Ryan Sawyer enjoys working with veterans, so it’s no surprise that he has built his career originating VA loans.
Sawyer ranked No. 1 in Scotsman Guide’s Top Originators 2017 rankings for VA loan volume, with a total volume of $116.7 million. He closed a total of 574 loans in 2017 — all of them VA loans.
Sawyer has specialized in originating VA loans for the past seven years. For the past four years, he has headed up a branch of the mortgage company Low VA Rates in Clifton Park, New York, about 20 miles north of Albany. Veterans are a great clientele to work with, Sawyer says.
“When a veteran is happy with you, and you can speak frankly and honestly to them … they stick with you, and you can get a lot of referrals. It’s a pretty tightknit group,” Sawyer says.
Sawyer, who is 33, had a passion for real estate from a young age. His mother was a real estate agent, introducing him to the world of home sales and mortgages, and he bought his first house when he was 19. When he was 21, he landed his first job as a loan officer. Now, he runs a branch that employs about 40 people.
Sawyer says technology is the secret weapon that has propelled him to success. Technologies that originators rely on today — like customer-relationship management software, loan origination software and text messaging — weren’t available or widespread in the early 2000s when Sawyer was starting out, he says.
Back then, applications from clients and their accompanying files resulted in huge stacks of paper. Now, that information can be stored digitally, Sawyer says. “Computerizing everything and [adopting] technology has really been able to put us to another level,” he adds.
Sawyer says he envisions technology eventually cutting even more of the red tape out of the mortgage application process. The streamlined VA refinance loans Sawyer specializes in are still complicated to close. Even though they don’t require income verification, an appraisal or a credit check — just copies of a veteran’s military ID — it still takes 30 days to close on a loan, he says.
“I do see that the future is doing applications online,” he says. “I do think it would make it less expensive for the public to be able to cut some of this red tape down. … It’s very expensive, which then trickles down to the public and the consumer. If we were able to cut some of this stuff down, without jeopardizing the housing market, … that’s going to benefit everybody.”
Additionally, Sawyer says he doesn’t believe in taking a hard-sell approach with borrowers, but rather sees using a softer approach as being more effective.
“We came from a world before where people were trying to put commitments on customers in the initial phone call, and I never liked that atmosphere,” he says. “So, I changed directions … years ago — informing people more, instead of trying to sell to them, [and that] has contributed a lot [to my success].”
For the ninth year in a row, we compiled the industry’s most comprehensive list of the nation’s top mortgage originators. The rankings include not only the originators who are closing the most dollar volume and the most loans, but also the leaders in niche areas, like Federal Housing Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Department of Agriculture loans as well as home equity lines of credit.