The Fear-Based Broker

‘I’m pushing hard because of the fear of never wanting to go back to that day.’

Katie Jensen
Christian Griffin with his daughter

Your child has cancer.


Is there anything more terrifying than those four words? Christian Griffin, father of three young girls, had to hear those words 12 years ago. His youngest daughter was only six months old when she was diagnosed. It was 2011, and the U.S. economy was still in recovery from the housing market crash. Griffin had recently lost his job after a decade in the food sales industry. His family was living off a single income; he and his wife desperately tried to reorganize their finances to scrape by.

Men are driven by two principal impulses, according to philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli, love or by fear. At first, Griffin didn’t have a ton of love or passion for real estate or mortgage, but he knew what ice cold fear felt like.

“I’m kind of a fear-based individual,” Griffin said. “I’m pushing hard because of the fear of never wanting to go back to that day.”

Today, Griffin is a senior loan officer at San Diego-based Maverick Mortgage. He’s a top originator nationwide, who closed 600 units and half a billion in funded loans between 2021 and 2022 — 90% of which was purchase volume. He made it into the top 1% of producing loan officers in California, and the top 1% of producing loan officers for UWM.

“My business model is a hundred percent focused on purchase business, and refinances are icing on the cake,” Griffin said. “And I think that’s probably a differentiating aspect to other business models. There’s a lot of loan officers that might just rely on refinances and [are] probably hurting pretty bad right now.”

Since he’s already at the top of his game with purchases, Griffin is cruising through 2023 with a huge advantage in the market. How’s that for fear-based motivation?

But, over time he developed a passion for educating borrowers and real estate partners along the way. He likes teaching them the tips and tricks of the mortgage world.

“I have a passion for trying to help people succeed and that kind of falls back on the idea that good things happen to good people,” Griffin said. “I mean, it’s not always the case. I can be really good and, you know, bad things still happen. But at least I feel good, and I make good relationships with like-minded individuals.”


Chasing Balloons

Griffin was never quite sure what he wanted to do. But he was big into sports during high school and college, so he figured coaching would be a possible career path. Little did he know that would land him on a unicycle, pedaling across the gymnasium at Western Washington University, fighting to maintain balance in order to earn the credits to graduate.

“I’m not extremely coordinated. I’m kind of a bulky, lumpy, get the bowling ball moving and watch out in front of you type of guy,” Griffin said. “I realized pretty quickly that the physical education program they offered was kind of like the Ivy League of all the nation.”

The purpose of the exercise was to teach these future educators to put themselves into the shoes of students. Doing anything for the first time feels awkward or scary, but it’s not impossible.

That particular lesson has stuck with Griffin throughout his career as an educator, and, eventually, mortgage broker.

After graduation, Griffin moved to San Diego and began substitute teaching during the day and bartending at night. As a young adult in a new fun city, Griffin was making the most of it, and that was where he met his wife. But teaching kids felt more like babysitting, and he wanted a job that would be a bit more stimulating. That eventually led him into the food sales industry, where he would stay for the next 10 years. It was a stable job that was challenging enough to keep him engaged, and he did well enough to support his growing family.

“I really started honing in on my skills to be able to sell,” Griffin said. “Then the food sales ended up kind of coming to an immediate halt right when the market was crashing. Not because of the market, but just one of our larger clients decided to go a different direction and kind of imploded the business.”

The job loss couldn’t have come at a worse time. His wife had just given birth to their third daughter who, six months later, was diagnosed with cancer.

Christian Griffin

Having a sick child is a uniquely painful experience; one that strikes fear down to your core.

“As a father, I’ve always kind of had an old-school mentality to provide for my family and protect,” Griffin said. “So I just kind of started looking for any option to bring income to the table.”

Griffin still did food sales as a side business, but his family income dropped significantly, and he desperately needed to find other ways of making money. Funny enough, he found a job chasing balloons.

Hot air balloons fly through San Diego all the time, and it was Griffin’s job to chase them down, catch them, and have them land without a hitch.

“I must have been in my mid-30s at the time, so I wasn’t the spring chicken by any means,” Griffin said. “And here I am, running through fields trying to catch these big huge balloons and get ‘em to land and just to make a little bit extra cash for food for my family.”

Griffin said this was an “awkward” time in his life, but it seems more like a circus complete with unicycles and balloons. Luckily, his wife’s friend’s husband was making a good living in the mortgage industry, and offered Griffin some help.


Helping Hands

It was the scariest time in Griffin’s life, picking up odd jobs to feed his wife and three daughters and pay the mortgage. Now he was stepping into an industry he knew almost nothing about for a better shot at providing for his family.

His in-laws helped him and his wife secure their first home, but they got it sold themselves and purchased the next on their own, although they had a bad experience with their lender in getting it. Griffin kept all the real estate agents’ cards when he was selling his previous home, so he knew he had some connections to get started, but that was it.

He initially thought this job would bring in money quickly. So he got his license as an originator and quit his side gig in food sales so he could be all in as a loan officer. But Griffin was slow to start, and money wasn’t coming in fast enough.

“So I went to this loan officer who had brought me on and basically talked me into this industry, and I was like, ‘Hey man, like if you care for me, I’m sinking. I’m hurting. I need help,’” Griffin said.

This was a high-producing loan officer, and he brought Griffin onto his team so he could learn. He began working on files, first intake and then processing.

“I fell on my face a few times, but, you know, it was a huge opportunity,” Griffin said. “After a couple years of working under this loan officer and kind of learning their sales tactics and what was working for them, I started getting a little momentum. I think I got enough to where I could break off on my own because there’s good income in this industry.”

