How Rodrigo Built a $100M+ Per Year Mortgage Business– Featuring Rodrigo Ballon
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The Rodrigo Ballon Interview
What separates Rodrigo ‘El Zorro’ Ballon from other mortgage lenders? For one, he’s responsive. He answers his phone on nights and weekends—and has systems in place to field calls when he’s not available. He does his homework, making it a point to learn about the agents he’s prospecting. And he’s fast. Rodrigo’s average close is 14 days, beating the industry standard by a full week. So, how does he do it?
Rodrigo is the Producing Branch Manager at CrossCountry Mortgage and one of the top loan originators in the United States. In 2014, he ranked #1 for purchase volume in San Diego Country, and his team has closed more than $100M in volume every year since 2011. Rodrigo has also received numerous awards from San Diego Magazine and Five Star Professional.
On this episode of Founders Club, Rodrigo joins Oliver to explain how he built a world-class lending business and why investors, agents and consumers like working with him. He shares his automated systems for communicating with clients and marketing to an agent’s database as well as his extra-mile approach to prospecting realtors. Listen in for insight on how to qualify for a mortgage loan and learn about the non-QM loan products available to business owners and entrepreneurs!
Here is how the interview breaks down:
[1:13] How Rodrigo built a $100M/year lending business
- Start as admin assistant for loan officer
- Rely on sphere as loan officer in downturn
- Known for ‘impossible loans’ (El Zorro)
- Largest lender for flippers in 2011
- Met agents through working with investors
[12:20] Why people like working with Rodrigo
- Reliability and perseverance
- Track record of closing quickly
[15:18] The tech Rodrigo uses to communicate with clients
- Video text to client with iPhone
- Automated systems to contact agent leads
[22:59] Rodrigo’s insight on delegating email response
- READ folder for things he needs to address
- Assign to people you trust, know you well
[29:06] Rodrigo’s approach to prospecting realtors
- Do recon on Facebook to find things in common
- Research current lender, average time to close
- Gifts with WOW factor (e.g.: champagne)
[37:21] How Rodrigo compensates agents for referrals
- Send buyer referrals to sphere
- Support agents with marketing systems
[44:30] Rodrigo’s availability on nights and weekends
- Answered phone when wife in labor
- Pop by open houses with cookies
- Stop what doing to qualify client NOW
[49:25] How Rodrigo facilitates a 14-day average close
- Get loans approved ahead of time
- Rely on backend team to handle volume
- Leverage experience (don’t rely on underwriter)
[57:10] The ‘free money’ available via loan products
- Bank statement loans for entrepreneurs
- 680 credit score + 10% down to qualify $1.5M
[1:03:20] Rodrigo’s advice on qualifying for a mortgage loan
- Manage credit (don’t max out, pay on time)
- Don’t buy car or change jobs
- Consult with mortgage banker for credit simulator
[1:16:44] How to reduce your mortgage from 30 to 22 years
- Make two additional payments per year
- Write separate check, specify ‘apply to principal’
[1:19:17] What Rodrigo is investing in
- Green investments
- Ground-up development in Utah near ski resorts
[1:23:45] Rodrigo’s top tools for running a business
- Crisp keyboard templates
- WhatsApp for foreign national clients
- Dropbox for security
What separates Rodrigo Ballon from other mortgage lenders? Today, he joins Oliver to share his automated systems for communicating with clients and marketing to an agent’s database as well as his extra-mile approach to prospecting realtors and delivering on his promises. Listen in for insight on how Rodrigo built a $100M+ per year mortgage business!
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Full Transcript Below:
Oliver Graf: Welcome to another episode of Founders Club. Today, we are out here in the beautiful Fairbanks Ranch in Rancho Santa Fe at Rodrigo Ballon’s house. We’re going to be talking about how he grew his business from zero to $100 million a year in the lending space.
Rodrigo Ballon: I got the nickname called el Zorro.
Oliver Graf: El Zorro.
Rodrigo Ballon: El Zorro come in and save the day. The guy comes on his horse with the sword and saves the day.
Oliver Graf: And all the tips, tricks, and marketing strategies that he’s got in his big bag to share with all of you.
Rodrigo Ballon: If you want to have the best credit, here you go. Get three trade lines, so have a credit card, a visa card, have a gas card. Use something that’s revolving. Three of them will give you strong credit. You can get scores over 800 with just three. Money in the bank. And then-
Oliver Graf: This is el Zorro.
Rodrigo Ballon: El Zorro!
Oliver Graf: Do you have any comments, questions? Leave them down below and I look forward to seeing you on the inside. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe and let’s get this thing started.
Oliver Graf: About to kick off this Founders Club interview with Rodrigo Ballon. We’re about to kick it off right with this bottle.
Rodrigo Ballon: Whoo! Yeah.
Oliver Graf: Heyo! Thank you for this by the way.
Rodrigo Ballon: Oh, my pleasure, man. Thank you.
Oliver Graf: Doing an early morning interview today, so we’re going to do a couple mimosas instead of the usual beer and cocktails.
Rodrigo Ballon: Here you are.
Oliver Graf: Thank you very much.
Rodrigo Ballon: Quite welcome.
Oliver Graf: Cheers!
Rodrigo Ballon: Cheers!
Oliver Graf: Excited, man. Thank you for having us.
Rodrigo Ballon: Cheers! Thank you.
Oliver Graf: So, I’ve been wanting to have Rodrigo on for a while mainly because there’s a lot of lenders out there and there’s a lot that people can learn about lending that I think will help in a lot of ways in growing their business but what I don’t want to do is make this a boring conversation about loans and rates and-
Rodrigo Ballon: No. No one cares about that.
Oliver Graf: Yeah. And programs and all that other stuff. I do have some lending questions that I want to get to but really what I’m most excited to talk to you about is how you built the large business that you have built. I know you’ve been ranked as high as number 10 in the United States for-
Rodrigo Ballon: Purchase.
Oliver Graf: … purchase volume.
Rodrigo Ballon: That’s right.
Oliver Graf: You’ve been ranked in the top 30 for FHA and VA in the United States and you’ve been doing over 100 million a year in production for almost a decade. So, very impressive business.
Rodrigo Ballon: That’s right. Thank you.
Oliver Graf: Congratulations-
Rodrigo Ballon: Thank you.
Oliver Graf: … on that. That’s really-
Rodrigo Ballon: Nice numbers!
Oliver Graf: Yeah. Those are nice numbers, for sure. And I think what I really want to talk to you about is how you’ve built that business, how you oversee the business, how you run it and different things like that.
Rodrigo Ballon: Cool.
Oliver Graf: Why don’t you scale it back to when you first got started.
Rodrigo Ballon: Absolutely.
Oliver Graf: How did you first, what made you take the plunge into mortgages?
Rodrigo Ballon: So, I actually wanted to get into real estate. I graduated college. I moved down to Peru. Surfed for a year and a half, two years, did a little tourism business. Just drove up and down the coast. Then, I ran out of money.
Oliver Graf: Why were you in Peru?
Rodrigo Ballon: I started in Lima and I would just go all the way almost to Ecuador surfing the coast up and down a couple of times a year.
Oliver Graf: Wow! That’s amazing.
Rodrigo Ballon: A couple times. Six, seven times a year just over two years taking people-
Oliver Graf: How great.
Rodrigo Ballon: … on tours. That was epic. That was awesome.
Oliver Graf: How old were you when you were doing that?
Rodrigo Ballon: 22.
Oliver Graf: 22? Living the dream.
Rodrigo Ballon: Living the dream.
Oliver Graf: Foreign country.
Rodrigo Ballon: Got a pickup truck, four door.
Oliver Graf: That’s amazing.
Rodrigo Ballon: Had a black lab dog and we would just cruise. It was fun.
Oliver Graf: Good for you.
Rodrigo Ballon: Super fun.
Oliver Graf: Good for you.
Rodrigo Ballon: But then I ran out of money. And I came back and my mom’s like, “Hey, I saw an ad for an admin assistant for a loan officer.” I’m like, “Oh, I want to do real estate.” She’s like, “No. You should do loans because realtors are realtors but lenders, you can work with all the realtors.” I’m like, “Okay. That makes sense. Cool.”
Rodrigo Ballon: So, for my first two years, I was an assistant in a company in La Joya. I learned valuable ton of information of hands-on experience and basically knowledge and thought process that business is going to come from relationships. Prospecting, going to events, shaking hands, doing the coffees, doing this, going to the caravans. The caravans were super important because you saw the same people every single time getting all their free food at all their houses, checking out the houses, even though they may not have clients with those houses, they acted that way.
Oliver Graf: They’re on the circuit.
Rodrigo Ballon: They’re in the circuit. They’re socializing but it was a great time to speak to them. Everyone’s super open. Everyone’s cool. Everyone’s there for one reason, that’s to socialize, network, and check out a house and go to the next one and do it all over again.
Rodrigo Ballon: And it helped me tremendously because I got to meet a lot of people at a young age. So, from then, I just moved onto another company, learned the ropes a little more, had my own business and …
Oliver Graf: Did you transition to a loan officer at that time?
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. I went from an assistant to a loan officer.
Oliver Graf: Got it. Okay.
Rodrigo Ballon: At that point, we were hitting, 2006, ’07, so 2005 was awesome. You were doing every loan possible. Stated income, no income, the milkman buy a million dollar house, whatever it was. As an assistant, I learned a lot. I wasn’t originating loans for the first two years but I learned a lot. It led me, two years later, after being an assistant, I’m like, “Okay. I’m ready. I can do this.” Then, the economy started doing this. I’m like, “Ah, crap.” Rates started doing this.
Rodrigo Ballon: At that point, I’m like, “What do I do?” So, I relied on my sphere. I went directly to the family. I went to friends. I went to past neighbors, whatever it may be to try to see how else I can grow my business since a lot of those realtors just weren’t doing the business.
