Manage Expectations: Yours & Your Clients’

An excerpt from Volume 1 of Be The Better Broker.

Is Mortgage Brokering a stressful career?

“No” was my first thought when asked this question. But then I tend not to allow stress to be a part of my life. This is likely helped by the fact that I eat right, sleep well, and am a physically active person.

What do vegetables, seven hours’ sleep, and strength training have to do with Brokering?  Everything, I would suggest.

A sound body and a sound mind are critical to having the stamina to work through some long and often challenging days. The brain consumes ~20 per cent of the body’s energy. Is that energy being supplied by premium fuels? After all, as one of my favourite fellow optimists, Lao Tzu, likes to say, “if you do not take care of your body, where will you live?”

That said, if anything’s going to crack your Zenlike veneer, it’s going to be the underwriter that goes home early on the day of a subject removal without having signed off on that complicated file. You know, the one that has been under review for days and the one that has the client losing his cool and the Realtor swearing you will never again work in this town.

Yes.

Breathe.

Come to think of it, perhaps I should have answered the stressful career question with a “Yes.” A Broker often finds himself surrounded by highly stressed parties at every turn. While you may not be stressed, most people around you are. Stress can be infectious if you are not inoculating yourself regularly.

When is a strength a weakness?

In 2014 I completed a DiSC personality assessment on myself, a very useful experience. It turns out that what I perceive as my confident “make this happen” goal-oriented mindset can come across to people under moderate to extreme stress (i.e., many of the people we interact with daily) as demanding, aggressive and controlling.

Increasing my own self-awareness continues to be a priority and such tests have been useful in helping me to recognize that things I might see as strengths are in fact problematic in certain situations. I highly recommend that Brokers learn more about how clients perceive their own communication styles, and just as importantly, that Brokers learn how to tailor their communication style to suit the many different clients we interact with.

Understanding the correct formatting and phrasing to apply to your communications with individual clients is a key element in managing stress. The starting point is to know thyself.

Let’s get back to the potentially stressed parties involved: clients, underwriter(s), assistants, Realtors, the appraiser, the lawyer and their staff, perhaps even the client’s accountant who is hustling on a tax return. The stress of all these parties can rub off on us if we are not careful. And it will affect our own communication with all of the aforementioned parties.

Setting the mood

Being the calm at the centre of the storm is a skill worth mastering. Each year brings new guidelines changes, and each year is tougher than the last it seems. Combine this with rate-hike deadlines, subject removal deadlines and completion date deadlines and all conspire to put every person involved in processing a transaction into a state of stress, or even frenzy, at one point or another.

Internal frenzy is OK; well, at least behind locked doors frenzy is OK. Phone securely disconnected frenzy is OK. Let it loose, but do it in absolute privacy, or share it with your “venting buddy”. That’s OK. Everybody needs a venting buddy.

No doubt there have been challenges in this industry since its inception, some have been constant, while others fade (rising rates) only to be replaced by new ones (onerous regulations).

It is fair to say that today is not an “easy” time to be in this business, not that there ever was a time when it was easier. There were simply times (often brief) where Brokers felt like they actually had a grasp on all the nuances of the business. Considering that the Broker, a.k.a “the face” of the deal, is often the client’s sole liaison to many of these other people who have sway over the approval, a Brokers role carries considerable pressure. And when the others behind the scenes are overloaded, stressed, or unreasonable, one must be cautious to filter any anxiety out of the final communication with the client.

Currently, brokers contend with:

  • Continuously changing lender guidelines
  • Rising rates
  • Government-imposed legislation requiring more, more and still more documents from clients
  • Lenders ill-prepared to deal with anything slightly past standard volumes
  • Media misdirection (too many examples to list)
  • Simultaneous headlines citing interest rates about to rise and also about to fall in the same paper on the same day (fixed vs. variable)
  • The misinformation and misunderstandings of not just the clients themselves, but their family, friends, co-workers, etc.

The list goes on…

Under-promise, over-plan and over-execute

All we can do in the face of all of these various challenges is manage the expectations of our clients from the start. This is perhaps the key stress-reducing tactic I try to utilize. Under-promise (which is tricky in a world of rate sites and sandwich boards) and over-deliver! Do not set expectations for rates until you have a credit score and income documentation in hand; do not set expectations for mortgage amounts on a refinance transaction until the appraisal is in hand.
Set expectations early, and review them with the client regularly throughout the process.

Request every possible document you may need for that client’s file up front on day one. I have requested two years CRA Notice of Assessment from every single client for years and it has saved many a file in the 11th hour. Getting them mailed out from CRA a month before they write an offer is far better than calling NOA Canada at 4.30pm on a Friday afternoon to make subject removal (COF re Ontario).

Perhaps, most importantly we must always keep a focus on management of our own expectations as well; this helps us to temper our tone, our predictions, our promises and general outlook.

If we can keep ourselves calm and rational, it is far simpler for the client to remain in that same state with us.

Manage Expectations!

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Dustan Woodhouse