Sue Milligan, CRMP, began her career in financial services as a bank teller in 1982, advancing to branch manager before she decided to become a mortgage loan originator in 1996. She has worked exclusively in the field of reverse mortgages for the last 13 years and became the first person in Louisiana to earn the Certified Reverse Mortgage Professional designation in 2013. She is a former NFL Cheerleader who in her spare time enjoys teaching dance and coaching track and field. Weekly Report sat down with Milligan to learn more about her approaching to originating reverse mortgages.
Weekly Report: How are you achieving success in today’s market? Has the conversation changed at all between you and you clients in terms of helping sell the product?
Sue Milligan: I like to say, “The More People You Know, The More Success You’ll Have!” This is true in all areas of business, especially in the mortgage industry. You can’t just sit around any longer and wait for the phone to ring. In 2019, my strategy for hitting the ground running has been to be very active in and around my community, from sunup to sundown. I’m an active member in several networking groups and teach continuing education classes to Realtors approximately four times a month. When available, I’m also a vendor at local senior expos and home shows. In all the time in between, I’m on the phone with past clients, engaging in social media, or taking educational webinars to broaden my knowledge. I live with a day planner, and if I have a day that has too much free time, I schedule a breakfast, a lunch, or a one-to-one with a referral partner. Sometimes my days are planned until 8 or 9 pm which includes networking events, attending bingo nights, and enjoying dinners with financial planners. I believe in the “cheeks in the chair” strategy. If face-to-face is not an option, I use Skype or Facetime. Once I have them in front of me, listening and asking questions while I’m educating them, I know I will have a customer for life. That’s 100 percent fulfillment.
WR: What is your favorite reverse mortgage story?
SM: I’m lucky to have so many wonderful stories. There is one that stands out that involved the whole family. I happened to be at a local home show when a family walked by my booth and started to ask me some questions. They took my information, read over it, and scheduled an appointment with me to meet with the entire family. I have a customer evaluation that I have used with each borrower for a long time. It helps me with the “nuts and bolts” type of questions, one being, “Who are the owners of the property, their ages, and are there are any medical issues?” This is how I discovered that the wife was completely bedridden and mentally incompetent, and the family also had a grown daughter who had special needs. They wanted to protect their daughter both medically and financially. During our education meeting, I explained the entire process for using a power of attorney. Next, they had to have their property completely re-subdivided with separate property tax parcels from their daughters, creating two separate tax bills so that the reverse mortgage could be done on the parents’ property solely. This was a little tricky because it was during tax season, and the tax rolls were on hold due to bills going out. The family met with the tax assessor, explained their situation, and was able to move forward. After that, we proceeded with their application, and then we closed. The process took a couple of months, but it gave me the knowledge that I later used for additional clients. The children told me that the husband and wife were originally in an assisted living facility because of the wife’s needs. After three miserable months, the father told his children that they needed to get a reverse mortgage so that he could bring his wife home and hire sitters to help with her care. During the process I found out that I was the 5th mortgage professional that the family spoke with, preceded by two local and two out of state originators. I was the only person who asked the questions about the family’s needs, and the only one who took the time to help them make it happen. The daughter who originally met me at the home show still calls me to update me on her parents’ situation and to thank me for everything I did to help her parents get back home before her mother passed away. She has given my name to many people over the years and tells them what I was able to do for her parents.
WR: How do you all reach consumers today? Social media?
SM: I stay connected with clients today by staying on top of my game plan and in touch with everyone regularly. First Choice Loan Services Inc. offers a unique and robust marketing system called “Total Expert” which keeps me in front of realtors, past clients, current clients and future clients. Since this is not the only avenue in which to solicit new business, I also use my cell phone, my customer evaluations, my day planner, and a good old-fashioned “expand a file.” My phone keeps me alerted on special events, birthdays, classes, and appointments. I use my customer evaluations to follow up with borrowers on a weekly basis. My evaluations also keep me in the loop if there is a particular issue that I need to remember. However, my day planner is my bible. Sometimes I need to schedule things a year in advance, such as senior expos or home shows, webinars, or classes. Other important actions I take to stay in touch with my borrowers include attending all my closings, sending my borrowing families a personal thank you note after closing, and calling them one month after closing to see if they received their packet from the servicing company and just ask them how they are doing. The social media platforms I actively use are Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. LinkedIn has been my biggest asset for new business. Since I’m not the most tech savvy person around, I like doing things a little old fashioned because I believe classic methods of relationship building never go out of style.
WR: Do you have any wording or phrases that you use on a regular basis while talking with customers to either explain the program or help convince them to use you?
SM: The specific ways I approach and educate my potential borrowers has always worked well for me. I ask them a few questions during the initial interview and schedule an appointment to meet them at their house. This usually makes them more comfortable than if they were to come to my office. The day before my appointment, I put my folder together which includes all the regulatory disclosures, everything that involves counseling, a pocket full of reverse mortgage reading materials (different articles about reverse mortgages), and a guide that I use for every customer. When I arrive, I always ask them to show me their property before we get down to the “kitchen table mastery.” Once we sit down, I start off with my bio which leads into my education and experience. This is where I stress the importance of the CRMP designation and show them the brochure. Then, I go through my reverse mortgage guide. This can be a bit time consuming because it covers reverse mortgages from A-Z. It is at this point I debunk a lot of the myths about reverse mortgages. I hand them NRMLA’s “Fact vs. Fiction” flyer. After that, I hand them a packet of information which explains what counseling is, how it works, and what they should expect. Next, I go over their numbers and explain every option that is available to them. Once this is done, I explain to them what’s left in their folder. My education session can range from 2 to 4 hours, depending on who is more talkative or how many questions are asked. I always leave a borrower’s home confident that I would be their lender of choice.
WR: What is one (positive) take away for the coming year?
SM: I’m always very upbeat, positive, extremely motivated, and looking for the next opportunity to help a senior client. When HUD made changes to the HECM program in October 2017, they created an alternative for us to be able to stay in our chosen careers. When life sends you lemons, you squeeze hard and make some lemonade. If they hadn’t made those changes, we may not have had a future, especially one for which we are so passionate! Sure, I’ve had a lot of borrowers who no longer qualified; however, they also made it possible for me to continue down this path that I’ve chosen for the past 13 years. This is my passion, it’s my future, and I’m in it for the long haul. My motto, “No Loan Too Big or Small, I Do Them All!”