When you’ve built a reputation as a customer-obsessed risk-taker who strives to be the best, it’s only a matter of time before it pays off.
Mike Seagraves, who’s owned a RE/MAX franchise since 2006 and added a Motto Mortgage brokerage in 2017, has a well-earned reputation matching that description. And it paid off big-time at the 2019 Motto MILE Summit in February, as he and his Motto Mortgage Alliance team returned home to Dayton, Ohio, with six top awards – including Motto Mortgage Broker Owner of the Year and Highest Transactions for the network in 2018.
So why did a successful real estate broker with no previous mortgage experience decide to open a mortgage brokerage? And how did he create such a winning enterprise? It all started with taking a risk and believing in something bigger.
Believing in the Motto Mortgage concept
After operating his RE/MAX Alliance office for 13 years, Seagraves began looking for a way to expand his services and create potential new revenue. He figured he had three good options: title, mortgage or insurance. Mortgage was a long shot.
“In my head, I was never going to do mortgage. I thought there were too many legal issues to get through,” Seagraves says. “From the barriers of entry to the CFPB getting hot and heavy after the recession, I assumed I would never be able to figure it out.”
But when he first heard about Motto Mortgage, his thinking changed. Listening to Ward Morrison, President of Motto Franchising, LLC, Seagraves began to hear things that resonated.
“I thought, ‘Wait a minute. This is actually attainable,’” he says. “They had figured out how to take these complicated components of mortgage and deliver them in a compliance-driven box. I realized I could do it – and that it would complement my real estate brokerage.”
Seagraves asked himself two big questions before moving forward. First, if he struggled to recruit and had just one loan originator, would he do enough business to pay the bills? And second, would his real estate agents get behind the idea?
It was his turn to pitch. While attending Motto 101, a three-day training event in Denver for new Motto Mortgage franchisees, Seagraves emailed his agents and laid it all out to them.
“I told them that to keep the brokerage on the forefront, as they ask me to do, I was seriously considering buying a mortgage brokerage, too,” Seagraves says. “I said, ‘not only am I asking for your input, but I’m also asking for your support.’”
The response was just what he was hoping for. With that, Motto Mortgage Alliance was born – and it opened alongside the real estate office in March 2017. Fast forward two years to today, and Seagraves and his team are continually proving that the concept works.
Getting top producers to consider Motto Mortgage
Seagraves says he opened a Motto Mortgage brokerage for several reasons – to try and make money, to benefit his agents, and to create a better experience for clients. A big piece of the equation has been showing his RE/MAX agents the advantages of providing a one-stop solution to their buyers. It’s challenging, as so many of them already have established relationships with loan originators and lenders.
To some degree, it simply meant asking for their trust. The rest would depend on the ability of his four loan originators to do a great job. Seagraves calls them “the hardest working loan originators in the industry, continually closing even the toughest loans,” so it’s no surprise the approach worked.
Of the office’s 50 agents, nearly half are using Motto Mortgage Alliance regularly now, including three of its top six producers. It’s been a fairly smooth, seamless process all around.
Seagraves says the Motto Mortgage concept helps address a common problem.
“It’s easy to blame the other person when a closing falls through, without taking the time to understand the ‘why’, but I see both sides now. It’s really changed my perspective,” he says. “I’ve truly become a translator – and I’m not the only one. Communication between agents and loan originators is crucial, and it’s easier in our situation.”
That “why” is what’s driving him to educate his people on both sides of the business. His loan originators, in particular, are pushing themselves to learn more about the real estate sales process.
“If I can help them be more versed in real estate, they’ll understand the psyche of an agent more,” he says. “They’ll be even better at what they do.”
Perfecting a pitch to recruit the right talent
Already experienced at recruiting real estate agents, Seagraves adapted his pitch to attract talented loan originators, too.
He told his prospects: “Your challenge is to get past the front door of a real estate brokerage. Once you’re in, you have to really understand who that agent is in order to earn their business.”
“I’ll do you one better. RE/MAX is the best and leveraged its 45 years of industry experience in the creation of Motto Mortgage. So this is a big opportunity for you. I’m going to take you in the back door and personally introduce you to the agents. I’m their broker, too, and I’m going to talk you up as a resource who can help their buyers. The rest is up to you.”
That message helped him hire four loan originators in one day. And any worries about recruiting were gone.
“With them on board, I realized early on that my role was to stay out of the way and trust my team to do what they do best,” Seagraves says. “My Motto Mortgage Vice President, Tammy Clay, is a mortgage veteran, and she’s been the difference in us being successful. With her help, it’s all come together.”
“We have big plans for Motto Mortgage Alliance. I could easily see us opening a second franchise and expanding our footprint. When you surround yourself with the right people like I have, the sky’s the limit.”
This isn’t an offer of a franchise. We only offer franchises through our Franchise Disclosure Document. Minnesota Reg. No. F-8089; Motto Franchising, LLC, 5075 South Syracuse St #1200, Denver, CO 80237, 1.866.668.8649.
Each Office is Independently Owned, Operated and Licensed.