By Jex Manwaring
The lending process is far more confusing than the actual building of a home and it’s about as much fun as doing taxes. So, given that homeowners look forward to having dental work done more than getting a mortgage, it may seem that there’s simply no alleviating the lending process, never mind making it a pleasant enough process to garner referrals.
But there are two very compelling reasons to pay attention to how your lending team handles your customers: the first is that keeping your customers in the dark regarding the terms and conditions of their loan can lead to nothing short of disaster (remember the 2007 mortgage crisis?). The second is that keeping your customers one step removed from what’s actually happening causes them to feel insecure, a feeling that quickly taints the other aspects of the home buying experience. So how do you ensure your lenders are putting a positive spin on a grueling process? Transparency.
Tell your lending team to be completely honest, starting with letting buyers know ahead of time that the process is long, complicated and full of last-minute requests (it’s totally possible that the bank is going to suddenly need an arbitrary check stub from 2015 to make sure you weren’t briefly a drug trafficker). If home buyers know what to expect, they’re much more patient and give a significantly increased satisfaction rating.
Because the process is so strange to anyone not within the mortgage sector—and, frankly, even to those within it—your customers need to be regularly reassured. That means your lending team needs to set a standard of making contact with your buyers every ten days. And that’s every ten days no matter what. If nothing is happening, your lending team needs to call the home buyers and tell them nothing is happening. If nothing is happening for thirty days, that should be three phone calls of communicating the lack of activity. Your customers should be expecting the ebbs and flow of activity because your lending team will have already set that expectation. It’s when there’s no word from the lending team that the home buyer starts getting anxious and the satisfaction score begins to plummet.
The benefit to builders, aside from a higher referral rating, is that when customers know what to expect, they’re much more agreeable if something goes wrong. After all, interest rates fluctuate, banking standards change, and the whole ordeal is enough to make them consider renting again. But if the buyer has been receiving consistent communication and has a solid relationship with the lending team, they’re more understanding of bumps in the road.
Oh, and here’s a pro tip: when your lenders call buyers, have them be pleasant. Buoyant, even. One exceptional lender began her correspondence to her home buyers with: “The lending process is long and complicated and not very pleasant, so I’ll be peppering everything with smiley faces so it seems better.” Sure enough, her emails always contained smiley faces in paragraphs where there was nothing to smile about; her home
buyers found themselves paying more attention to the paperwork and were grateful for the humor in a humorless situation.
Until your lenders get into the habit of the 10-day phone calls, require them to keep spreadsheets that can be audited if needed. It’s also an easy way to track the improvement of your satisfaction rating from before regular communication to after: you’ll be amazed by what visibility can do.