More on Email Overload…and Email Management!

Group Emails:
Remember to read the full body of the email before replying. If you are replying to only one member of the group DO NOT reply all. However, if your response will matter to the group DO reply all.
Subject Lines:
Make sure that your subject line is searchable. Be specific to the topic so the email can be easily found when someone on the thread needs to refer back to it or continue the conversation.

New Thread:
If you are addressing a new thought or conversation start a new thread with a new subject line. That way the conversation can be tracked and easily searched by subject line.

Folders – Follow Up:
Keep a ‘follow up’ folder for the emails where you might have used a placeholder, such as “I will get back to you later today when I am in front of my computer”, or for subjects and topics that you need to follow up on or refer back to. The follow up folder can house reminders of activities, to get back on track for something or an event that is far enough out that you don’t want to commit to it. Check your follow up folder daily or weekly, whatever works for you!

Folders – Other:
Use folders for short-term project management. For example, if you are looking for new office space, create an office space folder to house all the communication associated with that project. Or if you are hiring someone it can be a great place to keep resumes as you work through the process. When the event, project or activity has passed just delete the folder.
Communication management plays a significant role in providing high-quality service in the mortgage industry and in other industries where you engage with clients. I hope that these tips are helpful to you; I know that good email management and communication strategies make us a better team here at Wintrust.

Share Button

Do You Do Unto Others?

You know the golden rule, the one that top service providers and commissioned sales people live by… “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” commonly known as “The Golden Rule,” is a valuable guide to live by.

I have lived both my personal life and business life following this rule. And yet, what if others want or expect something different from me? What if how they do unto others is not how I do?

I was forced to think about this a few years ago when one of my really good clients called about refinancing their mortgage. We talked about rates, the process and the documents I would need them to gather for me, time lines etc. They were both dealing with deadlines and stresses around their work, so I suggested that they take a few days and I would contact them after the weekend to get it all rolling.

I reached out to them as promised and I was shocked to hear that they had applied for a mortgage with another lender! When I asked what happened, they said that the other lender cold called them and was more aggressive, talked them into locking the loan on the phone, took the application over the phone and had them agree to send in all required docs the next morning. Because he was so aggressive, they just did what he told them to do and it was done. So, even though I treated them as I would like to be treated during a time of high business stress, he did exactly the opposite of what I would want as a consumer and he won their transaction.

I am having a similar experience today with a potential recruit. He is very busy, has a parent with major health issues, has multiple fires to address in his pipeline, and has another employment offer to consider. Do I back away and give him mental space? Or do I jump in aggressively and try to get a commitment from him now?

I know that if it were me, I would want me to back off, give me some space and then time to sort everything out. I would also remember to keep “me” in the loop as I worked through the decision process. However, in the past I have had some great connections with potential recruits and clients who when ready to make a career move or buy a new house, forgot all about me. Because of this, I have learned to stay in front of people who really interest me and not to stop unless they ask. Just because I want to be left alone does not mean that is what works for others.

My golden rules are different from yours, and yours could be different from the client sitting in front of you. You need to ask them what’s important. How do they want to be treated, communicated with and what works for them? The golden rules still apply when talking about being treated with kindness, respect, fairness… but we need to model our service delivery around what our clients want not what we think they want. It all starts with questions.
So ask them, what does the Golden Rule mean to you? How can we be sure that this transaction is a winner for both you and for me? Now, you have the golden opportunity to serve your clients as they want to be served.

Share Button

Email Overload

I was in a two hour meeting this morning — when I came back to my desk, I had 78 new emails.

Usually, I have about 20 messages in my inbox at any given time, but at the end of the day I prefer to get it down to zero if I can. I tend to use the email in my inbox like a ‘to do’ list — I hold on to dates I need to remember, things I need to reply to that require some research or coordination, and reminders for some kind of immediate action.

When I got to my 78 emails, I immediately deleted the stuff I didn’t need, want or care about, and then replied to any that would take me 3 minutes or less.

After that, I reviewed the remainder. For some, I replied that I would review and respond in depth later in the day or week. I set proper expectations before moving them into my follow-up file. For some, I delegated by copying and introducing a recipient, and then handed the conversation off to that person. Some I need to take more time to read and review and consider how I’ll respond. ALL of them will be addressed by the end of the day.

With this practice, it took me about 20 minutes to manage all 78 messages… and I was done! Now as I sit at my desk working away, I’ll respond to incoming mail every 15 minutes or so, and at the end of the day I’ll just have my ‘to do’ list remaining.