Rodrigo Ballon: Fast-forward two years later, got married and we’re having a baby. At that point, one day my wife goes, “Hey. You’re not really cutting it out. Maybe you should go work at a bank like 9:00 to 5:00, something consistent because this commission thing’s spotty with no one really knowing what’s going on the business.”
Oliver Graf: We can’t be living like that.
Rodrigo Ballon: We can’t be living like that.
Oliver Graf: Got a baby on the way.
Rodrigo Ballon: And we were entering the REO and the short sale, so it was like that bottom trail where REO was mega huge but then the short sales were happening also.
Rodrigo Ballon: But it was a kick in the rear that I needed a motivation. There’s also a saying that kids bring money when you have babies that you bring money or you work harder, whatever, however you want to look at it.
Oliver Graf: Yeah. It’s that extra layer of motivation. For sure.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. And it was amazing. It was super amazing because I was motivated to just meet people and do separate things. I started doing a lot of what people call impossible loans. Fallout loans. Loans that people are like, “Oh, I give up. I’m not doing it.” Some people call it maybe the crappy loans that just people can’t think how [crosstalk 00:06:25]-
Oliver Graf: Give me an example of something like that.
Rodrigo Ballon: Three, four borrowers, maybe they had a bankruptcy, crappy credit, not much income, and people didn’t know how to basically print everything, look at everything and piece it. Remember that movie A Beautiful Mind?
Oliver Graf: Yeah.
Rodrigo Ballon: Where he just looks at numbers-
Oliver Graf: On the board.
Rodrigo Ballon: … and they all falls-
Oliver Graf: Yeah.
Rodrigo Ballon: Similar. I print it. I’d look at it. I’m like, “Okay. If we do this. If we do this. Not do this. Here you go. Here’s the loan.”
Oliver Graf: So, you would make a case for these people?
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah.
Oliver Graf: The hail Mary borrowers?
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. I would make a case for them. Yeah. And I was doing a lot of business down in the South Bay Area, especially in Chula Vista, a lot of Spanish speakers. I’m fluent in Spanish. I got the nickname down there a long time ago called el Zorro.
Oliver Graf: El Zorro.
Rodrigo Ballon: El Zorro. Come in and save the day. The guy comes in his horse with the sword and saves the say. Classic!
Oliver Graf: Oh, that’s amazing.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah.
Oliver Graf: I love it. I might call you that from now on.
Rodrigo Ballon: No! I’ll take it. That’s fine. But it was such an amazing feeling of, “Okay, cool. I’m the guy now that can do all the loans that no one else can do.” Now, no one wants to be that guy but that’s a phenomenal way to start.
Oliver Graf: For sure.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, I’m like, “Cool. I’ll do it.” Well, I had an amazing team. I’m the sales and I would figure stuff out but you’re nothing without your back-end team. We would find solutions to all the nos. We would make them yeses. And if it wasn’t a yes today, it may be a yes tomorrow or in a week.
Rodrigo Ballon: I grew my business that way. I started doing a lot of business with Keller Williams. I was an in-house lender for three Keller Williams and that helped a lot, built a team. From then, I built different relationships within the South Bay and from that point, I started working, not turning in 2011, ’12, when the flips started coming, right?
Oliver Graf: Yeah.
Rodrigo Ballon: And I became, I probably say the largest lender for the flippers in San Diego. I worked with numerous of the top companies that were around, most of them have now gone into home building or commercial whatever it maybe but I got to a point where with a team, I was able to grow to … That’s when I hit over $100 million my first time back in 2012 or ’13, right around there and we were doing about 50 to 70 transactions a month purchases in San Diego, northern California and OC, in Orange County.
Oliver Graf: With a team of how many people?
Rodrigo Ballon: So, I had three loan officers, myself, someone up in northern California and someone in Orange County. We all worked out of San Diego. Then a processor and then somebody helping with the paperwork. That was it. My team, let me give you the dynamic, how I grew it. Myself, until it was myself, then myself and a processor. Then, I started doing 15 loans a month. Then, I added a right hand person, call her like a right hand admin that would help me with the paperwork, talk to the clients. She was bilingual, which was huge for my business at that time.
Rodrigo Ballon: And then I hired a loan officer. I’m like, “There’s only so much I can do. As much as I’d love to take every call, as much as I’d love to meet with everyone, it’s impossible.” So, you have to delegate. That’s when I said, “Aha! Okay. Okay, you’re a loan officer. Now, you’re going to help me service these accounts.” That’s what I want you doing, right?
Oliver Graf: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rodrigo Ballon: Don’t do your own business. Just start this. And it was amazing because from that point and that mentality, I was able to build more loan officers, build the team out, grow more accounts.
Rodrigo Ballon: It’s funny. Down at the courthouse where people were buying at the actions, people started talking about me. “Hey, this guy’s good. You should call him.” Whatever. And all of a sudden, I was all over the MLS where people are looking for houses. They’re like, “Oh. Must qualify with Rodrigo.”
Rodrigo Ballon: Now, lot of haters out there like, “Oh, dude! That guy’s an asshole. He’s fricking dominating the market,” but people like working with me for several reasons. Number one, I’d get shit done. Close the loan.
Rodrigo Ballon: Am I allowed to cuss, by the way?
Oliver Graf: Yeah.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. Okay. Cool. Sorry. No.
Oliver Graf: Do you, man?
Rodrigo Ballon: We love the F word in this industry. Number two, it was not just closing but closing quick, right?
Oliver Graf: Yeah.
Rodrigo Ballon: No one liked the 30, 45 days and back when the flips were going on, that’s when you needed two appraisals, because anything that was done within 90 days, it was back in the day, show me two appraisals that-
Oliver Graf: Had to get double verified.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. And someone would come in short and kill the deal and kill the ROI for the investor, so it wasn’t working. I built a great business that we weren’t experiencing any issues and consistently closing and growing. That really helped my business grow because I met a lot of Asians that way that said, “Hey. I really liked how you communicated. You’re always on text. You’re always on email. Your updates are amazing. Can I work with you or do you only work with investors?” I’m like, “No. I work with anyone.” And that helped me grow, starting out with those investors. Helped me build tremendous amount of relationships.
Oliver Graf: So, just a quick question on the investor thing. So, are you saying you helped them on their purchase or you help them on the resale?
Rodrigo Ballon: The resale.
Oliver Graf: Getting people pre-qualled, verifying the buyers, making sure they could do what they said they were going to do and close the loan in a short amount of time.
Rodrigo Ballon: Resale for consumers, yeah.
Oliver Graf: And that you leverage because now they were saying must qualify with Rodrigo on all their flip deals.
Rodrigo Ballon: Right.
Oliver Graf: Now, that’s like more signs in the yard, quote, unquote, directing people towards your phone numbers, seeing your name.
Rodrigo Ballon: Absolutely. They didn’t have to work with me. I just had to put my eyes on it and say, “Thumbs up, thumbs down, or not going to work,” because, back in the day, people would just create an approval letter, say, “Here you go.” Then, halfway down the transaction. “No. Sorry. You don’t qualify,” which still happens nowadays, but yeah that was really, really helpful with the MLS. I grew a lot of relationships that way.
Rodrigo Ballon: I mean that was the beginning for me, 2012, ’13, ’14, ’15, there was a permanent upward trend growing accounts, building relationships, started working with different real estate offices, different real estate brokers and their teams. I just kept going.
Oliver Graf: Why do you think that they liked working with you, because obviously lenders are a dime a dozen in this business. So, to get an account like three Keller Williams and building the relationships that you’re building, how were you able to do that?
Rodrigo Ballon: Reliability, perseverance. I wouldn’t stop. I wouldn’t say, “No.” I was always saying, “Yes,” but I would deliver on my yes. Accountability. If somebody called me, I would answer. If they said, “I need you to close tomorrow,” I’d make it happen. I could tell, we would even close loans still missing items but we would hold the loan but still make it close. I mean, we would do the impossible for people because we had two clients. We have the agent referring the business. Then, we have the consumer, which is the buyer. We needed to please everybody. I think that’s why, once they knew that I wasn’t just doing one or two or three loans, I was doing 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 and closing all of them under 30 days without any problems? I mean, honestly, it was a phenomenal.
Rodrigo Ballon: So that really helped. I think it was dependability, accountability, perseverance, and just handshake. If I told you I was going to do something, it’s happening.
Oliver Graf: That’s great. Yeah. That’s kind of missing in the industry today. I think there’s a lot of underpromising or overpromising, under-delivering going on and-
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. Overpromising. Then, there’s a lot of people, too, in the industry that are, example, realtors and lenders. They’re trying to double dip or people that were doing two or three jobs and they have their license. They thought they can do it but they would give the consumer and everyone else in the transaction a horrible experience. I mean, there’s so many stories out there of like, “Oh, my god. This guy put me through hell.”
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah, I stuck to what I was great at. I mastered something. It’s not mastered all the way. I learn every single day. I improve but thanks to my team and my systems, all the systems. I think 2008, ’09, ’10, I mean, the technology just kept getting better and better and better. Salesforce, I love Salesforce, kept improving and improving and improving. Then, you can do the automated texting and the automated emails. You could do the voice dial, the sly dial. I mean, oh, my goodness, all these tools that were available. I just loved them. I mean that’s the future of business, automation.
Oliver Graf: Yeah. I love it.
Rodrigo Ballon: Call, do this, do this, do this.
Oliver Graf: Yeah. Set your systems up right. Let it do the automated follow-up for you. You just go out and build the relationships.
Rodrigo Ballon: That’s it. I mean, at the end of the day, as long as you pick up the phone, you call the client, you call the realtor, you communicate. You can also just rely on automation. We love doing integrated text and email, because in our industry we do email but in 90% of other industries, people aren’t allowed to use their personal email, right?
