Lessons learned implementing a mortgage company

After an unsuccessful attempt at mortgage, JPAR's Mark Johnson shares his lessons learned and success tips for other core services.

Founded 10 years ago, JPAR grew quickly. “That fast growth naturally led us to expand into affiliated services, specifically mortgage and title,” says Mark Johnson, CEO of JPAR, headquartered in Texas and part of Cairn Real Estate Holdings. In ramping up core services, says Johnson, they turned to marketing service agreements (MSAs.)”As you know, in today’s environment, MSA agreements are under a lot scrutiny and many companies have eliminated participating in them,” he notes.

However, recently, JPAR shuttered its mortgage business, and Johnson says they’ve learned some important lessons — lessons that they are heeding for next time, as they begin the process of determining the best path forward with mortgage services for their customers. Here are his lessons learned:

It’s the opposite of “Field of Dreams”

It’s not an automatic that if you build it [mortgage], they [agents and consumers] will come. “Your agents aren’t going to flock to your solution just because you built it. You [must] have a compelling value proposition,” says Johnson. He notes that it’s easy for leadership to get caught up in the excitement of starting something new and expect your agents to be excited too.

“When you’re in the fray, it’s easy to say, ‘Let’s just stand this thing up and everyone will come,'” he says. Instead, he says you must develop a value prop that is compelling for both agents and consumers. “If you don’t have that; run away. I’ve learned that the hard way,” he says.

Work backwards

“Work backwards from the customer experience,” says Johnson. And, he says, “work backwards from the agent experience to make sure you’re solving a true problem in the market place.” What is your compelling value prop? Is your company going to be quicker? Have better ground game? A time-close guarantee?

In his research and experience, Johnson says that there are two types of entities that can occur — those that have a sense of entitlement and are internally focused and those that are externally focused on solving problems in the marketplace. “One is doomed for failure, and I can speak to that. We entered some agreements with a mortgage entity, and it quickly became internally focused — what’s in it for us — rather than what’s in it for the consumer experience,” he says.

Be a servant leader

“In our model, the agent is the consumer. Our brand is to the agent, and the agent’s brand is to the consumer,” says Johnson. So, he says, it’s important for him to surround himself with others who truly want to serve the agent and public. “You have to do something real, something that distinguishes you.” He notes that JPAR has that with other core services, particularly title. “We have a 40% capture rate on title, and it goes back to the three things mentioned — a compelling value proposition, servant leadership and being externally focused on the customer experience.”

In addition to its successful title service, JPAR also partners with zavvie, a company that offers broker-branded, all-options financing and iBuyer programs. “We were one of the lead partners in the Knock HomeSwap program. We have a unique value proposition at JPAR, called the JPAR Sure Sale that allows our associates to sell the home traditionally, like 90% of consumers want to do. But, we also offer alternatives for the 10% of consumers who are looking for something different,” he says.

He says that many brokerage leaders avoid these solutions because they don’t want to compete with their in-house mortgage. “I think that’s short-sighted as consumers are going to seek these solutions anyway. “Again, it’s the difference between being externally focused versus internally focused,” says Johnson.

With guidance from Cairn Real Estate Holdings and leader Rick Davidson, Johnson says the company will be building out its consumer services in a robust manner. “JPAR is one of their coming-out investments, and they have a broad and exciting vision on the national scale,” he says. “We’ll likely look at a joint venture in mortgage this time around.”

For brokerage leaders interested in building out their core services, Johnson says it’s vital to be clear in your value proposition and pick the right partner. “Do that and things will fall into place.”