A real estate agent’s backing can be a powerful thing. And although creating and maintaining relationships with agents can be challenging, it doesn’t have to be. The first step lies in building awareness and becoming a go-to lender.
To improve its awareness among local real estate professionals, Ent Federal Credit Union ($4.1B, Colorado Springs, CO) tied awareness efforts into education classes for agents.
An Opportunity In A Requirement
To maintain a license, real estate agents must complete a certain number of continuing education hours per year. Their knowledge base must include technical, promotional, and financial aspects of real estate. However, even with continuing education, it is possible to lack the understanding of the minutiae of the mortgage process or even basic financial concepts. Steve Brown, president of the National Association of Realtors, wagered that one in 10 real estate agents doesn’t know what a basis point is.
To fill this knowledge gap, Ent started hosting a series of real estate agent education classes in January 2014. Because it does not rely on the assistance of a partner title company, it has established itself as a local subject expert.
January 10 marked the effective date for the implementation of Regulation Z of the Truth In Lending Act. Five days later, the credit union held “The New Mortgage Rules: What Every Realtor Needs to Know,” which detailed the Ability-to-Repay Rule and Qualified Mortgage requirements as well as lesser-known parts to the legislation. The class attracted 66 real estate agents and explained the regulation to audience members that might not have understood how their business would change.
“The more you can prepare your buyers with what to expect during the financing process, the easier it will be for everyone,” says Jon Paukovich, vice president of mortgage lending at Ent.
In June, Ent offered a class titled “Home Staging: Professional Tips That Sell Homes.” Despite the fact neither this class nor the new mortgage rules session carried a Continuing Realtor Education (CRE) certification, Ent hosted 30 real estate agents that wanted to learn about the intricacies of staging homes.
In August, 20 real estate agents attended Ent’s third class, “Mortgage Insurance 101: What You & Your Clients Need To Know.” For this session, Ent partnered with a mortgage insurance company that had previously offered certification classes and was therefore able to offer CRE certification.
The real estate agents understand this is information they can use to help them be more successful in their profession.
Moving forward, Paukovich and Nancy Lonergan, mortgage lending marketing manager, will work with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies to certify Ent’s classes. This will provide the most value to both agents and the credit union.
Ent’s next class, “Mortgage Loans: What You & Your Buyers Need to Know,” is scheduled for mid-November.
According to Paukovich, Ent would like to offer classes on a quarterly schedule, internal bandwidth permitting.
Ent uses its own employees as subject-matter experts when possible. For example, Paukovich and Ent’s director of mortgage lending led the January class. The credit union often decides which topics to present after consulting post-event evaluations, which allows it to offer classes the agents find interesting and helpful.
When the credit union does not have the internal expertise, it will bring in external speakers who trade a speaking fee for the marketing potential — such was the case when Ent brought in a professional home stager.
Ent hosts the sessions at its headquarters in a room that seats approximately 60 people. A big screen projector and speakers guarantee attendees can hear the presentations, which generally run 60 to 90 minutes with refreshment breaks built in. Strategies like these help keep the majority of the costs to marketing mailers and refreshments.
Awareness And Best Practices
To maintain this level of agent attendance, Ent blitzes its marketing channels several weeks before its scheduled class. In addition to Internet media such as Facebook, Twitter, and its website, the credit union’s marketing team sends out mailings to its local Pikes Peak Association of Realtors while its mortgage loan officers contact real estate agents directly with information on the upcoming class.
The classes educate the local real estate agent population about not only Ent as a financial institution but also ways to improve their business. And the credit union has anecdotal evidence these classes are benefiting its balance sheet and bringing in new members.
Paukovich admits it’s difficult to track an exact dollar amount these classes have brought to the credit union in new loans, but he has seen new relationships form.
“I don’t have any hard numbers,” he says. “But we do have tangible evidence of loans we’re received from real estate agents who have attended our seminars.”
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As far lessons learned, the credit union recognized after the first class that the lengths of the classes were an important variable. The January class on Regulation Z was two hours, too long, Paukovich thinks, for a class with dense material.
Paukovich also suggests maintaining constant visibility in the community rather than relying on advertising several weeks prior to the event. To that end, Ent sustains a relationship with its local Home Buyers Association as well as the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors. Also, Paukovich writes a monthly article for the Colorado Springs Real Estate Journal on various mortgage topics. All this together cements Ent’s status in the community as a subject-matter expert.
Finally, Ent found that collating a presentation packet for agent attendees improved the value of the class. These packets contain the slide deck for the presentation as well as a pen for notes and pertinent information about the topic, such as institutional loan programs or reprints of Paukovich’s articles.
According to Lonergan, offering actionable and relevant content gives agents that extra incentive to attend.
“The real estate agents understand this is information they can actually use to help them be more successful in their profession,” Lonergan says.
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Ent's Jon Paukovich hosted a webinar for Callahan clients on this topic. Available now only on CreditUnions.com.