Residential Magazine

Carve Out a Niche to Secure Your Future

Mortgage originators need to explore unconventional areas to attract new business

By Shirleen Von Hoffmann

In this business, it’s always better to deal with problems now than wait until later. A problem facing mortgage originators is figuring out where their future business will come.

Or put it this way, whatever happened to travel agents? Think Travelocity, Expedia and What about taxi companies? Think Uber and Lyft.

That same sort of disruption is coming for the mortgage industry. Rocket Mortgage is already here. Will Zillow be too far behind now that they’ve purchased a mortgage company? The bots are coming.

So, now is the time for mortgage originators to prepare for the inevitable. But what can be done? Create a niche for your business.

Having a niche will give you value. Having value will attract potential homebuyers who will choose you rather than an online source for their mortgage needs. Cultivating a niche to attract business has been a strategy since the beginning of time in sales, but it’s more important now than ever.

Developing a niche can play a vital move in propelling you toward success. Following are some niche, or specialty, ideas that you may be able to adapt for your business.

Loan processing

Quick-turn specialists promise a 10-day close or quick turnaround. Realtors love it, especially when a deal is time sensitive, and you can turn it around quickly. It’s money to them. The only pitfall is you have to set up your processes and expectations very carefully with your company, in advance, so the ball doesn’t get dropped. It’s like getting a hot potato on every deal.

Downpayment specialists focus on downpayment-assistance programs, bond loans and financial-aid programs in your area. It’s great because you can make loans work that couldn’t work before. You are good at these loans, while many other loan officers may find them foreign to work on. You know who to call to get in these systems and get your loan approved and funded.

Credit-fix specialists work with files involving credit-history challenges. This specialty will get you in the door with builders and Realtors. They will depend on and trust you to put together these tougher deals and reward you with business.

A file specialist is someone who knows how to put a file together to get a loan approval. Self-employed tax returns, income and job explanations as well as downpayment requirements all come together seamlessly when you know how to put files together in a way that addresses the underwriters’ questions before they ask.

Loan programs

First-time homebuyer specialists know all of the loan programs for first-time homebuyers, and you will work with builders and with Realtors. Youalso will provide educational seminars for first-time homebuyers. When you work in this niche, you will feel good about what you are doing because putting someone in a home for the first time is the best feeling in the world and very gratifying for a mortgage originator.

Being a construction-loan specialist is a niche in demand. In many towns, you will find only one or two originators who really know custom-construction financing. You will be the go-to originator for custom-home builders and homebuyers. It’s well worth the effort because construction-loan specialists are always busy.

A reverse mortgage specialist makes a living working with buyers who want to use equity from their homes to create monthly income. These loans are complicated, and buyers will seek you out if they know this is your domain. Other mortgage originators will refer business to you as well because they don’t want to go through the process of understanding these loans.

When you are an online lending specialist, you have all of the knowledge of a street loan officer but you are online. You have resources at your fingertips, you follow through and you are fast. The buyers and agents will love you because they know when they reach out to you, you will address their needs promptly.

Another niche, a relocation specialist, requires you to focus on working with human-resource departments to obtain leads for their employees who are relocating. Many relocation specialists work nation-wide to provide services to employees being transferred by their employers. It also opens up a referral avenue that can bring new refinance and purchase-mortgage business your way via other company employees who aren’t relocating.


When you are known as a Realtor specialist, you deliver on your promises. You pick up the phone right away. You work with Realtors at open houses, and you are active in their communities — providing buyer education and quick turnaround times. You know the ins and outs of Realtor purchase contracts and the pitfalls related to financing resale homes. If you save deals because of this expertise, Realtors will use you time and time again.

When you are a home-loan broker, you can boast access to many different lenders. With that, you can access the best rates and programs available and switch up your business as needed around the service levels being provided. This will be attractive to those who are locked in with one lender, one service provider and one option for providing financing.

Being a homebuilder specialist means you know the builders’ business, you understand construction, terminology and what’s important to them — like timelines, communication, taking great care of their clients and always closing on time. With this niche, you will be rewarded greatly with tons of referrals from homebuilders.

An originator who works as a union specialist usually does so by being involved in the unions, going to union meetings, events and becoming a part of the union family. They educate union members and advertise in union magazines and on union websites and become a referral source. Many companies will provide special programs and/or discounts for doctors, nurses, firefighters or other professional groups or trade unions.

Government loans

Being really good and focused on Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans is a great specialty because so many of the loans out there are FHA loans. By specializing in FHA loans, your business margins can increase dramatically, because it’s a highly used loan product. There are nuances to FHA loans that many mortgage originators don’t understand. So, if you are an originator who specializes in all aspects of FHA lending, you will be very busy getting referrals from builders and Realtors.

On another front, when you specialize in Veterans Affairs (VA) loans, you know you are doing a really good thing for our military veterans by helping them get into a home. Many originators will handle VA loans, but those who specialize in them focus on understanding every nuance of the VA-loan program, which is different from conventional lending. They also educate, attend events and fairs and market to veterans.

• • •

It’s best to begin thinking of your niche right now, versus waiting. Branding and marketing your niche just might be the one thing that brings value to your business and saves you from an internet bot trying to replace you.

People want to do business with real people who can help them with their needs and do a great job. But if you act like a bot and don’t bring value, then you’ll be replaced by a bot.


  • Shirleen Von Hoffmann

    Shirleen Von Hoffmann is a principal of Home Builders Edge. She is a nationally known builder consultant and expert, speaker, broker, author and certified sales coach. Von Hoffmann has been a high-volume, top-producing originator and manager for 35 years and has a master’s degree in residential marketing. She also holds certified marketing professional and certified sales professional designations. 

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