NAMB meets with HUD
A snapshot of Acorn MortgageWarren H. MyerInterview,Acorn Mortgage Company,Bruce Reiman "Think of Kansas and what often comes to mind are flatlands and a ribbon of highway extending to the horizon, prairie dogs, tractors and waving stalks of wheat," said Bruce Reiman, president of Acorn Mortgage Company. "But it's only the western part of the state that's 'Dorothy and Toto.' Mission is different." Mission, Kan., where Bruce chose to open his business 15 years ago, is located on the border of Kansas and Missouri in hilly, green Johnson County, one of the wealthiest counties per capita in the U.S. "It's still growing," said Bruce. "In every fourth house lives a millionaire. It's a great place to live and raise a family. It's a real 'home town,' where the only difference between Kansas and Missouri is a yellow line down the middle of the street." The laws are different in both states. In fact, Bruce must be licensed in both Kansas and Missouri in order to do business in this one town. "Still, there's no place like home," he added. I had the opportunity to sit down with Bruce, recently, and talk about his company and its implementation of Myers Internet technology. WHM: What you consider the primary reasons for your success? BR: The Internet! We do some offline advertising, but we're a small shop with a limited budget. We make every dollar count by listing our Internet site on our newspaper ads. When we receive an Internet lead, we call right away and do our best to make a prospect feel comfortable; then, we walk them back to the site to complete the application. Between 90-100 percent of our applications are generated through the Internet. WHM: What made you launch a Web site? BR: A while back, one of my mortgage bankers received a special offer on a Myers Web site. I already knew that the median age of a borrower is 35.7, and that people of that age are pretty comfortable with technology. I'm a little older than that, but I realized that was where the market was going, and it was a great offer. The more business you can keep growing on the Internet, the better it's going to get. When I started in this business, it took 60 days to get a loan--and how much paper we had to use! I was ready for a Web site. WHM: How does the Internet influence your business? BR: It has a tremendous influence. I receive tons of compliments on how attractive and usable our Web site is. People really like to use the Rate Tracker. They just punch in rates a little above and a little below what they are actually looking for. With the CalcuLetter, people come to my site to pre-qualify themselves and run ratios; it gives them a good idea if they'll be approved. WHM: What has been your most interesting experience using the Internet? BR: I've done out-of-state loans without ever seeing the clients ... that is the best thing I can think of offhand. It's also especially satisfying when former clients visit my Web site and reapply. It shows their confidence. WHM: What is your biggest challenge with the Internet? BR: I always want it to be faster. So, speed--and spam of course! WHM: How do you use your Web site to generate new leads? BR: I put my Web site and both of my e-mail addresses, [email protected] and [email protected], everywhere: business cards, signs ... anything I can tack it on to (they're too long for my license plate). Once, I tried to buy leads, but that was a disaster. Right now, I'm looking at banner ads. WHM: How do you use your Web site to service existing clients? BR: Direct marketing to past clients is one of the strategies I'd like to improve. I'm always looking for ways to grow the business. WHM: How much business do you conduct a year? BR: I'm in a small market and I'm a small shop. All I really want to say is that we are busy! Business has shifted from refinance to purchase, and much of our current business is generated from referrals from former clients. We have a strong base of former refinance and purchase customers, and as I said, I'm looking at how to best incorporate those e-mail addresses into some effective marketing. WHM: What kind of business do you do? BR: Conforming, mostly A-paper, conventional and some jumbo loans. We do some super-jumbos. One of our loan officers specializes in sub-prime loans. I do a small amount of real estate business, but not much. Actually, I receive more business from real estate agents by doing refinances and purchases for them than I do receiving their referrals. WHM: What is the best feature on your Web site? BR: The buttons on the actual application are really easy to work; they're just like what I would have in my hand. And consumers love the Rate Tracker and the Sweepstakes button. I keep hoping someone from my site will win. WHM: What is your strategy for success over the next 12 months? BR: I plan on opening up a few more streams of income, such as "For Sale by Owners," and invest in more marketing. Warren H. Myer is CEO of Myers Internet Inc. He has been featured as an online mortgage expert on CNN and has been interviewed and quoted in numerous publications, including Money Magazine and Fast Company. He may be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or visit www.myers.com.