Tag Archives: loan originators

Blogger Spotlight: Chris Johnson

Can a someone by ubiquitous, relevant, and transparent, all at the same time? Chris Johnson seems to be giving it his best effort. Chis is a contributor Lenderama, The Mortgage Cicerone, Blood Hound Blog, and authors Ten Day Team and Genuine Chris. Yet, he’ll be the first to tell you blogging is not for everyone.

Hi Chris, what made you decide to start a blog?

Well, I was blogging on Live Journal all the way back in 2001, mostly about my goals and dreams. The odd thing was is that I picked up transactions by being part of communities. I was 25 at the time, so a lot of the stuff I saw I absolutely cringed at, so when RE blogging took off I decided it was a great channel to reach out to people and to make myself available.

When the market turned in late 2005, I thought it would be a good time to start really advocating good business practices. You told me that people that blog to advocate last.

On the Ten Day Team blog, you recently wrote about finding you niche in blogging. What advice do you have for real estate agents as to just how focused their blogs should be?

Lenders and Real Estate Agents should create a ridiculously compelling reason for someone from the outside to contact them, or they should simply not blog. It doesn’t have to be hyper-focused, but it does have to have a reason to come back. Some breathtaking content. It’s hard to achieve, but once you find something you believe in, you’ll know right away. In this business it STILL doesn’t take a lot of transactions to make a great living, so instead of focusing on subscribers, I’d focus on providing quality, organic and authentic content.

The great thing is–that you and others have proven–is that there’s no limit to what can get accomplished by blogging correctly.

I was kind of blown away at something on your other blog, Genuine Chris. You’ve actually listed your personal goals, AND exactly where you stand in meeting them. I know the blog is an, “Experiment in Personal Online Transparency”, but where does one draw a line between public and private with regard to their blog.

I did that–and I’ll do it again–to help me “walk the walk.” Google docs and other programs help us to do that quickly, and if I’m going to hold myself out as someone that knows how to survive the loan industry, then it’s helpful to show that I’m actually following the plan that I preach.

I don’t know where the line is drawn–because I love accountability. I don’t want to go off the deep end, but if I voluntarily expose wide swaths of my life, then I will live better in those areas. If I know people (and some people that dislike me) are watching, chances are that I will live beyond reporach. Am I there yet? Hell no, but it’s the direction I am going..

Your blogs are all about helping other people get better at their jobs. There’s ways to monetize this, but with everyone and their brother racing to share their knowledge on the blogosphere, do you see a day when the asset of knowledge will have no value?

Not really. I am combining knowledge with accountability in the projects that I have coming out. Personal trainers make a great living not by helping people do proper exercises, but by creating a control that ensures that people do it. We’re not being paid so much for the information itself as being a trusted filter. Brian Brady made the comment that he learned nothing new from my book, but still found it a great value.

The models and info is out there, but what I’ve done is distilled it. Did David Allen’s GTD teach us anything new? No, not really. But what it did do was gave us some of what he calls ‘enlightened common sense.’ A trusted filter will be viable for decades into the future.

I never ask when I’m recruiting people to join, but I’m always curious as to other’s motives. Why do you contribute to Lenderama?

It was the best Lender blog around. The people you’ve collected are all outstanding and solid examples. I wanted to have to create content that was as good as the stuff that was coming their way. I had had a good experience on Blown Mortgage when Morgan was experimenting with being multi author, and I wanted to help originators in any way that I also wanted to kick it up a notch or two, as far as quality goes, and I was new at making a name for myself on the internet.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Instead of listing the ones that everyone knows, I’ll try and get some of the ‘unusual’ suspects.

Bliss Point Blog, Confident Writing, I like the Art of Manliness, JustDugUp is fantastic. I like the Xbroker and BawldGuy because they let their guard down and aren’t afraid to call out the BS that is in the market.

What advice do you have for prospective bloggers who are sitting on the fence.?

Get started on your own blogging, leave comments, don’t be afraid to disagree. You have to be both remarkable and good if you’re going to do this long term, so learn from people. Also, subscribe to the Long List on Bloodhound, and poke around Rembex a good bit. Then when you engage, listen first and talk second. I am honored to get to be on Lenderama and to get to be on Bloodhound and to get to be on the Cicerone. There is some work creating original content for 4-5 places, but it’s really rewarding.