Oliver Graf: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rodrigo Ballon: You have to use the work email. So, we make sure. We text. Then, I also video text.
Oliver Graf: I was going to say, tell me about some of the things you’re doing.
Rodrigo Ballon: Sure.
Oliver Graf: Because I see you lighting up, getting excited about this topic so I can tell you’re passionate about it.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. I love systems. I love the process of communication. There’s never too much communication. My best compliment I can get is, “Dude, I get all your emails and I get your text. Stop. You don’t need to do that. Thank you.”
Oliver Graf: Yeah. Totally!
Rodrigo Ballon: Because the biggest complaint is, “Dude, the guy doesn’t pick up the phone. I don’t know what’s going on.” So, I overcommunicate. I make sure that everyone, not just the realtor and the buyer but escrow, title, all parties are involved with what’s going on every single step of the way. We do video text messages to the client. “Hey. Your loans been approved. This is what’s going to happen now. This is what we’re going to ask you.” If I can’t get a hold of them, I’m going to give a little video.
Oliver Graf: And who’s doing those videos? Who’s shooting those videos?
Rodrigo Ballon: Me, myself, and I with my cell phone. Yeah.
Oliver Graf: Okay, and what do you use to facilitate that?
Rodrigo Ballon: I used to use BombBomb.
Oliver Graf: BombBomb.
Rodrigo Ballon: I just use a good old iPhone.
Oliver Graf: Oh, you’re just literally sending them an iPhone video.
Rodrigo Ballon: Literally. I would also use my little camera on my computer screen. What do you call that system? I don’t remember now but putting the camera and then putting a nice little background in back of me, right?
Oliver Graf: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rodrigo Ballon: Whatever it is, I believe that you can do anything as long as you do it. Doesn’t matter what background you’re doing, doesn’t matter where you’re at, does matter if you have a wall in back you but as long as you’re actually trying to communicate, they’re going to understand the point of what you’re trying to do.
Oliver Graf: And what I love about what you just said is if you’re just doing a video update, then you’re able to update a lot of people in a short amount of time, as opposed to getting on the phone with everyone. Then, possibly getting down the rabbit hole, long conversations. It’s a great way to keep people updated while still for you as the business owner, being able to run in an efficient way.
Rodrigo Ballon: Absolutely, and I’ll give you an example. The biggest pet peeve of realtors is, “Hey. Here’s all my leads. Call them for me. I haven’t talked to them in two years but call them for me.” It’s like, “Okay. Fine.” I can’t do it all but, “All right, guys. Let’s go. Start panning the phones. Pizza night. Let’s go. We’re calling.” We call it smile and dial.
Rodrigo Ballon: But then you’ve got all these systems where you can create all these text messages and emails and voice recordings and put them in step drip patterns. You can hit 200 leads that could be one to five years old that most people already threw in the trash, in the delete bucket. You can get business out of it by automation. I mean, it’s a beautiful thing.
Oliver Graf: Especially if those leads are internet leads.
Rodrigo Ballon: Absolutely!
Oliver Graf: Because, according to most of the studies, the average internet lead takes 16 to 18 months before they actually close. Most people are stopping way before that in terms of their follow-up. So, if you’re able to come into the two-year mark and hit them with tons of we call it land, sea, and air. You hit them with voicemails, emails, physical mail, phone calls. That’s how you can drum up a lot of business.
Rodrigo Ballon: Absolutely, and all it comes down to is follow-up and continually following up, because most people will do that three call and they’re done. “All right. Trash, next, next. This lead suck, broker. Give me another one. Hey, Mr. Lender, here’s another one.”
Rodrigo Ballon: But you have to have campaigns. I have six month, 12 month, one year, two year anniversaries. I don’t care what it is. If I have a reason to reach out to you, I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it because why not? There’s so much business and opportunity and referrals out there that just call someone. “Hey! Happy birthday. Hey! Happy anniversary. How’s the house? Happy New Year! Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” But then you do it all automated. I can say, “Congratulations. It’s been a year since you bought your house. Let me know if you have any questions.” I can send that to 100 people, you know what I mean?
Oliver Graf: Yeah. And what are you using? What system do you use to do all of that follow-up?
Rodrigo Ballon: I’ve got multiple systems. Depends what drip campaign I’m trying to do. We have Big Purple Dot, Salesforce. We’ve worked a lot, we still work a lot with HubSpot, but personally-
Oliver Graf: HubSpot’s for your texting?
Rodrigo Ballon: HubSpot’s for the lead intake. Salesforce really does everything. So, Salesforce, you literally tweak to do whatever. Salesforce with Follow Up Boss, we text, we email, we do videos, and then anything that comes in just comes into the machine, the Salesforce machine, we call it Jungo for us lenders. Then, it goes to my team. Then, whoever can do it boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. You start filtering, calling, picking up the phone.
Oliver Graf: And Salesforce is the one running the back end automation?
Rodrigo Ballon: Salesforce does it all.
Oliver Graf: Awesome!
Rodrigo Ballon: It’s whatever template you create. That’s how it’s going to run.
Oliver Graf: It’s great.
Rodrigo Ballon: It’s amazing. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s not about picking up the phone and calling 300 people. It’s about creating one killer campaign and sending it to 300 people.
Oliver Graf: Totally. Couldn’t agree more. Then, seeing who raises their hands. Then, based on the hand-raisers. Now, you’re following up with 10 to 15 people as opposed to 300.
Rodrigo Ballon: That’s right, and all these online leads. Hey, I’m going to keep reaching out until they say, “Leave me alone.” The second they, “Leave me alone,” that’s when I click the button that says opt-out. “Okay, cool. Thank you for replying.”
Oliver Graf: Right. Exactly.
Rodrigo Ballon: My shit works.
Oliver Graf: Uh-huh (affirmative). Yeah. Either buy or get off the list. Either one is fine.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. Clearly you were interested so I’m just following up.
Oliver Graf: Totally. What are you doing now to grow your business? What’s next?
Rodrigo Ballon: So, the last two years have been all about growth building. I’m just trying to work. Before it was work with 500 agents, work with everyone but that system really doesn’t work or that method because some people want your open house here or there, call this guy, call this guy, and everything overlap.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, I’ve turned my business into accounts where I can work with top people but not just like one top person, a team, because I have a team and they have a team and different personalities attract one another. They may want to not call me, call my right-hand guy or my left-hand gal, whatever, but they’re always so inaccessible. So, that way, the whole team understands, “Hey. Rodrigo’s team is awesome. We can always get a hold of them. It’s not just one person. As that real estate agent grows our team, they have 2, 4, 6, 10, 20 people. They’ll all still come to me, which is amazing as opposed to going to 10 different lenders because I can fulfill and service that entire team, so my mentality’s been go after team, team building, how do you do it, how do you master it? Then, by having a back-end team in my office, I’m allowed to go and walk and just do what we call little milk routes. “Hey. What’s going on? What’s up? How are you? Blah, blah, blah. How’s everything going? Anything we can do better? Cool.” I can just do my thing. They’re like, “Hey, Rodrigo. I just got an email from you but you’re here.” “Yeah.”
Oliver Graf: Yeah. You sure do.
Rodrigo Ballon: I’ve got all my systems going, my team, sometimes emailing as me when I’m away from the office. That way, I don’t miss it. Text messages get whatever it is. There’s always somebody responding because the last thing I want is them telling me, “Dude. You’re not responsive. We’re going to the next guy.”
Oliver Graf: Which is definitely, without a doubt, the number one complaint about lenders is lack of response, lack of communication.
Rodrigo Ballon: Absolutely. And also, look, no one’s perfect. Of course, I’ve missed text messages on Saturdays at 10:00 at night. Whatever, but the point is, no one’s perfect but every day you can master and create and see what you can do better. That’s what we call auto-response. “Hey. I’m currently in a meeting. I’ll get right back to you.” As long as you give them something back, you’re good.
Oliver Graf: And then actually follow up when you’re done with that meeting.
Rodrigo Ballon: And actually following up. Yeah.
Oliver Graf: Yeah. One thing you just said that I think I heard you say is that you have other people answering your emails for you.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yes.
Oliver Graf: Do you have someone else that manages your email box?
Rodrigo Ballon: Yes.
Oliver Graf: Because that’s something that I struggle with a lot and I would love to get your feedback on how to do and how you were able to let that go. Then, how you manage them managing it.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, it’s called delegation and letting go. It takes us a long time to let go. Example, my biggest pet peeve is spelling. If you’re going to send an email as me, you better spell that thing right.
Oliver Graf: There is a spell checker built-in.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah and sometimes from and form and whatever, there’s all these words. Read it. Read it twice. Maybe you can change it, make it sound smarter. But delegation, I mean, it took me a while to let go but what it allowed me more than anything, it gave me freedom and family time. We’re always on our phone. I mean, I get home and I’m on my phone. It’s like it doesn’t stop.
Oliver Graf: It never stops. Yeah.
Rodrigo Ballon: I mean, I sleep with my phone next to my bed or on the counter right here.
Rodrigo Ballon: Now, I put it on airplane mode at like 10:00. I’m like, “Okay. I’ll wake up at 4:00. Boom! Back on. But it’s developing the system to where, “Okay. Hey. You or you. I’m going out of town. These are the deals we have going. These are the leads. Here’s everything.” You have a pipeline meeting of everything that’s going on before you leave, or if you’re leaving an appointment, out of town, whatever it may be. This is what you can and can’t reply. Anything that you can’t answer that I need to specifically answer, we’re going to put it under a column called read. Read is the only email I’m going to check. My inbox is going to go to you but my read is anything that you’re going to drag because I need it.
Oliver Graf: So, that’s the Rodrigo folder.
