Nailing Down Reliable Realtor Relationships

Real estate agents are constantly hounded by LOs for referrals, but stand out by demonstrating success

Sarah Wolak
Reliable Realtors

Realtors are bogged down with referral requests. And in a sluggish market where deals are hard to come by, they’re drowning in dismal leads and are attempting to weed out promising loan officers.

Of course, in the fast-paced and competitive world of real estate, collaboration between real estate and mortgage professionals is key to success. Real estate agents and loan officers often work together closely to help clients navigate the complex process of buying a home. Inevitably, these professionals end up forming close relationships that symbiotically benefit the other’s business. And loan officers know this to be true. Real estate agents are their go-to referral base and confidants when it comes to finding borrowers. But many LOs have taken to bogging down agents with dry marketing pitches, incessant phone calls, and requests to talk things over at the local coffee shop. This excessive hounding has left many real estate agents feeling frustrated and overwhelmed — especially when it comes to determining who deserves their time.

Perry Pappas, a real estate salesperson for Coldwell Banker, says that he gets several messages per day from loan officers trying to pitch him. “I constantly am getting told that [LOs] could help me with postcards and marketing materials or with open houses, but I don’t need help with that,” Pappas explained. “What I’m really looking for [is loan officers] to pitch … the products they offer and the knowledge they have about those products.”

That’s why for Pappas, reputation matters for both the individual loan officer and their company. “Not every loan is a 30-year with an 800 credit score. Knowing that a bank or a loan officer has versatility when it comes to hairy loans is extremely important,” he said. “It’s also important that they resemble a similar work ethic that I have. A lot of buyers find their LOs through their realtor and that makes them an extension of me and my work.”

Proud to Partner With

There’s a reason that “referral partnership” involves “partner” as a part of the phrase. Essentially, Pappas says, that’s what real estate agents are seeking out. “I’m looking for LOs who work like Realtors,” he said. “[I want] someone who adds value to the deal, that’s going to have your back, someone who is going to work like a realtor in the sense of being accessible on weekends … and that means being accessible to and staying in touch with clients. Not everything can wait until Monday morning.”

So what makes Pappas a proud partner? He says that product knowledge and being proactive during the transaction are imperative. “I’m looking to see if they’re aggressive on fees, rates, closing costs, and trying to get [borrowers] into good programs, not just to benefit their back end,” he said.

Brian K. Lewis, a luxury real estate agent for Compass Real Estate, also has high expectations as to how a loan officer should approach him. Being a Manhattan agent, Lewis says that he looks for loan officers who can keep up with his fast pace and help him iron out issues in the closing processes. “We’re in sales just like loan officers are,” Lewis said. “I’m always looking for shortcuts to success … the LOs that I love are no-nonsense, productive, they will tell you quickly in three bullet points or less how they can help you, they’re connected to the underwriters, and they can cut through the BS when there’s a problem.”

Perry Pappas, real estate salesperson, Coldwell Banker

Lewis says that he gets pitched by loan officers weekly about what they can offer for his business. But Lewis says that he doesn’t want marketing materials or open house adornments; he wants an advisor. “I’m looking for an LO who is immensely productive who is easy to reach and communicate with, and [has a] can-do attitude,” he said. “You want to be able to tell [an agent] quickly a story or two about how you personally saved a deal because of the way you work.”

Proving Value

Real estate agents have reiterated that they don’t want flyers, balloons, or fancy pens from LOs. What they want is a smooth closing and for a loan officer to provide them with something of value. Lewis says that he constantly goes to the same mortgage broker, Sari Rosenberg from Citibank, for his deals. “Sari always asks what she can do for me to prepare me for the weekend,” he explained. “[She] tells me about issues, has a depth of knowledge, fixes problems, and, if she can’t help me, aligns me with the best people for the deal.”

Sean Cochran, a broker and realtor at eXp Realty, says that he’s tired of getting weekly calls from loan officers asking to get coffee with him. “I tell every LO who calls me ‘you first,’” Cochran said. “Instead of calling me for my business, give me a call when you have a preapproved buyer in my area that is unrepresented by a realtor. First, we try, then we trust.”

Brian K. Lewis, luxury real estate agent, Compass Real Estate

Cochran says that the first LO to approach him with an unrepresented buyer is someone that he still uses today. That was four and a half years ago, and since then, Cochran and the same LO have continued a working, reciprocal relationship.

But aside from getting business from LOs, Cochran says that he also looks to see if LOs are doing education for their audience in some form. He wants to see them putting themselves out into the community and providing some form of useful content. “You see realtors on social media all the time. But borrowers should really be going to loan officers first, but it’s not the loan officer that they’re seeing first on social media,” Cochran said.

Cochran formerly served as a mortgage company recruiter and as a loan officer, so he knows that expectations are high for the average LO from everyone in the industry. “The LO always gets blamed for everything,” he said. “A loan officer’s job is hard. If the deal falls apart, the LO gets blamed. It’s a thankless job.”

This article was originally published in the NMP Magazine November 2023 issue.
Sarah Wolak
Sarah Wolak,
Staff Writer
Published on
Nov 02, 2023
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