I’d also say that it’s possible to be relevant WITHOUT blogging, and if you don’t see it as a “get to” vs. a “have to,” it’s 100% OK to skip doing it.

Chris Johnson is a loan officer, and author of the Loan Officer Survival Guide. You can buy his book at losurvialguide.com.

Blogger Spotlight: Robert Ashby

Lenderama is the fastest blog on RE.net. By that, I mean we have the fastest contributors. More than half of us own sports cars. I own an insanely fast snowmobile, another owns one of the quickest motorcycles money can buy. One contributor actually races her supercharged and super-light car at the track. And then there’s Robert Ashby, who flies jets.

Hi Robert. How did you come to the decision to start blogging?

I was bored. No, in all seriousness, I felt that blogging was the new way to provide education to the masses and since hardly anyone knew about mortgage planning and many concepts surrounding mortgages, I decided to start blogging about them. I actually started by simply using some articles I wrote previously, posting them to my ActiveRain site. I felt AR was the best avenue back then, but felt compelled to “break away” last summer, starting up Florida Mortgage Report. Other blogs I work on allow different avenues with which to provide input.

You blog at Agent Genius, Lenderama, and a couple of your own blogs. Much of your content is read by other professionals. Your competitors even. What is the advantage to blogging to your peers?

I have competition? I never really think of it that way as there is plenty to go around and I only cover Florida anyway. I have fun providing my insights and opinions; even to those people may consider my competitors. If they can use the information to their benefit, more power to them.

As for other professionals, I want them to know the information and help them. Hopefully, real estate agents, financial planners, etc. will want to work with me and take a moment to contact me to set up a time to discuss working together. I do not actively seek new relationships, hint, hint. If relationships develop, great. If not, oh well.

As a part time pilot, you’re constantly on the road. what tools do you use to connect and communicate on the Internet while away from home?

Well, actually I am a full time pilot, though I try to only fly weekends. Occasionally, I am stuck flying all day during the week, but that is not the norm. I am switching aircraft to try to minimize the “downtime” created from me being airborne even more. As for tools, I do not know where to begin as it is virtually a fully automated office at this point.

It starts with the office call that is answered by the computer if no one gets to it first. The message is recorded to the hard drive and a copy sent via email to me, so I get the message no matter what country I am in. Of course there is an online application as well. Other tools include the ability to electronically send docs, sign them, and even get them to the lender. The entire process from application to underwriting can be completed in hours versus days and it doesn’t matter where in the world I am, just need to be able to access the Internet (and now we are getting that on the airplane – no, I won’t be blogging while flying, but I may be blogging from the plane from the back).

Much of the commentary you share through blogging concerns the mortgage market. What are some of the tools you use to gather and evaluate what’s happening in the market every day?

I get my information from everywhere. I have feeds from Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, NY Times, MarketWatch, Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald, and many more. I also use feeds from other bloggers and link back to them if I use their post. I watch the bond market through Mortgage Market Guide, but don’t listen much to their commentary anymore as I like piecing it together myself. I also have CNBC on in a background window on my computer, which I can maximize if I hear something of interest.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Of course I am biased towards Lenderama and Agent Genius since they allow me to contribute there. I do like Bloodhound Blog as well. I have feeds from way too many to list, but most of those interviewed here are on my list (or soon will be). My biggest problem is finding time to visit and comment since between news and blog feeds, I get over 1,000 posts a day that I view (and that is outside my “client time”), which brings up a point I would like to make. Fellow bloggers, if nothing else, that should stress the importance of your headlines since if it doesn’t catch the eye, it gets deleted before it even gets looked at.

What advice do you have for agents who are just starting a new blog?

Be yourself. I have always mentioned that blogging should be an extension of you. Your posts should follow along the lines of if the person you are targeting is in the office and you are having a conversation with them. There are times when you can deviate from that, but remember that your readers want to know if they want to do business with you, so your blog should demonstrate your level of knowledge, expertise and personality. If you blog well, your readers will be sold on your services before they even contact you.

Blogger Spotlight: Owen Raun

Owen Raun is EXACTLY why I started RBF. My blog, lenderama, turns three years old today. I have more blogging experience than 99% of RE.net, and yet, it doesn’t really matter.

I thought about making RBF an expert site, where I told my audience all about how to blog. That might work, but my own experience has been that while many of RE.nets experts have good advice, it’s not the only way to skin a cat. So instead, this blog’s platform is to get perspectives from every corner of RE.net. Even someone new to the game can have something innovative to offer. That’s the case with Owen. He’s teaching me all about how to use audio on the web.

