Residential Department: Featured Top Originator: Austin Larr, Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp.
Austin Larr’s proximity to the working-class Indianapolis metro area made him a cheerleader for one of the most accessible mortgage products available to would-be homebuyers: FHA loans, which are insured by the Federal Housing Administration.
“It’s a very blue-collar town,” says Larr, manager of Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp.’s branch in Fishers, Indiana, about 20 miles northeast of Indianapolis. “It has its pockets of higher-end stuff just like any other area does, but the majority of people in the Midwest are going to be hourly employees and just hardworking individuals.”
FHA loans, with their low downpayments and relaxed credit score requirements, are ideal for such workers, Larr says. Additionally, Indiana has a number of downpayment-assistance programs that make it even easier for working-class people to become homeowners.
Larr’s awareness of his clients’ needs has translated into business success. He ranked No. 2 for FHA loan volume in Scotsman Guide’s Top Originator rankings this year — which are based on 2017 data. It was the second year in a row that he earned the No. 2 spot on the FHA ranking. He also ranked No. 4 on this year’s Most Loans Closed list.
Location alone isn’t enough to explain Larr’s success, however. Educating and guiding clients is a priority for him. When working with clients whose credit scores aren’t quite up to snuff, for example, Larr and his team help them raise their scores to meet the eligibility requirements for an FHA loan, he says.
Referrals are a significant source of business as well. Larr says he works with builders and real estate agents in the area to gain new business. One way to establish fruitful relationships with builders, in particular, is to offer to take on deals their existing lenders can’t fund, such as those requiring jumbo loans or downpayment assistance, he says.
“You don’t compete with their current mortgage company. You just say, ‘Hey, give me the ones you can’t do,’” Larr explains.
Larr, like most mortgage originators, is grappling with emerging technologies that are changing the industry. He sees the biggest challenge — and opportunity — in mobile technology.
“Millennials … want to do everything from their phones,” he says. “So we have to make it as easy as possible for them to do everything from their phones.”
Allowing borrowers to scan their financial documents with their phones and upload the files to their mortgage application is one example of how mobile technology is streamlining the mortgage process, he says.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for them to get everything done when it comes to the loan process without having to talk to people — without having to talk to me,” Larr says, “which is crazy to me.”
“I’ve been a handshake, kissing-babies guy my entire life,” he adds, “so to make that change has been a little different. We’re all adapting to that and trying to find what technology fits.”
For the ninth year in a row, we compiled the industry’s most comprehensive list of the nation’s top mortgage originators. The rankings include not only the originators who are closing the most dollar volume and the most loans, but also the leaders in niche areas, like Federal Housing Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Department of Agriculture loans as well as home equity lines of credit.