Rodrigo Ballon: That’s a Rodrigo folder when I’m out, because let’s say I’m in somewhere cool, Mexico surfing like Punta Mita or Sayulita and then out randomly, I’ll get a text message saying, “Check your read.” That’s all I’m going to get.
Oliver Graf: Perfect. So, you know what that means? That’s like the bat phone.
Rodrigo Ballon: That’s the bat phone. That means, “Hey. I need your attention on something real quick.” I’ll look at it and then I’ll reply back. “There you go. Okay. Bye.”
Oliver Graf: Perfect.
Rodrigo Ballon: And it’s being able to count on someone to do it, right?
Oliver Graf: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rodrigo Ballon: And that’s just [crosstalk 00:24:43].
Oliver Graf: And how long did it take you to train that person or your team to be able to respond like you, in your voice, know what to say, know what not to say?
Rodrigo Ballon: All right. I think there’s only two people that are in my team that know how I think, know how I talk, know how I respond to different people. And there are people that have been working with me some 10 years, some five years, some seven years, but there’s too many people that I personally develop that trust, like you can run my business with me. You know how I think. So, you know what to reply as Rodrigo. Just because I talk and I’ll say the F word, don’t put that F word in the email then, but they know how to communicate and get it done right.
Rodrigo Ballon: When the emails go out, it’s me. The biggest complaint you get is, let’s say, when you’re out of town, “Oh! Your team member asked me for this but I already sent it to you before you left out of town and this and this.” Too many hands in the cookie jar. Bad.
Rodrigo Ballon: A lot of big producers have that problem where they have huge teams, they’re not as involved. They’re more unplugged, disconnected but their business goes to shit because they’re not managing it right and they have too many people. So, if you just have one name, one team email however it is, whatever works for you and you really manage it daily, you’ll be fine. You’ll be able to rely on your team to reply as you send an email as you, whatever it may be.
Oliver Graf: Yeah. Then, what about like sensitive information? Do you use a different email? Let’s say your accountant sends you your P&L for the month. That’s not really something you probably want circulating out there, so-
Rodrigo Ballon: It’s all about trust.
Oliver Graf: So, you just let it roll, same email?
Rodrigo Ballon: I let it go. I don’t hide anything. I’m very transparent. I have my own personal email for whatever but that’s not my work email. My working email, it’s … I’m transparent. I don’t hide anything. If a P&L comes through, they know better than then to check. I mean, let’s talk about systems. I can tell you when someone opens up an email and when they read it and if they really read it or if they open an attachment or not, or if they just filed it.
Oliver Graf: So, is that just, “Hey. Leave those unread. Anything that comes from my accountant, leave unread,” or, “Anything that comes from my lawyer, leave unread”?
Rodrigo Ballon: A hundred percent, but sometimes I’ll get, “Hey. I didn’t mean … This email came through. It said, ‘Urgent,’ so I read it and I’m texting you right now. You need to call them right now.”
Rodrigo Ballon: So, I have that trust with people. Let me explain something else along with trust. You got to take care of the people. The people that you trust with your business, you better damn well take care of them. You got to pay them great, make them feel loved and appreciated every single day. Thank them for everything that they’re doing, not just for me but for the overall business because I’m nothing without them.
Oliver Graf: Yeah. That’s great advice.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, it’s a team effort.
Oliver Graf: Love that. That’s great advice, man. I appreciate that a lot because it’s like I said. It’s something I’ve struggled with for a long time. I feel way overwhelmed by my email box. I’m ready to let it go. I just need some guidance on how to let it go without getting burnt.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. I mean there’s also filters. I mean, I’m sure you get a gazillion emails.
Oliver Graf: Yeah.
Rodrigo Ballon: You can create … I would get 400 emails on appraisals daily. It was the most obnoxious thing. So, then, via Outlook which we use Outlook for email, we just did certain keywords, that when a certain keyword comes from a certain email, we created a separate in-box, so everything goes in that in-box.
Oliver Graf: So, that doesn’t even come to you? It just gets kicked to the appraisal box or whatever.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, I’ve got like Rodrigo is one email. Team Ballon is another email. Introduction is another email and all of them go, all the emails automatically get filtered in.
Oliver Graf: That’s great.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, it simplifies it to the eye. All of a sudden you’re like, “Oh, my god. I got 500 emails.” No. Everything’s ready to go. Here are my buckets. I know what I need to do.
Oliver Graf: Great tips, man. Really, really good stuff.
Oliver Graf: So, we talked a little bit about how agents are always getting bombarded by lenders and they don’t really know who to work with, who not to work with. I want to throw a Facebook question out there that I got.
Oliver Graf: By the way, if you’re not in the Real Closers Facebook group, you might want to jump on it. It’s facebook.com/RealClosers. It’s free to join. We try to make these interviews interactive.
Oliver Graf: So, this question came from Molly Winkle. Shout out to Molly Winkle. I actually thought this one was pretty funny because I know a lot of lenders do this and I just wanted to get your perspective on it. She says, “Are you a let me take you to coffee and show you how to build your business kind of lender or do you take the time to learn that I actually drink Red Bull? In the same vein, do you provide the tools that are actually different to help build the business or the same things we get anywhere else?”
Rodrigo Ballon: So, number one, I think back in the day, everyone was like, “Hey. Let’s go to lunch.” I don’t do lunches. I fucking hate lunches. It’s a waste of time.
Oliver Graf: “I don’t eat food.”
Rodrigo Ballon: I don’t have an hour to sit with you and talk about nothing that isn’t going to make sense to business, like-
Oliver Graf: For either one of you, really.
Rodrigo Ballon: For either one of you. No. If we’re going to sit, it’s going to be in my office or your office, somewhere where it’s going to be straight business. It’ll be fun, educational, but it’s going to be business. It’s not going to be loud. It’s going to be to the point and we’re going to review everything. Yeah. Knowing someone is like what Molly said in this instance. It’s yeah, “Know what they want. Know what they like.”
Rodrigo Ballon: Example. When I prospect realtors, I need to know more about them than they think I know about them.
Oliver Graf: Okay. I love this. Go on.
Rodrigo Ballon: I’m going to go on Facebook. I’m going to see who they’re friends with. I’m going to see their posts. I’m going to see what they like. Do they like sports? Do they like the beach? Do they like hiking? Whatever it may be. That way, when I speak to them, I can drop something and say, “Hey. We have this in common.” If I see when they go through …
Rodrigo Ballon: Example, Facebook. Seeing their posts. “Oh, man! This guy said this. Does anyone have a solution, whatever?” I could relay and say, “Hey. Previously, you were asking about this. Let me tell you how we do things.” It’s knowing more about them then they’ll think from the first appointment.
Oliver Graf: A little bit of recon.
Rodrigo Ballon: A little bit of recon.
Rodrigo Ballon: One thing I also do daily is check numbers. So, let’s say you’re a top realtor in five different areas, five different ZIP Codes. I’m going to look to see how much activity you’re doing. I’m going to check what type of clientele you’re working with, whether it’s a first-time buyer, a jumbo buyer, whatever. It’s going to tell me who the lender is that you work with, and it’s going to tell me how long that lender took the close the loan.
Oliver Graf: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Wow!
Rodrigo Ballon: So, I like doing all my homework ahead of time. That way I sound smart and educated and saying, “Hey. I know you’re working with this guy for three years. Awesome. That’s fantastic but I see a common pattern that he’s closing 40 days every single time.” “How’d you know that?” “Well, I researched it.” “Yeah. I don’t know why but he said that’s normal. VA loans take 40 days.” “Actually, no they don’t. I can close them in 14 days or less.” “That’s impossible.” “No. Nothing’s impossible.” And, then-
Oliver Graf: This is el Zorro.
Rodrigo Ballon: El Zorro. You got to roll the Rs.
Oliver Graf: Yeah. For sure.
Rodrigo Ballon: Come on, Spanish must have helped a little. But, anyways, it’s knowing more about them then what you think. Yeah, I don’t like doing lunches in this and that. I just like meeting in my office or meeting in their office, getting to the point. Let’s figure out. Even when we do first-time home buyer seminars. We invite people for … You have to respect people’s time. There you go. You have to respect people’s time. No one has two or three hours. I don’t. I mean, seriously, I’ll go to the movies for two or three hours. That’s it. Other than my kids soccer game for two or three hours. That’s it.
Oliver Graf: Totally.
Rodrigo Ballon: Otherwise, I just, my attention goes, “I need to do something else right now.” My brain just moves quick, so you have to respect people’s time whether it’s a client, whether it’s a realtor, get to the point, do the education, but make sure they understand everything they’re asking you. Don’t just be the guy talking, talking, talking, trumping the person. Shut up, listen, listen to what they’re telling you, interpret it, and then give a really good answer and solution. That way, you’re literally taking care of them and making them feel like, “Oh my god. It’s all about me now right.” And that’s what [crosstalk 00:32:56]-
Oliver Graf: Right. Make me feel important. That’s all anyone wants.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. Make me feel special.
Oliver Graf: So, I love what you said right there about doing a little bit of recon in advance. I think that just that simple step, which is super easy to do. Just check someone’s social media, find out what they’re into, what their likes are, what they’re passionate about, what challenges they’re facing. Then, offer solutions, commonalities, ways to bridge the gap between the average lender and everybody else.
Oliver Graf: And then, the other part that I really liked about what you just said was how you researched the numbers, because I think that not only in your game but in any game, if you’re an agent, you need to know the numbers of the market so when you go to a seller, you know what you’re talking about. When you’re in a lender and you’re going to agents, how much does that lower their guard when you say, “Oh, I know that you’re working with Sally Sue at XYZ Mortgage company and you have for X number of years and it takes X amount of time to close.” I mean, you’re halfway in the door at that point.
Rodrigo Ballon: That’s right. That’s right.