Hi Owen. How did you come to the decision to start blogging?

There are two reasons.

I listen to a ton of podcasts but none of them discussed the mortgage industry from a b2b perspective.

The second is that I am fortunate enough to be on the Lender Advisory Council with Lendingtree.com and have learned a great deal sharing “best practices” with other lenders. I wanted to expand that sharing of information to a larger, more diverse audience.

If I remember correctly, you attended Inman Bloggers Connect right about the same time you started your blog. From the perspective of someone who was just getting started, what was your impression of the conference?

Correct, first one was Aug 07. Its a great place to get ideas, look at what is “new” and meet people that are genuinely interested in sharing ideas and helping each other. I also like the two – four person panels and the way they pack a lot of information into a short time.

One thing that impressed me about your first blog, was that it is driven by podcasts. What sort of tools do you use to audio blog?

We use Talkshoe.com to record the conversation. It’s pretty simple, just need a phone line. Once the call is recorded Michael Price with mlbroadcast.com converts them to an mp3 and distributes the final version to iTunes and other podcast directories. I like podcasts because they are easy to download to my iPod and listen to on the way to work or other places that I might find myself untoggled from a computer. Using iTunes makes it very easy to keep up with new things to listen to..

While the numbers are growing, mortgage blogging has not been nearly as popular as real estate blogging. Why do you think that is?

Part of the reason for this might be that the mortgage business is still a bit more technologically behind the curve than other industries. Also, the number of people in the mortgage business has shrunk considerably in 2007, so fewer people to participate in the blogosphere..

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Leadcritic.com, coffeeforclosers.org, bettercloser.com are some lead generation related sites, lenderama.com and themortgagereports.com for mortgage – Mlpodcast.com/blog and GeekEstate for tech, then many others. Podcasts include twit (this week in tech), IT conversations, Business Week podcast and all the NPR business, story of the day, and economy shows.

What advice do you have for agents who are just starting a new blog?

Be patient. Blogging is sort of like any other advertising medium. You might be working really hard expecting immediate results when in fact the results might be several months out. Blogging is sort of like direct mail, you can put it out there, think no one is paying attention to it, then out of the blue you get a comment, email, or phone call from someone wanting to do business with you.

The second piece of advice is to blog about subjects that are interesting, relevant, and new. Blog about things that know one else is blogging about . The chances of getting attention for a different view, opinion or approach are more likely to get you noticed than repeating what everyone else is saying.

Blogger Spotlight; Mike Mueller

Mike is a great blogger. Want proof? I liked his work so much, I asked him to blog on my own baby, lenderama. Mikes a great loan originator, and as you will see, has been at the forefront of the mortgage industry in communicating with his clients over the internet.

Hi Mike. How did you come to the decision to start Mike’s Mortgage Minute?

I have to go way back to the 90’s. I had been financing racks of servers and modems for internet service providers. I was manually writing html (on notepad) to update individual web pages on a daily basis. In 2000 I remember finding a small little start up called Pyra Labs. They used .php to update web pages. I tried it out, liked the idea, and even donated money towards a new server they needed. Starting in 2001 I was updating my mortgage news page on a daily basis. Much of what I did at that time was cut and pasting of various newsletter articles and not my original material. Soon I started interjecting my own opinions. There was no clear start to my blogging, instead I somewhat slouched into it.

Officially, I was a real estate blogger in 2001.

Your blogs are all about advice. I want to focus on just one of them for this question though. The Foreclosure Report doles out advice for consumers who are facing foreclosure. With a readership in distress, how much more thought do you put into making sure the advice you give is in the absolute best interest of the reader?

The Foreclosure Report was an idea I came up with to harness the SEO that blogging provides. I wanted to deliver honest unbiased information to those that needed it most, the homeowner in trouble. We in the business see cases of gross misrepresentation, outright lies, and fraud, probably on a daily basis. It was never meant to be in my voice. Instead I envisioned the voices of many. I saw the opportunity to have some of the most ethical, knowledgeable, and giving people on the internet offer up that advice.

I had 30+ real estate professionals lined up to contribute. Unfortunately most all of them did not actively participate. Today, I pick and choose what is posted. If I find an article I like, I ask the writer if I can repost it. I give them full credit and direct links back to their article. I work today more like an editor for this blog. On one hand I think the blog failed in that I have just a couple of contributor posts written specifically for the blog.

