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TV Gig Helps a Loan Officer Share Passion for Educating Borrowers

National Mortgage News

By Tana Tymesen

The Producer Profile series highlights career anecdotes and insights into the success of the loan officers who appeared in National Mortgage News' 2016 Top Producer rankings.

This week's edition is the first installment of 2016 and features Kelly Zitlow, a vice president and certified mortgage planning specialist at Cherry Creek Mortgage Co. in Scottsdale, Ariz.

This is Zitlow's first appearance in the Top Producers ranking. Last year, she originated 287 loans for a combined dollar volume of $73 million, ranking her No. 110 on the 2016 Top Producers list.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Tell us about your most creative or successful marketing strategy. How did you come up with the idea? What were the results?

My most creative and successful marketing strategy has been creating videos for marketing and launching a YouTube channel. The videos have given me the ability to connect with my audience in a more personal way, as well as in a way that allows me to educate my clients and partners in an informative yet entertaining manner.

We distribute these videos via social media, a video blog on my website and in weekly email blasts. As successful as those outlets have been in terms of distribution, YouTube has been one of the biggest factors in the success of my videos. It helps greatly with search engine optimization rankings, and people have found me through searching online for various topics. We've received loans because of this. We've also made new business relationships, and even one of our rock star employees found us through video.

It has also led to other opportunities for me personally: Cherry Creek recently asked me to represent the entire company in a special segment that aired on the Lifetime Network during two episodes of the show "Designing Spaces." From 2014 to 2015, our business increased by 35%. Without a doubt, video marketing and our YouTube channel have been a contributing factor.

What's unique about the local market you serve and what do you do to address those needs?

Arizona was one of the hardest hit states in the country when it came to the real estate collapse. With the loss of homes often came the loss of hope. It was especially hard on those with families because they had to pack up the family, and the pets, and try to find a new place to live. It was a dark time. I knew I needed to do something to help. So I started by educating people and trying to give them some hope.

One thing I have focused on and feel passionate about is helping our community navigate buying a house after a life event like a foreclosure, short sale or bankruptcy. There are many programs available to buy again. In most cases there is a waiting period, but the real key is getting ready for it. So that's what I have been doing - helping people get ready for it by creating roadmaps to own again and helping them understand that the dream of home ownership in this country is alive and well.

Tell us about an unusual or difficult loan scenario and what you did to ensure a successful closing.

A recent one that comes to mind was an elderly woman who called me. She had already spoken with another lender. However, her financial planner trusted me and wanted her to bounce it off of me first. It wasn't a very big loan but she needed to tap into her equity for some medical expenses that her husband was incurring. She had 50% equity in her property. The other lender had insisted that she do a Federal Home Administration loan. However, in her situation FHA did not make sense at all. FHA will charge mortgage insurance no matter how much equity you have on a property. A conventional loan was a much better option for her. Yet this other lender was very focused on FHA.

I walked her through it. At that point a lot of what I do isn't about selling, it's about educating. I wanted her to understand - whether she was using me, that other lender, or any other lender for that matter - why an FHA loan wasn't the best option for her. In the end, we refinanced her to a conventional loan. She did not pay mortgage insurance and it was a happy ending.

What do you know about the mortgage business now that you wished you knew when you started out?

Like anything when you're starting out, you don't really know the complexities of it. The great thing about the mortgage business is that it changes so often. The changing pace has been a good fit for me. I did not know that when I embarked on this career 20 years ago but I very much enjoy that part of the business.

One of the things new loan officers or people getting into our business really need to do is build a database and create an environment that focuses on serving people, as opposed to just helping them with their home loan. So many Realtors and loan officers are very transactional, so they're not maintaining a database or starting with one. Building it, and maintaining it, helps you grow your business. It's a great way to connect with people that like you and that you like - for years to come.

Who is someone in your life, personally or professionally, who helps contribute to your success?

It's difficult to choose just one person, as I have been blessed with many wonderful people who help contribute to my success. First and foremost, my husband of 20 years is a huge supporter. This business is crazy and it can be demanding. My husband is very easy-going and an amazing dad. There are times when I can't be with our two boys, so having that support from my husband (as well as my parents) has been very helpful in the madness of the mortgage lending world.

On a business level, I'm fortunate to work with a great leadership team here at Cherry Creek. They listen to our needs and I very much appreciate their support. I'm also in a fantastic coaching program and I love the people in there. The ability to talk to high performers in the lending and the real estate industry and learn what they're doing and how they're doing it has been huge for me.

Additionally, I'm surrounded by a fantastic team. It takes a village to do this job really well. So it's not just about me, it's about these magnificent, amazing people around me who support our clients and all have the same goal in mind - not just happy customers but also making a difference.