Oliver Graf: And then, I want to give you a shout out on this, is you also do little extra things. Me and my business partner Sam, we were at our winner’s circle event in Palm Springs. All of a sudden, I get back to the room and there’s a bucket of ice and a bottle of bubbly, courtesy of Rodrigo. This is when we were first talking about getting into business together. Just, I thought that was a really nice touch and a really great way to get attention and a really great way to stand out from everybody else, because it was totally unexpected. It was out of left field. It was at the event we were hosting, so it made us feel special or whatever you want to call it. Just, I think those little things to differentiate yourself will go a long way to move the needle.
Rodrigo Ballon: Thank you. I appreciate that. Absolutely, and I’ve done that for several people, even people I don’t work with that I’m not even prospecting. I sent a team once, I think it was like 28 bottles of champagne. I called the assistant. I’m like, “Hey. You guys just hit the number one team. How many people do you have?” “28.” “Is that everyone? Assistants?” “Yeah.” “Okay. Cool. Thanks.” Boom, deliver to their office.
Rodrigo Ballon: Two weeks later, I got a phone call. “Hey. Sorry. I was out of town. I just came to the office and everyone told me. Wow! Thank you!” I’m like, “Well, no. I just want to congratulation you on [crosstalk 00:35:15]”-
Oliver Graf: Congratulations.
Rodrigo Ballon: Boom! “Hey, why don’t you come? We’re actually looking at … Check out different lenders, different opportunities.” I did the same on closing so other people sending. I just think it’s that extra touch of what you’re doing.
Oliver Graf: Yeah. It’s the unexpected and it’s the wow factor. Oftentimes, people talk about being remarkable, right?
Rodrigo Ballon: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Oliver Graf: People think remarkable means, “Oh, that’s cool,” but it really means worth making a remark over, right?
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah.
Oliver Graf: So, if you can do something remarkable by sending 28 people a bottle of champagne, that’s going to get talked about not only amongst their team but that’s the type of thing that spreads through the industry. Right now, all of a sudden Rodrigo sounds like the man because-
Rodrigo Ballon: Absolutely.
Oliver Graf: … for probably a thousand dollars, you sent a lot of champagne.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah and yes. It better be a good bottle of champagne because you want to make an impression, you know?
Oliver Graf: Yeah.
Rodrigo Ballon: And it’s those little things but it’s paying attention to detail. Again, going back to knowing more than what they think you know about them. Social media is a great way. Everyone’s posting, “Hi. I checked into whatever restaurant.” “Cool. Let me see if I know the bartender so they can get you a shot.” Whatever. It doesn’t matter but as long as you reach out and you’re different. You got to think, “What can I do different then the common person delivering a calendar, delivering cookies, delivering waters, delivering this?” Think outside the box. Do something cool. That’s what it’s about.
Oliver Graf: I love it. I love it. That’s great, great insight.
Oliver Graf: So, when you’re working with these different agents and this is another Facebook question I want to throw your way. Do you look at them like partners or do you look at them like lead generators? I want to throw out one firm, again the Real Closers Facebook group, Todd Burrows, “If I send you a client referral and you make $6,000. I don’t know why I said $6,000. It’s kind of a random number, but you make a commission check. Do you plan to send me a $5 Starbucks gift card? Honestly, mortgage brokers should be sending qualified, verified leads to the realtors who feed them their business.” Your response.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah, so let’s start, let’s respond to that one first. So, number one, I’m not a real estate agent. My job is to get the loans done. However, my job is to get the job done flawlessly so that that client refers more business to their realtor, saying, “My God, thank you for referring Rodrigo. He was amazing. Not only did he explain this but he went above and beyond into this and this and that. Had nothing to do with what he needed to do. Oh, my gosh. So, I’m going to give you my neighbor, my this, my this. Please have him help them sell their house, help them buy a house and make sure that they call Rodrigo.” It’s about referrals.
Rodrigo Ballon: Now, let’s go back to that. Number one, am I going to give them all my buyers? I mean, let’s be realistic. I’m a lender. Now, do I have random people call me? Absolutely. The way that I work is I look at my sphere. I look to see who sends us the business. Then, we rotate people. I’ve sent people to business in different places. I’m a firm believer that … Example, if we’re in San Diego right now and if somebody’s buying in Los Angeles, which is two hours away, I’m not going to refer it to a San Diego agent. I’m going to look at my sphere, call it social media. I’m going to find a top professional that has, one, sent me business and I’m going to send it that way. If it’s someone local that always sends me business and I get a buyer, I like reciprocating but I don’t get those. I mean, I’ll get maybe honestly less than two, three, maybe five a year randomly. But I always like referring it to the people that send me business but that are actually kind. There’s a lot of people in this industry that are not kind and that while they can send you business, of course, I’m always going to do whatever I can.
Rodrigo Ballon: Starbucks cards, that’s funny because yeah. We like sending Starbuck cards but something I do personally is I send scratchers. So, if you win that 500,000, keep it. I don’t need a penny from it but we like sending you scratchers because we’re fun. It’s like, “Why did you just send me a scratcher?” Why not? Anybody can go drink warm coffee.
Oliver Graf: Totally. “But I’m trying to make you a million.”
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. I’m trying to make you money.
Oliver Graf: Yeah, totally.
Rodrigo Ballon: And another thing we do with realtors is help them with whatever we can with marketing. We have graphic designers that work with us. We have ideas. We have solutions. We have all the systems. All the systems that I have to help convert leads, they don’t have to pay for. I have the systems. So, it’s just a matter of them handing stuff to me. I will turn and burn and give it right back.
Oliver Graf: What does that look like exactly? So, someone can just give you their like old database and you plug it into the machine.
Rodrigo Ballon: That’s right. Literally, it’s that simple. You give me an Excel spreadsheet. If you don’t know how to do Excel, we will type it in for you. We’ll put it in. We’ll have all the systems run it. We’ll do texting, we’ll do voicemails, we’ll do emails. Your 200 leads that you’ve had for five years, I may give you one buyer but that one buyer is someone that’s been in that pool for X amount of time that you didn’t bother to call that I just gave right back.
Oliver Graf: Yeah and they’re probably already qualified at that point.
Rodrigo Ballon: Probably. They probably already had a realtor but because they’re going to reach out again, it may impress them. So, it’s just a matter of how you look at it but that was a fantastic question.
Oliver Graf: Yeah. I love it. I thought it was kind of funny as well.
Oliver Graf: And, to your point, I think that’s also kind of a misconception in terms of, “Oh, if I refer you business, you should refer me business,” because I don’t think lenders really come across a lot of people that are unrepresented. Most lenders get their business from the business professionals like realtors and other people, but a lot of them are already represented, one so you’re going to give the handful that you get to your top people, which totally makes sense. Then, the other part of that is to your point, like if someone’s in North County looking to buy a place, you’re not going to refer them to a South County agent. You want to refer them to someone that knows that local market and knows the all the ins and outs and can get them the best deal at the best price.
Rodrigo Ballon: Absolutely, and it’s also having that vision of like-minded people. If I have a wine connoisseur example that has a lot of land in somewhere else. I know a realtor that also shares that same philosophy of land and wine and the vision and relaxation that’s super cool. I’m like, “You guys are going to get along fantastic.” I’m going to hook them up.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, it’s not always about giving back to the top, top, top people. It’s about who you really believe will work best with that other person, because you want to give them a phenomenal experience.
Oliver Graf: Definitely. That’s something I keep hearing you saying. I’m a big believer in that as well is that the customer experience is really the utmost of important thing as far as everything goes. I mean, there can be problems. There be challenges but as long as you’re overcommunicating and handling it and getting it closed at the end of the day and delivering on what you said you were going to do, ultimately you’re going to win the game.
Rodrigo Ballon: Absolutely. I mean, one thing I say probably every month. You’re as good as your last deal. I can close a hundred deals but if I did a really crappy job-
Oliver Graf: On number 101.
Rodrigo Ballon: … on 101, that person can go cray-cray on social media. They’ll slander me and do this and say, “Oh, he’s an ass butt.”
Rodrigo Ballon: So, let’s avoid that and let’s give everyone the same attention, the same customer service, take your time and answer the questions. A lot of people are busy. If someone wants to talk to me, we’re going to set a time we’re going to talk. Sometimes, I talk to a client for 52 minutes with all these questions. I’m like, “Are we good? Okay. Good. Let’s go.”
Oliver Graf: The super analytical, with 300 questions.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. The engineers.
Oliver Graf: Yeah, exactly.
Rodrigo Ballon: But it’s important, again, going back to making them feel important and answering the questions but you just have to, every deal counts, literally every deal counts. So, don’t think you’re too good. Don’t just go to the next one. The 200,000 and the million dollar or let’s talk Midwest, a 100,000 and the 300, 400,000, it’s the same person. No one’s better than one another. They may qualify differently now but you don’t know who they’re linked to. You don’t know their sphere. You don’t know their referral base that can come from them.
Oliver Graf: Every year’s a New Year. Yeah.
Rodrigo Ballon: Absolutely and every transaction is an opportunity to get at least three referrals from.
Oliver Graf: So, I think that another big thing, I’m going to go back to one more Facebook question. This one’s from Terry Holden. This actually came up from a lot of people in the thread and I think it’s a common frustration. That’s that lenders don’t pick up the phone.
Oliver Graf: So, the question was, “Do you answer your phone and do you work nights and weekends?” And then Carolyn Stevenson-Morrow added, “If I’m working on the weekends, my lender better be, too.” How do you respond to that?
Rodrigo Ballon: So, I’m going to start off by saying remember that movie Multiplicity?
Oliver Graf: Yeah.
Rodrigo Ballon: Remember that?
Oliver Graf: Yeah.
Rodrigo Ballon: You can’t be everywhere at once. So, you have to have systems ready to go in case you’re not available. I always answer my phone. If I’m available and I’m answering my phones. Weekends? That’s my busiest time. Literally, my phone will start ringing realistically like 7:30, 8:00 a.m. because people start showing homes. Most people working 9:00 to 5:00, so the weekends is when they get ready.
