When everybody looked left in in the mortgage market two years ago, Danny Meier looked right. It turned out to be the correct decision. Back then, most mortgage originators were focusing their energy on the rapidly booming refinance market. Meier, a branch manager at Academy Mortgage Corp. in Snohomish, Washington, went all in on the purchase market.
He allocated the majority of his branch’s resources toward the purchase loan business, guaranteeing a two-week closing at a time when many mortgage companies struggled to close purchase loans in 30 days, he said. “I was not letting refis interrupt my focus on what I thought was the opportunity, which I think I was right,” Meier said.
Last year, Meier produced $799.4 million in loan volume on 1,299 loans. Of those, 64% were purchase loans and 36% were refinances. He finished No. 5 for Top Purchase Volume and No. 11 for Top Dollar Volume in Scotsman Guide’s annual Top Originators rankings. That’s a huge jump in only one year. In the 2021 rankings, Meier finished with $86.9 million in total volume. More importantly, Meier is doing well this year as the mortgage market has slowed. He said his branch had produced about $360 million in volume by midyear — not the same production as last year but not a fall-off-the-cliff decline in business.
Meier got into the mortgage industry in 2010 after the financial crisis. He had been playing minor league baseball and said he was within shouting distance of the majors. Instead, he got cut and was left with his offseason jobs as a valet, working at a metal shop and teaching baseball lessons.
He went to lunch one day with his mom, Louise Meier, who owned a mortgage brokerage in Seattle. At the time, the industry was seeing a refinance boom and his mom complained about the lack of support staff. He was a finance major in college and he pitched himself for a job. “I just didn’t want to valet cars anymore,” Meier said. “She’s like, ‘No, it’s just a rough business and it’s just not fun.’”
Somebody should support new people besides, ‘Here’s a phone and go get ‘em.’ That’s ludicrous. It’s no wonder so many people fail in their first year.
He was persistent and she finally hired him on a small salary out of her own pocket. He found that he loved the work. He was in an office with veteran originators and he became a sponge, learning everything he could. He picked up extra hours at night. He noticed the high interest rates for past clients, which he’d point out to his mom. “The next morning she’d show up at the office and I’d be, ‘Here’s 12 people I think that we should call,’” Meier said. “She’s like, ‘You know, I was about to retire before you started.’”
They worked together for four years and she proved to be an invaluable mentor. Now that he’s a branch manager, he’s trying to impart these same lessons to his newer originators. “Somebody should support new people besides, ‘Here’s a phone and go get ‘em,’” Meier said. “That’s ludicrous. It’s no wonder so many people fail in their first year.”
So, was his mom right about the industry? Is it a rough business that isn’t fun? “She wasn’t wrong,” he said. The highs are high and the lows are low, he said. The past several months have been difficult as business has been drying up and keeping pull-through rates high has been a challenge.
“You work really hard for months or you do something late at night for somebody, and the next day, you’ve got three rate quotes from other lenders,” Meier said. “The competition is fierce. People are desperate. It’s getting ugly.” ●
Tips of the Trade
Somebody new to the business needs to have support to learn while they are getting business. They need to figure out what their story is and sell it. People want to work with people. That’s never changed. But they can’t just be liked; they need to earn trust. So, they need to find a support system that doesn’t allow their loans to go sideways.