Conversions. Let's talk about them. Whether you're a mortgage lender at an IMB, a bank, a brokerage or a credit union, nothing is worse than finding out that a homebuyer has chosen to finance with someone else after your team has invested time and money into their home buying journey.
As printed in ACUMA's Pipeline Magazine, Winter 2023 edition
Whether a Realtor steered them in a different direction, their neighbor recommended a different lender, or a cheaper interest rate won them over… It's a common issue lenders face and it directly impacts pull-through rates. So what are successful mortgage leaders doing to win the mortgage lead conversion game and position themselves for success in 2023? They’re adopting technology and strategies that keep homebuyers engaged in their ecosystem at every stage of conversion.
A Change in Approach
Any lender can tell you how many applications they did this year. When gauging success, the mortgage industry has historically operated with that core metric in mind. Unfortunately, many cannot tell you how many leads they interacted with, how many of those turned into pre-approvals, or how well their pre-approvals converted to applications. But why? These top and middle-of-the-funnel metrics have an outsized impact on whether those leads make it to closing. Buyer data tells us that interactions at every stage of the funnel drive conversions. Additionally, having a better understanding of these conversions at each level of the sales funnel helps highlight areas of improvement. You can’t fix a leak without knowing there is one.
Increasing Your Number of Leads
Leads have not been in short supply over the last few years. Unfortunately, many lenders became accustomed to drinking from the firehose and got too comfortable hanging out at the bottom of their sales funnel. Now strategy matters more than ever. Here are a few ways you can increase your flow of leads:
- Build new (or stronger) Realtor relationships. Easier said than done, I know. But a great way to hook and sink referrals is to provide the Realtors in your market with true value. That could be educational content that makes them feel more comfortable talking numbers with homebuyers or technology that gives them immediate answers and on-demand pre-qual and pre-approval letters.
- Homebuyer education seminars. This sounds like a pretty traditional strategy, but there are many modern ways to execute it. Take the questions your clients already ask you or the pain points you most commonly hear and provide proactive advice.
- Audit your online loan application and lead capture landing pages. Are they inviting and simple to navigate? Are you forcing them to create an account when they don’t even know you yet? Are you offering them resources and materials to engage them if they’re not ready to apply? Take a look at the journey they have to take before you even capture their information.
- Use social media as a selling tool. Ditch the cookie-cutter “Now’s a great time to buy a house!” post. Instead, record a 2-minute video showing an actual listed house and what payment would look like with a temporary buy-down. Check out a few more post ideas here.
Building Trust to Drive Pre-Approvals
There are quite a few reasons a lead may not turn into a pre-approval. Each homebuyer’s journey will be unique, and the most successful lenders know how to build trust early in their interactions. Here are a few ways you can pre-approve more clients:
- Have a strong credit repair strategy. Whether you work with an agency or utilize online platforms, you should be able to steer clients toward a better score and higher chances of qualification.
- Be a product knowledge expert. If one program doesn’t work for them, you should be able to explore others that will. Demonstrating your knowledge will establish you as a trustworthy resource.
- Define your CRM workflows. Create strong follow-up & outreach strategies for borrowers at each stage of their journey. Customize your touch points with insight hyper-specific to their financial position when you can.
- Maintain a strong online presence - reviews matter. Make sure sourcing them post-closing is a non-negotiable part of your general process.
- Audit your document uploading process. Make sure it’s easy for clients to submit what you need. This is a great way to get them invested early.
Creating Confidence to Boost Applications
Homebuyers who are confused about their financing do not win bids. Confident homebuyers win bids. Here are a few ways you optimize this part of your sales strategy to convert more pre-approvals into applications:
- Ensure payment & closing cost clarity. This one is self-explanatory. What’s their payment going to be? How much cash to close do they need? How will those numbers change from home to home?
- Provide homebuyers with a custom-tailored mortgage calculator. If you don’t provide them with a hyper-accurate way to crunch numbers, they’re going to search “mortgage calculator” online and likely get sold as a lead to your competitors. When you can keep a buyer in your ecosystem and answer those questions using technology you provide in-house, it changes the game and you’ll see an immediate increase in conversions.
- Present clear option comparisons. This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s way too easy to over-complicate this strategy. Keep it simple - I cannot emphasize this enough. Put the FHA next to the Conventional and list the interest rates, the payment, and the closing costs. That’s it. They don’t need to know every line item that varies.
From Application to Clear to Close
Most lenders measure this today: the pull-through rate. This is the one stage of the funnel that lenders can influence the least, but the opportunity is still there. Here are a few ways you can move the needle at the bottom of the funnel:
- Automate your collection of upfront fees and request them the moment you have intent to proceed. A homebuyer that has invested $500 with you is significantly less likely to walk away. Automating this process reduces operational labor, accelerates payment completion, allows for the next-day transfer of funds, and provides homebuyers with the high-touch, user-friendly digital experience they expect because they can pay right from their mobile devices.
- Stay transparent from beginning to end. Homebuyers don’t want surprises.
- Audit your appraisal management process. How are you keeping buyers informed at this phase? How are you moving things along internally? How are you communicating bad news if a house is under-appraised? What technical solutions, if any, do you have in place? Are you updating homebuyers via SMS? Keeping clients engaged keeps them sticky regardless of what hold-ups may occur.
- Fine-tune your problem-resolution approach. This goes hand in hand with product knowledge. A seasoned lender knows what to do when something goes wrong. “Can I flip this borrower to another product? Can we go into single-premium mortgage insurance and lower that debt ratio to get it through AU? Can I massage the loan terms enough to get it approved?” Knowing how to navigate out of murky waters gracefully can make or break any deal.
Positioned to Win
Winning the lead conversion game requires continuous auditing and optimization. Break down your approach like we listed above, identify low conversions (leaks), and deploy the most accessible but impactful strategies first.
In 2023, the most effective stage to focus on will be your pre-approval to application conversions. Why? Because it’s going to be a lot easier to convert prospects already in your qualified pipeline than to source new leads altogether.
In closing, here’s a hypothetical scenario I’ll leave you to consider:
Let’s assume a loan officer takes in 150 leads per year, 60% of those convert to pre-approvals, 50% of those pre-approvals convert to applications, and 90% of those applications close. With an average loan amount of $225,000, that’s roughly $9.2 million in annual volume.
What if that pre-approval to application conversion rate increased from 50% to 60%? That would result in $11 million in annual volume. Same number of leads, 20% increase in volume.
Incremental changes can yield game-changing results.
How are your mortgage leads converting?
If you're looking for an easy way to audit your current conversion rates at each stage of the sales funnel, check out our free mortgage lead conversion calculator. Just plug in your numbers and get an accurate understanding of where you can optimize your mortgage lead management process and insight into what increasing your conversions can mean for volume and yearly salary.