Oliver Graf: Yup. Open house and this.
Rodrigo Ballon: “Hey, Rodrigo, I’m going to need our approval letters, each one of them a different amount.” “Okay. Let’s do it.” So, I’m always working on my phone like if it’s my computer but I’m always answering. I always have my headphones on. I’m always working weekends, nights, mornings, holidays. I mean, it doesn’t matter.
Rodrigo Ballon: I’ll tell you a funny story. When my wife was delivering our third baby, I was speaking with this top, top, top producer in the nation named Ruth Pugh. She called me. I’m talking to her. Then, I’m like, “Hey, Ruth. I have to call you back. My wife’s about to have a baby in like three, two, one.” She’s like, “What are you doing talking to me? Hang up.” “Well, I had to answer your call.”
Oliver Graf: Yeah. Wow!
Rodrigo Ballon: And she’ll vouch to that. It was hilarious, but it’s doing what you need to do to take care of the client, going back, the client is a realtor. The client is a consumer.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. Now, if I’m out of town and it’s midnight. Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to answer the phone but I’ll get back to you the next day.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, let me add one more thing. A lot of people say, “I must have a lender at my open house every single time. You have to have a lender there.” The reality is we all have lives but we can work remote. I’m not the type of person that’s going to go to a hundred open houses but I do like doing pop-bys. This year for Q1, I started doing four to six open houses Saturdays and Sundays. I would just roll around and I would take Cravery cookies, really delicious cookies, top. “There you go.” And I would just pop by. I’d come unannounced. People appreciated that because I would hang out for at least 30 minutes. The people would come by and I was there. Yeah. Stuff like that’s cool that I like doing randomly but I’m always available.
Oliver Graf: Honestly, that’s another perfect example of you just going that little bit extra mile. I don’t know many lenders that are just popping by open houses and delivering cookies. That’s the type of thing that’s going to leave an impression with someone for a long time.
Rodrigo Ballon: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, a lot of people I’ve also, when I started in the industry, I would look at the newspaper before really the internet was blowing up. I would figure out who was going to be there at an open house. So, I’d print a flyer, 20 of them. I’d go and I would deliver it. They’re like, “I don’t know who you are but I don’t need your flyers.” “Okay, cool. Thanks. Bye.” But now I’ll just go with delicious cookies that smell, oh, so delicious now.
Oliver Graf: Now they’re like, “Thank you for the cookie. Thank you so much.”
Rodrigo Ballon: They’re like, “Wow! Who are you? Thank you. Would you like to stay?”
Oliver Graf: Yeah. That’s great, great move.
Rodrigo Ballon: Just think, going back, think outside the box. Yeah, hopefully that answered that question. I mean, we can’t always make ourselves available at random hours because everyone has a life.
Oliver Graf: Of course, of course.
Rodrigo Ballon: But as long as you get back to them and say, “Hey. Quick text. Give me an hour. Give me 30 minutes. Give me 10 minutes.” Sometimes an hour is too long because they’re right then and there. If I get a text message saying, “I’m at an open house right now. I have a buyer ready to go. I don’t speak Spanish. Can you please call me now?”
Oliver Graf: You’re literally there.
Rodrigo Ballon: I’m going to stop what I’m doing or if … I mean, Spanish, I’ll just throwing it out there but when I get those text messages I’m going to stop what I’m doing. There’s a lot of people that I work with that can vouch that. “Dude. He’s always on it,” because that’s the most valuable client for a realtor because it’s an organic buyer that walked into an open house.
Rodrigo Ballon: Hey, if you’re taking time to go to an open house, I’m going to take the time to qualify that client. I don’t care if it’s the weekend. I don’t care if I’m at the beach. I have a calculator on my phone. I have email on my phone. I have text on my phone. I can do it all.
Oliver Graf: Love it. Love it. Is your team working also or is it just you that kind of holds down the fort or the bat phone?
Rodrigo Ballon: My right hand loan partner that helps on all the loans. He’s always working but generally everyone else, no. Unless they get a personal call for me saying, “Hey. I need your help on something.” But no. I mean, everyone’s got a life and they work their ass off during the week for the team.
Oliver Graf: That’s cool. Cool.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah.
Oliver Graf: So, I want to kind of segue into some lending question and I want to keep them-
Rodrigo Ballon: Not boring?
Oliver Graf: … not boring, kind of insightful and higher-level.
Rodrigo Ballon: Cool.
Oliver Graf: The first thing I want to ask is I hear this a lot from you. That’s that you have a 14-day average close.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yes.
Oliver Graf: To me and I think to a lot of people that they’re thinking, “Yeah, right. That’s impossible,” right?
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah.
Oliver Graf: The same thing you mentioned earlier. So, A, how are you doing that, and, B, what are kind of like the stipulations that need to fall into place to be able to make that happen?
Rodrigo Ballon: So, let me go backwards. Back in the day when we were doing the flips, everybody is asking for 30, 35, 40 days. I threw out there, I told all the investors I work with, “Let’s do 17 days. No one has it. No one’s marketing it.”
Rodrigo Ballon: So, at all the open houses over the weekends, I’d have literally probably close to 50 different properties at once with my fliers. 17 day close. Then, other people started copying me. I dropped to a 14-day close. Then, most people started calling me. 10 day close. I even went on social media. I said, “I’ll close your loan in seven days. If I don’t, I’ll give you $5,000 to the seller as a credit to the seller.” The reason you’re able to do that is number one, confidence. Number two, the systems.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, what I do with most clients is, instead of waiting until they’re in escrow in a transaction, to start collecting the paperwork and running everything by an underwriter and getting it approved. We get the loans approved ahead of time. So, let’s say today’s, let’s make up a day, Wednesday. We know they’re going to go house shopping Saturday. I’m going to take Wednesday to reach out to the client, walk them through the process and ask him to email me paperwork. By Friday, hopefully they’ve mailed me everything. That way, they’re 100% really approved, not just a Word document pre-approval. They’re legit approved. Then, when the agent is making that offer, I’m going to tell them to make a 14 day closing period.
Rodrigo Ballon: Most people are like, “Why? Take 30 days.” Well, in a multiple offer situation and here’s Mr. Cash Guy. Mr. Cash Guy isn’t going to close in one day. They like doing 10 and 12 day closes. That way they can do their due diligence and half the time they really have hard money and they lie and they’re getting it a lie or they do that to come in. But I’ll be ready to close ahead of time.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, when you give a 14 day offer, you’re presenting the seller something attractive that’s tangible like, “Wow! Well yeah, this offer may be 5,000 shorter but 14 days compared to 30 days and I don’t even know … Let’s just go with this guy. I like their aggressiveness.” And it’s having a team that’s able to do that, right?
Oliver Graf: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rodrigo Ballon: I can call, push, do what I need to do but I also rely on my back-end team, so if you don’t have a strong team that can handle volume. If you’re a onesie-twosie, one deal, two deal, sure. But when you’re doing 20, 30, 40, 60 transactions, you better have that team and that team better be ready to deliver, because again, I’m the sales guy. It starts with me but I’m nothing without my team. So, everyone’s got to be on the same page.
Oliver Graf: They got to back it all up.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. “Here we go. Here’s Rodrigo again, doing one of these 14 days. Let’s go.” Everyone’s ready because we do our job ahead of time. Then, when the deal starts day one, clock starts ticking. We’re literally 50% done.
Oliver Graf: So, how are you able to be so confident on a 14 day close? They’ve already gone through underwriting in advance or already very tied-in with underwriting?
Rodrigo Ballon: 70% of the time, I’ve already looked at 75% of the paperwork.
Oliver Graf: And you just know, based on your experience, that this is going to fly, yes or no?
Rodrigo Ballon: Yes. Yes. I mean, I’ve been doing this for a long time where you can give me a pay stub and let’s say I look at your credit report. I’ll say you’re good. I don’t need to wait a week or five days because I don’t know how to do math and I’m relying on three people because 90% of the industry does not know what they’re doing. They rely on underwriters and processors to do their number crunching. No. That’s something you get with doing loans or whatever industry you’re mastering, the industry that you specialize in. No one likes on a Saturday, “Oh, my underwriter will be in on Monday. They’re not working over the weekend. I’ll let you know if they’re approved Monday.” No. You’d have to know how to approve them.
Rodrigo Ballon: Sometimes, at open houses people will actually have their paperwork in an email because they sent it to another lender like the big boy banks that you walk in there. They take at least a week to get you qualified but the client has that email where they hit sent. I’ll say, “Hey. Send it to me real quick.” I’ve even done that where I’ve been driving and I’ve pulled over. I’m like, “Hey. I can’t pull your credit now because I’m driving and I don’t have my computer but what was your credit score? Tell me your debts. Car loans, student loans, credit cards? How about overall history, bankruptcy, short sell?” “No. I have nothing, literally like I have this, this, this.” I’m like, “Okay. Cool. What do you do for a job?” “I’m manager at the Home Depot. I’ve been there for 12 years.” I’m like, “Okay, cool. You sound super solid. You know what you’re doing.” So, listening and saying, “Does this guy have bad credit or does he have a good credit?” You can kind of tell by the way they speak and how on top they are of their finances and with numbers and everything else.
Oliver Graf: Knowing their numbers, yeah.
Rodrigo Ballon: And I’ll approve them, right then and then. I’ll say, “Okay. 15 day, 14 day, 10 day. Go.”
Oliver Graf: Sounds ballsy.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. It’s just … I don’t know, man.
Oliver Graf: Have you ever been wrong?
Rodrigo Ballon: Twice.
Oliver Graf: And what happened?