Then another stroke of luck hit Griffin. His other friend in the mortgage industry, Scott Crutcher, was opening up his own brokerage called Maverick Mortgage. So after a couple of years working as a loan officer for various correspondent lenders, Griffin decided to hop on board and become a broker.



The Teacher People Need

Transitioning over to the broker side was another risk for Griffin, but as someone with a background in education, this role ended up being the perfect fit. The primary function of a broker, other than collecting documents, is to assist the borrower and even the real estate agency on the best financing options available.

“I mean, consumers really have no clue,” Griffin said. “I just think back to when I was buying a house, and I didn’t know what was necessary to qualify.”

He relied heavily on the advice and guidance of his real estate agent and lender. He knows how vulnerable the first-timer feels and what they need to understand in order to make one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives. He also understands how hard it is for the working class in California to find a home, such as teachers, service workers, blue-collar workers, and lower-income white-collar workers.

Having been a substitute teacher and bartender in San Diego, Griffin knows what that lifestyle is like and what needs to be done to afford a home.

For years, it’s been tough for working-class members in California to afford homes close to their workplace. The recent down payment assistance “Dream For All Shared Appreciation” program — the most substantial DPA California has ever offered — ran out of money after only 11 days. The program offered a total of $300 million in funding and was able to get 2,564 people into homes, according to an internal document obtained by media website, CalMatters. When this program came out, it was Griffin who had to do most of the learning.

“The roles got reversed,” Griffin said. “I had to learn a new product relatively fast because there were a lot of inquiries on it. The influx of questions between buyers and agents just escalated dramatically and not just with me with all the loan officers in our office. So it was a quick, oh crap, you know, let me get facts. And even finding individuals to relay that factual information was tough because they’re getting inundated with a bunch of loan officers asking the same thing.”

It was all hands on deck and Griffin and his team at Maverick Mortgage worked to qualify as many borrowers as possible through the program.

“I just felt blessed in the fact that I actually went through that process because I was back to trying to learn that unicycle,” Griffin said.

He says real estate agents need to be educated in financing options, just as much or even more than their clients. Agents and real estate agents do their best to educate buyers on their options, but they’re not the mortgage experts and spreading misinformation can happen unintentionally.

“I’ll teach as far as they want to learn,” Griffin said. “Mostly, I give them enough to where it’s gonna help them succeed and not put energy towards something that’s not going to yield an end result of the closed transaction. I enjoy the first conversation with clients or even agents and getting to do stuff like this”


‘Pigs Get Fat, Hogs Get Slaughtered’

Griffin doesn’t know what it’s like to have it easy and that’s his main advantage. In California, where the market has always been competitive, he has made it a habit to stay on top of his game and answer every phone call.

His goal with every referral partner and client is to create a long-term relationship, which he does by being “fair.”

“As long as you’re fair and rates are competitive and the service, you know, knocks people’s socks off, I think that combination will reap rewards over time,” Griffin said.

There’s plenty of loan officers who are all talk, he explained. Anyone can say they close deals on time, but they often don’t do it every time. Griffin, on the other hand, has consistently closed deals on time and takes pride in his track record. He also makes a point not to over-sell himself, and sets realistic expectations for his clients. In conversations with clients, he acts more like an educator than a salesman, which helps earn their trust.

“This is a whole food saying .. pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered,” Griffin said. “Not the nicest analogy, but the terminology means don’t be greedy. I think it’s the greedy loan officers that are trying to make the most on every transaction who are gonna lose out.”

Christian Griffin

It’s the little things that Griffin does that add up to his success.

“Is it exhausting? It is because it’s a rinse and repeat, right? It’s trying to do, gosh, I think at the peak, I was at 40 transactions a month, which is crazy. Right? And not lose your mind,” he said. “Obviously things have slowed down a little bit, but every one of the deals I get I’m just trying to do a hundred percent and just knock everybody’s socks off.”


Settling Into Success

Thankfully, Griffin’s youngest daughter is now a healthy 12 year old who admires her father. She also seems to have the same entrepreneurial spirit.

“She’s my little CEO,” he said. “We went to the bookstore to pick out books … because with the devices nowadays it just drives me crazy. So my youngest goes, ‘Daddy, I wanna go to the business section.’ She’s learned some of the terminology from me always being on the phone with the clients. After learning about real estate and the advantages of buying and stuff she wants to go into the business.”

Griffin said his daughter has always had little side jobs such as washing dogs and making bracelets, which is why he calls her his little CEO.

“So she got this book by the Wolf of Wall Street guy [Jordan Belfort]. Probably not the best role model for your 12 year old,” he said, chuckling.

She even began highlighting passages from the book and using sales tactics on her Dad to get what she wants. By the time she gets to be a working adult, she may be the best broker this industry has ever seen. But, of course, that’s due to Griffin being such a good teacher.

Griffin and his family
Christian Griffin with his wife Kimberly
and their daughters

His other two daughters and wife are very supportive of him and understand that Dad has a very demanding job.

“If I were to tell you every day is sunshine and greatness, I’d be lying to you. It’s a battle. Every day is a battle,” Griffin said. “And I think one of my personality traits that helps me be successful is the short-term memory. Because, obviously, you need more wins than losses. But the losses hurt and sometimes you feel like there’s some loyalty and the loyalties are lost. And if I were to dwell on that, then I’d just want to give up in this profession. But that short-term memory helps kind of just push those aside and just keep focusing on the good ones. It gets you to another day where you’re making millions of dollars.”

This article was originally published in the California Broker July 2023 issue.
Katie Jensen
Katie Jensen,
Staff Writer
Published on
Jul 26, 2023
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