Many trainers suggest that we have other people manage our email. Personally, I get a lot positive responses from my business partners about how quickly I respond to email requests, and I’d hate to miss out on that experience. So I’d never have anyone else manage my email!
Tricks to managing a lot of email:

• Read the email! This may sound like a silly suggestion, but sometimes when we don’t fully read our emails before responding the result can be unnecessary follow-up emails. Often the question that I have was actually answered in the original email, but because I was rushing, I didn’t fully read and process the content in its entirety. Then the chain just continues, read thoroughly and respond thoughtfully.

• If you can respond in 3 minutes or less, just do it! This is a sage bit of advice from efficiency expert David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. I highly recommend the book, but in the meantime, if you can get something done in three minutes or less, whether it’s email or something else… just do it!

• Use your folders and file/archive emails that you need for later.

• Use what I call “place holders” — short messages like, “thanks so much for reaching out to me, I’m dashing out to a meeting but I’m looking forward to connecting with you. I’ll reach back out this afternoon when I return at 4:00 PM.” This way, the sender feels connected, and they aren’t left wondering if I got their email or whether I’m going to get back to them.

• Use your out-of-office messages — if you know you’re not available for a period of time, create an out-of-office message to control the flow of information and set up expectations.

• STOP SAVING STUFF. One friend of mine has over 1200 messages in her inbox — she goes in periodically and tries to delete them after reading them, but she holds on to so much that she could just get rid of. That sale at Bloomingdales has passed, and the Chamber of Commerce will be sending you another list of upcoming activities. You don’t need to read them, and you don’t need to save them – become a deleting machine.

• Lastly, remember your ‘unsubscribe’ button and use it. Eventually many that you unsubscribe from will sneak back into your inbox one way or another, but there’s satisfaction in sending them the message that you don’t want their junk mail.

Read, reply, save for later, delete. Don’t let email manage you — manage your email to provide fast, friendly and efficient service.

Share Button

More Condo Stocking Stuffers from Fannie Mae

In addition to reforming condo underwriting guidelines to allow limited project review classification on 2-4 unit condo associations, Fannie Mae has also eased the requirements in other areas as well.

Commercial Occupancy:

Maximum commercial influence in a condo association was 20% and now it is 25%.  This means that a mix-use condo project can have up to 25% of the square footage dedicated to commercial use.

Owners who own more than one unit:

In condo association with 20 units or less, one owner can now own 2 units.  In the past, the rule read that one unit owner couldn’t own more than 10% of the units. This meant that in associations with fewer than 20 units, if a single entity owned two of the condos the property was ineligible for conventional financing.

Condo fee delinquency:

Up until now, when examining the association financials no more than 15% of the unit owners could be past due on condo fees or assessments by 30 days.  The time frame has been increased to 60 days past due versus 30 days.

Pre-Sale Requirements:

New construction pre-sale requirements have been reduced from 70% of the units to 50% of the units.

AND more GREAT News!!!

The high-balance loan limit has gone UP in many counties across the country! 

Share Button

Some Random Thoughts on Today’s Real Estate News!

Thought 1. Realtor Safety – another reason you need to have your buyers properly vetted before you show them property!

Since the recent tragic murder of an agent in Arkansas, there has been much conversation and concern about realtor safety when it comes to holding open houses and showing homes. Especially when the agent meets the prospective home buyer at the subject property for the first time.

Agents will have to work smarter. One reason to require that all your potential buyers go through the process and get pre-qualified is that you can be sure they are serious about buying. It is hard to imagine that someone with the intention of doing harm is going to go through a full credit review and income profile for a mortgage approval beforehand.

Buddy up at open houses. This is better for you and for the sellers since there will be more eyes charged with paying attention to the attendees.

Thought 2. Fannie and Freddie announce their intention to reduce down payment requirements to 3%

Members of the real estate press are pretty excited about the appearance of loosening underwriting guidelines. However, there is a disconnect on the consumer side. According to recent surveys, buyers have been under the misconception that purchasing real estate requires a down payment in excess of 10%. We have to educate our consumers that they can indeed purchase real estate with as little as 3% for a down payment in order to stimulate some more first time home buyer activity.

