Building Success in a Tough Market: Key Strategies for MLOs


In today’s mortgage landscape, mortgage loan originators (MLOs) must find their way to success through an increasingly complex and difficult market. With the downturn in home sales, the challenges are multifaceted: Homeowners are holding onto low-interest rate mortgages instead of moving up, investors edging out traditional buyers with cash offers and first-time homebuyers facing steep affordability hurdles and bidding wars.

Although it’s a tough scene, it is also ripe with opportunity for the savvy MLO. What follows are five strategies to not only confront these challenges head-on but to turn them into avenues for growth and success. MLOs that adapt these strategies to their unique local market will be able to provide value to their clients. These strategies can also carve out a space for an MLO to be recognized as a trusted advisor in a competitive field.

Cultivating Expertise in Specialized Loan Products

As mortgages continue to get further commoditized, originators can distinguish themselves by mastering a diverse range of unique mortgage products. Loan originators with knowledge and access to specialized products can offer tailored loan options for buyers needing bridge financing, lacking down payment funds, or seeking renovation solutions.  Having a strong product base can help buyers access more homes and can establish an MLO as a trusted advisor in more complex home buying processes.

Adapting to Industry Shifts with a New Approach to Collaboration

The recent class action settlement proposal by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) is potentially changing how buyer’s real estate agent fees are negotiated. That presents a unique challenge as well as an opportunity.

By integrating this new cost dynamic into pre-qualification discussions, originators can support buyers navigating these changes. This proactive strategy not only showcases the originator’s commitment to staying at the forefront of industry trends but also strengthens their relationships with real estate agents, providing a competitive edge in a transitioning market.

Embracing Housing Market Trends

With the housing market constantly evolving, a deep understanding of market trends is vital. For instance, according to the National Association of Home Builders, the share of new construction homes sales has surged to 33%, a significant increase from the 2000-2019 average of 13%. CoreLogic predicts that investors will purchase 30% of homes in 2024. Do MLOs have a full suite of builder and investor products to offer or are they missing out on a third of potential financing opportunities?

Embracing Housing Buyer Trends

As the population evolves, so does the profile of the homebuyer. While originators typically service their existing book of business, the shift to remote work has changed housing market dynamics. Loan originators should welcome this shift facilitated by remote work as it encourages borrowers to consider communities not within commutable distances of traditional employment hubs. Many of these same remote locations are also more affordable and offer a different lifestyle than traditional suburbs and urban areas. Staying on top of trending locations can put an MLO in a better position to assist future buyers.

Leveraging Technology for Enhanced Client Engagement

In today’s digital-first environment, adopting advanced communication and loan processing technologies is essential for engaging effectively with clients. This adaptability not only improves the mortgage application experience but enables originators to meet the expectations of a tech-savvy consumer base.

While the challenges in today’s mortgage market are undeniable, they are not insurmountable. The path to success in the mortgage industry requires innovation, foresight, and a commitment to continuous learning and adaptation. The strategies outlined above are more than just tactics; they’re part of a broader mindset that positions an MLO as a leader in a competitive field.

By focusing on specialization, collaboration, market insight and technological adoption, an MLO can build a sustainable, growth-oriented business. The future of mortgage lending is bright for MLOs ready to embrace these approaches.

Lee Gross is senior vice president, divisional manager for Planet Home Lending.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policy, or position of Planet Home Lending, LLC.

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