifications for the mortgage broker job, you will want to mention any previous sales experience you have had, and your successes in other fields to date.

Customer service is next on the list. Mortgage brokering is a service industry, dependent on spreading with a wide variety of clients every day and working with each of them to satisfy their needs best. You should emphasize previous customer service positions you have held on your cover letter and resume, and be prepared to discuss how you have handled difficult customer situations in the past during your interview.

Finally, most mortgage brokers are in the business because they truly enjoy the underlying asset: real estate. Mortgage brokers frequently are friends with real estate brokers, attend real estate events in their area, and invest in real estate personally. While having prior real estate experience is certainly not a requirement, you should think about your reasons for wanting to be in the real estate industry and convey them to your potential employer.

If you are able to get on the phone with the right mortgage companies, and convey your qualifications in ways that emphasize your motivation, customer service orientation, and interest in real estate, it is more than likely that you will find yourself faced with more than one job offer. Each mortgage brokerage is unique and it is important for you to select the brokerage that offers resources that will help you succeed.

If you are new to the business, a training program or mentoring program while you are getting started may help you get to know the business before jumping straight in. Just as important is the informal learning process: try to assess if you would be comfortable asking the people you have met for help if you needed it.

Another crucial resource that your employer should provide is marketing services. These range from cross-selling at large banks and financial institutions, to placement of ads in real estate publications and open houses, to networks of real estate brokers, lawyers, friends and associates. Before you accept any offer at a mortgage brokerage you should determine the level of sales and marketing support that will be available to you.

Finally, at the top of the list for many prospective loan officers is compensation. Here, the main components to evaluate are commission splits, “draw” or salary in your first months before you have built enough business to support yourself on commissions alone, and benefits.

Once you’ve decided that a firms training, marketing, and compensation programs will help you succeed, go ahead and accept that job. Congratulations!

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