Then again I have to remember who it was created for and why. Case in point: recently someone typed “what can i do to delay the sale of my home in forclosure” into Google (misspellings and all). Obviously, this is a homeowner in trouble. Out of 136,000 pages, The Foreclosure Report shows up 6th. Thanks to the long tail, they hit the website and I hope they got the correct information. Looking at many of the other sites listed on that same page, you can see how easy it is to get the wrong information. To that end, it’s a success.

The blog provides three important things to the consumer.

1.The latest contact information for over 50 lender loss mitigation departments,

2.It shines the spotlight on various foreclosure and mortgage fraud and scams,

3.And most importantly provides what I saw as something that was vital yet missing on the internet – honest, ethical, unbiased information to the homeowner in trouble.

You take on a lot of complicated topics, reverse mortgages, REO’s, and foreclosures. Yet, the content comes out in very practical terms that a regular Joe can understand. Did this just come naturally, or what sort of path led you to establishing your “voice”.

Why thank you. I want to think this comes naturally, but I can source it back to college days. I’m a visual learner. In studying, I had to visualize complex concepts in order to get them to stick in my brain. I guess I do the same to my readers.

This is kind of a fun question that I like to ask of my contributors. Why do you blog on Lenderama? The same could be asked of why you blog on Active Rain?

Much like the ‘Mountain”, I blog on Lenderama, because I can.

Seriously – I love the ability to be able to write directly to the industry professional.

I can’t do that on any other site. Recently I wrote How the Appraiser determines a stable market

That post was important to me, important to other originators (I hope) but had little or no value to a consumer or homeowner.

ActiveRain is a real estate clubhouse. I have met some really great contacts across the country there. Yesterday I need to send a referral to someone looking to buy in Florida. In seconds I pulled up AR and found the person I know and trust to send a referral to. I also use ActiveRain for some of my posts that I think should reach a wider audience. I also help to moderate the Active Rain Newbies. We silently help those new to blogging find their way and get started.

Your blog is linked to some television appearances. Was this opportunity a result of your blogging efforts?

Not directly, although I think blogging certainly added to my professional credibility. I look at television and radio the same way as I do blogging. It’s an excellent way to reach out to many people. I like to think people can see through what is B.S. and what is real. I’d like to do more television work in the future.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Ooh, I like this question! For the thinkers I like Calculated Risk, Brian Brady, Greg Swann and Traderbill.

I also like to read the twisted bubble bloggers like patrick.net and HousingPanic, not that I think they are right or wrong, but it’s great seeing into a vastly different perspective.

For the sharpening the saw stuff, I like Seth, My Name is Scott, Mark Cuban, and the Duct Tape Marketing Blog.

For keeping me on top of my game, I like The Mortgage Cicerone, The Mortgage Porter, Dan Green, and Morgan Brown.

Guilty pleasures. I have a couple. I’d say Athol but everyone likes Athol and I don’t want to give him any more traction ; ) Besides the one and only picture I sent him of a bad MLS photo – he misspelled my name! How about bad banana blog, or growabrain? Ok, I do read Athol, daily. But if anyone asks, I’ll deny it.

I read most everything inside my feed reader. RSS is my friend!

What advice do you have for agents who are just starting a new blog?

Let me step up on the soapbox.

Step one – read blogs. Read and read and read some more!

Learn to effectively use a feed reader.

There are three reasons you are likely to hear about as to why to start blogging:

1.SEO or more accurately Search Engine Ranking. That’s the hook that draws you in.
2.Networking. Sites like ActiveRain can give you a warm sense of belonging.
3.And what I think is the most important reason, “Sticky-Ness”.
3a. Nobody will tell you this but by blogging you will become smarter. Bloggers gain knowledge and clarity of thought simply by blogging.

Now throw away reasons 1 and 2.

They are unimportant and will lead you down the path to the Dark Side.

Don’t try to game the system. That too, is the Dark Side.

Your readers are smarter than you think and will see right through it.

I believe strongly in reason number 3 and 3a. Be honest and write about what interests you.

My parting statement? Give me the full RSS Feed including pictures. Don’t give me a partial feed. Don’t exclude the pictures. Make it easy for me to read and I will. Make me jump through hoops and I’ll have to decide if your really worth it.