"We haven't heard anything from her since Monday"
"Is there a problem?"
"We're not sure what's going on"
These are some common phrases I hear when a loan goes off the rails. Especially amongst newer loan officers with little experience, but even amongst more experienced loan officers, a loan going sideways and knowing someone's refinance is in jeopardy, or worse, their new home purchase dreams may be falling to pieces.
Buying a home and even refinancing are emotional processes and go far beyond a simple "transaction". While one of our basic needs, shelter, isn't usually at stake in a refinance, few things make people more emotional than their finances. When you add shelter AND finances together, it's no wonder home buying can be a daunting process for many people - it's emotionally exhausting. More so when you haven't properly prepared. And even MORE SO when working with an inexperienced team.
What often gets lost amongst the various parties during a home purchase or refinance is that it can be emotionally exhausting for loan professionals, too. While your home purchase or refinance may be daunting, your loan pro may have 3, 5, 10, or more transactions taking place at the same time, with consistent demands for updates, changes, evening calls, weekend "emergencies", and more on each of those transactions. It can be overwhelming. And what do some people do when they're overwhelmed? They shut down. Nothing can overwhelm a loan pro more than knowing they either screwed something up or missed something that could have been caught early that cold not derail a transaction. Sometimes, they don't know what to do, so in panic, they do nothing. They don't proactively call. They don't take calls. They don't respond to texts, emails, voicemails. If you're involved in the transaction, you know SOMETHING is wrong, but you don't know what, because you've been left in the dark. Whether you're a Realtor, title agent, home buyer, or are just in the process of refinancing, this creates a chain of uncertainty, which 100% of the time ends up in a combination of fear & frustration.
I've explained WHY it happens. Now let me state, that it should never happen. As mortgage professionals, we can make a decent living, and the incomes we earn aren't based on being able to quote a rate from a rate sheet. As a Realtor, you can earn a decent living, and the income you earn isn't based on your prowess when it comes to opening lock boxes (although, some of the lock boxes I've seen do take an engineering degree to access!). We get paid for being professionals, and because our clientele rely on us to act accordingly.
When things are going wrong, it's time to communicate MORE. It's important to not mistake that for sounding the alarms and setting fires that don't need to be set. But if there's uncertainty, communicate that along with a plan of action to address the uncertainty and (this part is important) an ETA on when an update will be available. Then follow through on that ETA. If it's more than uncertainty and you know there's a true problem that could derail a transaction, it needs to be brought to light immediately. Sure, take a couple minutes to process, breathe, take a walk, whatever you need to do. Then get to work. When you bring up a problem early, it's possible all minds will work together to solve it. It happens! I've seen sellers bend over backward to help a buyer get through the finish line of purchasing their home. I've seen Realtors work together, putting in immense amounts of time and even sacrificing personal gain for the betterment of their client's transaction. I've bailed out people from bad situations and got them through the finish line when they thought the race was over and they'd lost. But wait until the last minute, and that magic doesn't have time to happen.
Some agents and other referral partners live in fancy, shiny, pristine glass houses. And they like to throw stones. They expect perfection. Years of positive transactions, tons of happy customers, and one mistake paints you with a scarlett "N", as in, "I'll NEVER work with that person again!". Those people are jerks. You don't need em'. Nor does the industry. But MOST people don't expect perfection. They expect honesty. They expect communication. And they expect to be looped into what's going on, so they're not in the dark. And that is not unreasonable. It's an expectation that any and all of us in the real estate industry need to deliver on.
When a loan, or home buying process in general, is going well, we consistently communicate. Every Monday, borrowers and their agents know where their file is and get an update. When there's a milestone such as the appraisal coming in, underwriting approving a file, or knowing when funds are wired, there's communication - it's consistent, and it's scheduled. When things go sideways, though, we need to communicate MORE. The process, in my opinion should go:
- Learn there's a problem or potential problem
- See if it's something you can fix without much trouble and quickly
- If it's fixable, fix it. No need to add unnecessary stress to others and loop people in to what you can fix yourself. (Too many people have a hero complex, and want to point out every minute challenge along the way, so they can be the "hero" that solved it - that adds unnecessary stress to everyone.)
- If you can't fix it, the time is NOW to loop in the parties to the transaction and get to work on coming up with a solution, or giving people as much notice as humanly possible so they can implement any contingencies they need to
- Then keep the line of communication open for questions, troubleshooting, and to let people know you care and you're there. You may not have any rabbits to pull out of your hat, but you're on the Titanic with them and you're going to make room for them on your floating door.
In mortgage and real estate, communication is vital, and it should always be consistent. When (not if...if you're in real estate or mortgage long enough and do enough business, things WILL go wrong somewhere along the way!) things go sideways, communicate more!