Rodrigo Ballon: One, the client didn’t tell me the truth. They had private loans that weren’t reported on properties nor on credit. Then, one guy had 12 properties, private trust deeds and they popped up. Banks will get you. It was denied because they weren’t honest. Then, another person lost their job.
Oliver Graf: That’s kind of not really much you can do about that.
Rodrigo Ballon: No, no. But-
Oliver Graf: That’s impressive and how many times have you done those 14-day loans?
Rodrigo Ballon: Oh, man. I’ve been promoting them. So, 14 days, I’ve really been promoting, I say, for the last four years but that’s 17 today, man, since 2012 I came up with that, because there was so much competition back in the day with the short sales and REOs. I’m like, “How can I be different? If I want to work with everyone and get all this business, what can I offer to the sellers that would be attractive? Most people can’t do that. To this day, most people can’t close in 20 days.
Oliver Graf: Yeah. No. That’s true.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, I think like 21 day now was more like the norm, 21 to 30 day, but offer a 14 day. Be confident. Stand out.
Oliver Graf: You’ve done hundreds of these and only twice it’s not worked out.
Rodrigo Ballon: Hundreds of them. Hundreds of them. I don’t want to say it’s being cocky. It’s more knowing what you’re saying and delivering on what you’re saying, right?
Oliver Graf: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.
Rodrigo Ballon: And, hey, if you know it’s going to be 15 days, you better pick up that phone and call everybody and apologize that you’re going to be one day late for whatever reason, whether the buyer delayed it, whether the appraisal took extra time due to a bad inspection which happened. Whatever it may be, just be upfront and honest.
Rodrigo Ballon: Hey, when I don’t close on time, I give credits. I’m like, “Hey. My bad. Let me pay for your appraisal. My bad. Let me pay for a per diem. Let me just give you one,” even though I’m just … Throw it on there because-
Oliver Graf: Again, a great way to stand out that other people just aren’t doing it.
Rodrigo Ballon: It’s being a gentleman. It’s that handshake or a lady.
Oliver Graf: I love it.
Rodrigo Ballon: It’s just having that handshake [crosstalk 00:56:02].
Rodrigo Ballon: Another thing we should talk about are all this different products that are out there, all these non-QM products.
Oliver Graf: Yeah. One thing you said the other day that really caught my attention is you’re like, “There’s so much free money, cheap money out there.” That really, obviously, caught my attention and I’m sure a lot of the listeners’ attention as well. Tell me more about that.
Rodrigo Ballon: Sure. So, in every market, there’s different loans. I think our market is so good right now and the banking industry as a whole, that everyone just has money available. No money down loans, no closing cost loans, 100% loans but you have to qualify on paper. You have to literally qualify. There’s also loans out there, not just free money but the self-employed person. Let’s say a realtor. Let’s say a business owner.
Oliver Graf: Yeah, that’s funny you bring that up. That was my next question is how to get loans for entrepreneurs and agents.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. So, let’s talk with the people that don’t have money, check it out. You have no money? No problem. We have money for you. Your credit sucks? No problem. We’ll help you fix it. There’s so many resources available.
Rodrigo Ballon: Example. We’re in California. So, the state of California, every single state has loan products available. Every city has loan products available. You just have to qualify in that box with your income and your credit but there’s free money available. Most people are paying 22 to $2,800 in rent here, let’s say in San Diego. Well, that’s like a $400,000 mortgage that you can get on a killer three-bedroom condo and own it and be a homeowner and put money in your pocket, have that equity instead of paying the landlord’s rent or mortgage, excuse me. However, besides all the first-time home buyers and all that money available, non-QM loans, bank statement loans are huge. I probably do about three to five a month. It’s from the landscaper to the big business owner, to the realtor, to the carpenter, to the painter. It’s essentially anybody that either handles cash and deposits cash or the person that gets checks but doesn’t like claiming it on the IRS or the person that does say, “Hey, yeah. I made $600,000 but I have to write off 620.” “Why 620?” “Well, I had a lot of meals.” “Okay. Cool.” It’s, “Okay. Well, you don’t qualify on taxes per se but let me see your bank statements.” We take their deposits and we annualize them by over 12 or 24 months and [crosstalk 00:58:29] –
Oliver Graf: Is that for personal or on the business?
Rodrigo Ballon: Both.
Oliver Graf: Either or both.
Rodrigo Ballon: Either.
Oliver Graf: Okay.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, some people like depositing it on their personal bank account. Other people took the time to go to the bank and open up a business account. Some people divvy it up. It doesn’t matter. You can crisscross. We call that blended. A little of this. A little of that. They may even have a W-2. I’ll use that also. There’s a lot of creative ways that we can qualify people especially. I mean, realtors there’s so many realtors that are not homeowners. I mean, it’s crazy how many realtors rent and they’re out there preaching home ownership and they didn’t know that right, write everything off. Well, why don’t you go buy a house and we use bank statement loans. Now, banks, savings and loans are catered with a higher interest rate but essentially, it’s like a-
Oliver Graf: It’s give and take.
Rodrigo Ballon: … stated income loan. Most loans right now are in the three to 4%, whatever it may be. These loans are usually 1% higher. So, bank statement loans are always, no matter what their rate is today, tomorrow, or next year, factor about 1% higher and that’s where a bank statement loan comes in.
Oliver Graf: So, agents and business owners can get basically a stated income loan obviously verifying bank statement, deposits?
Rodrigo Ballon: Yes.
Oliver Graf: And what sort of a deposit and credit score are they going to be looking at for something like that?
Rodrigo Ballon: So, ideally they need at least a 680, and with a 680 score, and if they have 10% down they can qualify to one and a half million dollars, which is-
Oliver Graf: Wow!
Rodrigo Ballon: … phenomenal. Phenomenal!
Oliver Graf: That’s an unbelievable product.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah and it’s a great product because most people that are paying rent are just throwing the money away. Sure, you may get something with a higher rate. Who cares? You got a new house. It’s now yours. You can decorate it and paint it and do whatever you want and you’re building the American dream, which is real estate. Wealth by equity. People really don’t understand that that free money is out there. I mean, it’s crazy. I just did a loan on this beautiful beachfront house that was on the show called Big Brother way back in the day. Remember MTV?
Oliver Graf: Yup.
Rodrigo Ballon: And it was where they piled, I think, 15 people and they had cameras everywhere and they’re partying in Pacific Beach and the water right on the cliff.
Oliver Graf: I remember that. What was that show? Not Road Rules. The other one on MTV.
Rodrigo Ballon: Wasn’t it Big Brother or one of those?
Oliver Graf: I don’t know. It was one of those.
Rodrigo Ballon: Party House? I don’t know.
Oliver Graf: We’re dating ourselves. I totally-
Michelle: [crosstalk 01:00:54].
Oliver Graf: Real World!
Rodrigo Ballon: Real World!
Oliver Graf: Really World.
Rodrigo Ballon: Real World. And that’s an example. That was a $14 million house. That’s not the loan. That was the house. This loan isn’t catered for lower end or higher end. It’s catered for everybody. Anybody that manages self-employed business that either has a genius brilliant CPA that shows you how not to pay tax and for the person that just handles cash that just doesn’t like claiming it. As long as you deposit it in the bank, we can use that as income. That’s a phenomenal loan. That product’s becoming way more popular.
Oliver Graf: Yeah. I was going to say I’m surprised that’s actually not a lot more popular especially with 10% down and a 680.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah.
Oliver Graf: That’s great.
Rodrigo Ballon: It’s pretty amazing, pretty amazing.
Oliver Graf: Yeah. How many of those are you doing?
Rodrigo Ballon: Three to five a month. This month, I think we actually have seven of them.
Oliver Graf: That’s great.
Rodrigo Ballon: It’s just there’s a lot of everything but it’s mainly for, think, self-employed, don’t qualify on tax paper. Ding, ding, ding! Bank statement loan.
Oliver Graf: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Love the bank statement loans. What’s up, Michelle.
Rodrigo Ballon: Qualified!
Oliver Graf: Yeah, exactly. You can get a loan, too. And you get a loan. And you get a loan.
Rodrigo Ballon: You get a loan! You get a loan! Bad credit? No problem.
Michelle: [crosstalk 01:02:07].
Oliver Graf: No problem! No money? No problem! I love it.
Oliver Graf: So, when people are getting ready to purchase, what would you say are like the main factors that they need to do cleanup, worry about, fix, handle before they talk to you?
Rodrigo Ballon: And what not to do.
Oliver Graf: And what not to do.
Rodrigo Ballon: Example what not to do, don’t buy a car like a Tesla because your accountant told you to buy it before the end of the year for tax credits. Happened to me yesterday.
Oliver Graf: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Ouch.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. Didn’t tell me. Bought it on the 29th or 30th.
Oliver Graf: Made purchase.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah, but we’re doing a bank statement loan. Company car. You’re good.
Oliver Graf: Oh, nice.
Rodrigo Ballon: No problems.
Oliver Graf: See that?
Rodrigo Ballon: That’s the beauty of these products. Credit, major credit. So, don’t max out your credit cards. If you know you’re two to six months out, try to pay down the balances, leaving them anywhere from 25 to 35% debt compared to what the limit allowed is. Make your payments on time. Don’t just think because you miss one payment, you’ll be fine. It’s only one payment. That’s the biggest problem with qualifications, people’s credit, because that does affect the interest rate from a 620 to a 660, 660 to 680, 680 to 700, 700 and 720, 720 to 740, and 760 and above whatever, those are all different tiers.