Thought 3. FICO 9 Model

Real estate media were also excited about is a new version of the FICO credit scoring model. It will treat medical collections differently and could have a positive impact on credit scores for people with derogatory medical collections on their reports. The good news is that there’s a new scoring model. The bad news is that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and therefore the lending community at large, are not accepting the FICO 9 mode. In fact they are still operating on FICO 7… So, just because there is a new credit model in the works does not mean that it will have impact on real estate lending in the immediate future.

Have questions on any of the thoughts today? Ask us to help, we would love to work open houses with you to better serve you, your seller and to meet and support prospective buyers. Unclear on down payments and credit scores? Contact us, we will walk you and your clients through the process.

 

Share Button

How Can We Shift Market Perceptions?

The chart below from www.HousingWire.com illustrates some of the emotional and financial reasons that are holding consumers back from buying real estate. One thing we can do to help stimulate our real estate economy is to educate consumers about the benefits of home ownership.

 

If you look at the chart, there are a few groups we can help immediately. The number two reason that people are not buying property is because credit issues are preventing them from obtaining a mortgage. With support and education our consumers can dramatically increase their credit scores over time. Finding these consumers and helping them improve their credit is one way to bring more qualified buyers into the real estate market.

 

In many markets, renting is more costly than buying a home. This is another area where education can illustrate the benefits of home ownership in terms of monthly costs, housing stability and potential equity growth. In today’s market, buying can have HUGE value over renting – including having a lower monthly payment.

 

Another common theme is our consumer’s concern about upkeep of a home. Condominium ownership offers the ability to own while upkeep and maintenance is managed by the condo association in most situations. This is another area where we can do a better job of keeping the consumer informed of their buying options.

 

In a struggling economy, a home or condo can be a ball and chain around job market flexibility. Many people have found themselves unemployed and unable to move to locations with more job opportunity because they could not sell their home or rent it at a high enough rate to cover their expenses.

Financial Barriers are Most Common Reasons for Always renting
Source: http://www.housingwire.com/articles/31870-reasons-why-people-dont-get-a-mortgage

chart

 

Times Have Changed! 

 

Are there homeowners who mistakenly believe that their house is ‘underwater’ but it is not? Are there current homeowners who could rent their current property at a profit and move up or away? It is our job to find these homeowners and offer the professional solutions they need to take the next steps in their lives.

 

In real estate sales and finance, we have a vital professional role as financial educators with a specific expertise in these areas. The average consumer probably does not look at a real estate agent as a member of their financial planning team, but if nothing else, hopefully we have learned over the past years that homeownership done right can be a key element to financial success and stability. However, if this is done incorrectly, this can be crippling…  We have an obligation to our clients to be sure that we are presenting holistic financial options that look at their entire profile, wishes, expectations and dreams before engaging them in the home buying and financing process.

Share Button

Do what’s always worked – then do it again. Repeat.

Good salespeople are always trying to improve their game, to up the ante and grow. Many salespeople get sucked into the “shiny-new-object” trap. They’re looking for the next big thing to implement: a strategy, an app, a new program or campaign. They ask themselves, “What’s the next breakthrough product that will take my career to a higher level?”

I’m in the process of building a whole new business and all day long I’m engaged in networking with salespeople, referral partners and business leaders as we grow our presence in New England.  As I was struggling to lay out a business plan, I finally asked myself an important question “You’ve done this before. What worked then, will it work today, and why aren’t you doing it?” At that moment, I realized that I didn’t need to create a new strategy – I needed to review my past success and replicate the actions that got me there.  Perhaps I could add a tweak or two for the times, but don’t mess with what’s worked.

I counsel you to ask yourself those same questions.

We’re frequently chasing the next new thing when we already have all the tools, ideas and action plans necessary to achieve our present goals. Much like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz – the power was always there, but her thoughts prevented her from seeing it.

Try to recall the best professional week – or month, or quarter, or year, or any period of time – that you’ve experienced in your career. What were you doing? What was working for you? Where did the energy come from? What made that period feel good? What made that a successful time for you?

Figure that out – then do it again, and repeat!

Instead of looking for the next big thing, dig deep and look at what actions have been a big thing in your career. Then consider how to recreate them, or continue doing them with greater consistency!

Share Button

Are you stuck in a role? Has your business been typecast?

Typecasting (acting): In television, film, and theatre, typecasting is the process by which a particular actor becomes strongly identified with a specific character; one or more particular roles; or, characters having the same traits or coming from the same social or ethnic groups.

Just like actors from television and film, loan originators and real estate agents can become typecast – stuck in their roles.

I recently met with a potential recruit who works with a lot of borrowers with lower credit scores and spotty employment history. He loves to help people, so he works hard and digs deep for his clients, and they love him for it. Now he’s stuck; he’s known as the guy who works with low credit scores and challenging borrowers – he’s become typecast.

One reason this happens is because people tend to hang around others with common interests. When happy clients send a referral it’s often a person with a similar profile to their own. When satisfied realtors refer a buyer, they’re thinking of this loan originator as the guy who does tough deals. In fact, they may even send their A+ referrals to another lender because this originator has become typecast.

Don’t get stuck playing the comedic sidekick when you want to be an action-adventure hero. Don’t allow your clients, co-workers, referral sources or friends and family to typecast you! This doesn’t mean that you can’t offer expertise in all areas of real estate sales or lending, but as markets shift and swing, being able to play multiple roles in your industry will create the financial and professional security you need for a lifetime career.

Share Button

Security Briefs – Protecting your data, your privacy, your credit and your identity!

Questions to ask your Financial Partners.

We have all heard the recent stories about how devastating a data breach can be and how challenging it is to repair your credit rating and recover from identity theft or a credit breach.

With that in mind, be sure to ask the correct questions about data security plans when you hire a financial professional or advisor.

 

All organizations dealing with documents that contain private or personal data are required to have a WISP (Written information Security Protocol) policy.  Not all companies take data security as seriously as they should. You need to protect yourself if these companies are not doing all they can to protect you and your valuable information.

 

Here are just a few things to consider:

  • Is internal email communication encrypted?
  • Is there an encryption service for sending emailed documents?
  • Is there a policy around securing faxed documents when they arrive?
  • If you email documents, are you advised to password protect?
  • When emailing documents will they be stored electronically or as paper?
  • How are laptops and desktops secured?
  • How frequently are users required to change passwords on all devices?
  • Are fax machines shut down at night?
  • Is there a locked desk policy and is it followed?
  • How is paper managed?
  • Are there locked shredding bins?
  • Do they allow files out of the office?
  • Do they keep a lock box in their vehicle if transporting documents

There are a million ways a well-intended professional can accidently mismanage electronic or paper data and accidentally expose your information. Everyone should seek out companies with strong protocols, policies and procedures that surround data security, as well as clear penalties for data breaches. You take your privacy, identity and credit rating seriously so should the companies you work with!

 

Share Button

There are many ways to evaluate a mortgage lender.

I’m a student of the mortgage industry — I read everything I can on the business, whether it’s written for consumers or for industry professionals, and especially if it includes information pertaining to or coming from the CFPB. For those of you who don’t know, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a regulatory authority that was formed four years ago. It oversees consumer financial products and the organizations that provide them. To learn more about the CFPB and their mission, visit www.cfpb.gov.

I’m always surprised and disappointed when guides to finding a suitable lender are published and focus primarily on rates, points and fees. A home purchase is generally the largest financial transaction in which most consumers will ever engage. I appreciate that cost and fees are a large factor when shopping for a mortgage, but there are many other factors to consider when selecting a lender.

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” — Benjamin Franklin

In addition to costs, what else should real estate professionals and consumers be seeking from a loan officer/lender?

  • Do they have a signature line in their email that includes their contact information and their mortgage licensing information? This is required by law.
  • Is their written communication well-produced, utilizing proper language, punctuation? Is it professionally formatted? Does the communication make sense? Is it helpful?
  • Did the lender offer or prepare any written details pertaining to the loan, like a spreadsheet or preliminary estimate of costs and fees, and a loan product comparison?
  • Did the lender explain how a rate lock works?
  • Was your initial call or email returned promptly?
  • Is the lender available to work with you when you’re available?
  • When they offer a pre-approval or pre-qualification, do they require that the consumer submit all pertinent financial documents to review before issuing a letter?
  • Are they fast to respond when needed?
  • Do they have a team backing them up?
  • Do they offer to talk with the seller or listing agent about a specific borrower/offer?

This list could go on forever — mortgage financing is complicated, and it requires the services of a confident and experienced professional to guide the consumer and agent through to the closing. Of course, no matter who you call, you’ll always be able to find someone willing to do the job for less, but making a large financial decision based exclusively on price can lead to a stressful and unhappy experience. Be sure to shop for quality service too, so that your real estate closing will be a celebration instead of an aggravation!

Share Button