Oliver Graf: Different buckets, right.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah, so if you want to have the best credit, here you go. Get three trade lines. So, have a credit card, have a Visa card, have a gas card, use something that’s revolving. Three of them would give you a strong credit. Don’t get 15. Don’t get 20. Just get three. Three is a great way to go. I mean, I’ve maintained three for a long time, which is fantastic. You can get scores over 800 with just three but the second you start missing your payments, that’s a second your credit starts going bye-bye. That will impact your purchase power because you may qualify really good on paper with income but your credit must be crappy. It’s not going to work so prepare yourself, plan ahead, pay yourself on time, pay your debt down, pay on time. Money in the bank.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, as bankers we don’t like seeing cash deposits if we’re going to do traditional financing. Traditional financing mean, “Show me your W-2, show me your bank account,” because when you deposit cash. Let’s say you’re in the service industry like a bartender or a waiter, whatever it may be. You deposit cash tips. You cannot use cash. So, I have clients that deposit 2,000, 3,000, 5,000. You cannot use it.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, when we say, “Hey. We need you to have 5% down in two months in reserves, reserves mean what your monthly payment is going to be in your mortgage times two months. So, you go, “Here you go,” but then when you go through the bank account it’ll show a cash, cash, cash, cash, cash. “What’s this?” “Oh, it’s money I had under my pillow. Can’t use it.”
Rodrigo Ballon: So, then they have to get a gift from a family member and it’s uncomfortable. “Hey, do you mind giving me a gift. I promise that a gift means you don’t need to get repaid, which most family people don’t like writing that but that’s how we do. You get a gift from someone and then you can qualify but have your money in the bank, have it seasoned for two months. Credit, manage low debts, no higher than 35%, payments on time. I mean, that’s really it because income’s income. If you know you’re going to want to buy a house in a year and you’re in the overtime industry where the more overtime you make, you get time and a half, work as much overtime as you can.
Oliver Graf: Rack it up.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah, because whether you use 12 months or 24 months depends what product we use, but that’s more income to qualify.
Oliver Graf: Helps your DTI.
Rodrigo Ballon: Absolutely.
Oliver Graf: Helps [crosstalk 01:05:44], all that.
Rodrigo Ballon: Which means more purchase power. More purchase power. And always don’t just go to one person. So, most people like going to their bank. When you walk into a bank, you’re really going to qualify for that little brick building box, meaning if that bank doesn’t think outside of the box, they’re going to tell you, you’re denied but they’re not going to say, “Hey. You may want to try this person.” They’re not going to do that.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, always consult a realtor and always work with a mortgage banker such as myself or anyone else that’s a mortgage banker because we have access to hundreds of different investors that we’re able to use. If you don’t fit box A, you can fit in a box B to Z, right?
Oliver Graf: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rodrigo Ballon: There’s always something. So, I think outside the box. Clients and realtors need to think outside of the box and say, “Hey, I know you bank with XYZ bank. I know they’re kind of tough and if you don’t have the perfect credit and income, it’s probably not going to work. I suggest you go work with a mortgage banker that has access to infinite investors for a good credit, mediocre credit, and bad credit. We can do it all.” This is who you should go to.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, that’s my advice to the consumer and to the realtors that always work with mortgage bankers.
Oliver Graf: Yeah. Yeah, no. Makes sense because, I mean, especially like the banks. You walk into the typical bank down the street. They’re looking for almost like the perfect borrower. Good credit, W-2 income, been at the job for five years, 10 years, 20 years and everything’s very vanilla. Anything outside of that, they’re going to deny and then people lose confidence, they lose hope, they think they can’t qualify but they need to really talk to people that can get a little more creative and know how to find the yes.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah and you just touch on something.
Oliver Graf: El Zorro.
Rodrigo Ballon: El Zorro. You just touched on something else, job stability. If you know that you’re going to change jobs and you’re like less than a month away from buying, please don’t do it. Please stay with your job and just wait. Now, if it’s in the same industry and you’re going from a manager to a manager, please don’t do it while you’re in the transaction. Please wait.
Oliver Graf: Definitely don’t do that.
Rodrigo Ballon: I have a client on a new construction, that they’ve been in escrow for four months. We’re closing it on Friday. She changed jobs Monday. She went from a manager at a pizza place to manager at Universal Studios. I’m like, “Wait. What? What’d you just do?”
Oliver Graf: Yeah. Why-
Rodrigo Ballon: “Oh, yeah. But I’m still a manager.” Now, you walk into a traditional bank, they’re going to say, “Sorry. Because we don’t have proof that you’re going to make the same.” But someone like me, I’m like, “Okay. Cool. Service industry. We’re going to create a letter of explanation documenting that yeah, you’re managing restaurants they’re not here. It’s still a restaurant.”
Oliver Graf: Same type of work.
Rodrigo Ballon: Same type of work and we’re going to make your work for you but don’t do that. Don’t do things like that. Don’t buy a car. Don’t change jobs. Don’t stop paying your bills.
Oliver Graf: Even credit cards, right? You don’t really want to do a whole lot with your credit at all.
Rodrigo Ballon: No. No. Don’t go pull money out of a credit card and go buy a house.
Oliver Graf: Definitely not. Yeah. Right.
Rodrigo Ballon: Not smart. And just always consult before you do something. Go to your real estate agent. Go to your lender. Figure out whose available to answer all your questions. If somebody can’t answer all your questions, go work with somebody else that can. If they can’t refer you to the right person, move on.
Oliver Graf: They might not be the right person.
Rodrigo Ballon: Absolutely. You got to work with someone that can answer all your questions.
Oliver Graf: Just to go back to what you were talking about a second ago about how important credit is and the different buckets, like 580 to 600, 600 to 620, 620, 640 and so on up the chain. Those little bumps in credit can make a big difference in terms of what you qualify for, the interest rate, purchasing power, all that stuff. Do you have any tips for last-minute credit cleanup?
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah.
Oliver Graf: How to get stuff dropped, things like that?
Rodrigo Ballon: Let’s assume you have maxed-out credit cards. You think, “I’m going to pay all of them to zero.” We have what’s called credit simulators that tell us hypothetical scenarios. Example, if I pay 3,000 here, 2,000 here, 1,000 here, or $400, $600, whatever. You will actually get a higher score by playing with those credit systems.
Oliver Graf: By spreading it around a little?
Rodrigo Ballon: Spreading it around.
Oliver Graf: Interesting.
Rodrigo Ballon: You’ll get a higher score than paying everything to zero. Some people also think paying it and closing it gets you a better credit score. The second you close that trade line, you just killed that entire credit history. Bye-bye. Score’s going to drop.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, my advice is last minute. If you’re in a rush to do something, consult a mortgage banker. Don’t go to the bank because the bank doesn’t do this for you. Go to a mortgage banker that has credit simulators that can do a hypothetical scenarios, look at your credit, look at the money. Figure out where you need to be. Then, some scores actually tailor only for FHA, some for conventional and so forth. That lender will be able to explain and say what you qualify for.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, if you’re going to do something silly and pay everything at once, consult first. Keep your money because you may not need all that money that you think to pay off debt. You may be able to use that for repairs on your home purchase or your down payment or your closing costs.
Oliver Graf: Just to recap. Don’t close lines.
Rodrigo Ballon: Don’t close lines.
Oliver Graf: Keep balances low.
Rodrigo Ballon: No higher than 35%.
Oliver Graf: No lates.
Rodrigo Ballon: Pay stuff on time.
Oliver Graf: Any strategies on how to get stuff dropped off or get old stuff removed?
Rodrigo Ballon: So, you can always go to credit repair. That’s out there and that’s available and kudos to everyone that does credit repair. That’s not my professional field so I don’t want to-
Oliver Graf: Speak on it.
Rodrigo Ballon: … really speak on it.
Oliver Graf: I’ll just give them a quick tip on that, then, because this is something that we’ve done a lot with a lot of people is just use the Credit Karma app.
Rodrigo Ballon: Cool.
Oliver Graf: It’s super easy. They’ve kind of appified the whole make your credit better and it kind of will guide you, do this, do that on different things you can do but that’s more of a long-term play. What I’m kind of more interested in is what you just said about these credit simulators. Tell me more about that.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, let’s say you’ve got five credit cards and all of them range from a thousand dollars to $5,000, so let’s say you only have $10,000 but you have $10,000 to pay off your debt but you don’t know where to pay it. You can pay maybe 40% in one, 30% in one, 20% in one. Literally, we put how much you’re going to pay. Ironically, it’ll make one bureau shoot up, one bureau shoot down, and one stay mediocre. So, we get to play to see where we need to be and we’re going to say, “Okay. This is …” Instead of you paying 4,000, I need you to pay $3,100. Why not 4,000? Because your score is not going to change but if you pay 31 and have a little bit higher than that-
Oliver Graf: It moves the needle.
Rodrigo Ballon: … your score is going to go up. That doesn’t make sense. Of course not but that’s okay. It’s just, I’m explaining it to you. Then, we show them the proof. We do the screenshots of what it looks like. They’re like, “No way.”
Oliver Graf: Wow!
Rodrigo Ballon: Absolutely. That’s algorithms.
Oliver Graf: Yeah. It’s the AI, right?
Rodrigo Ballon: Yes.
Oliver Graf: It already got it figured out, so does that address collections and maybe older stuff that’s on there?
Rodrigo Ballon: So, collections technically you just don’t want to touch. You want to pay them in closing because paying off a collection doesn’t improve your score. It’s actually admitting fault at the end, so the second you pay, your score is going to drop. Not all collections drop but 90% of that collections will make your score drop.
Oliver Graf: And you might not know the answer to this but I’m just curious what you would think because this just happened to me. I found on my credit report a Macy’s card that got charged off to collections that I’ve never opened. I’ve never opened a Macy’s card in my life. I’ve never bought anything large at Macy’s ever. So, what do you have for someone in that situation?
Rodrigo Ballon: So, in that case, you have to do what’s called disputing. You have to dispute the account. You have to call the creditor, so you call whatever Visa or MasterCard was open within the Macy’s credit bureau and tell them, “Hey. This wasn’t me. I never did this.” So, it could be credit fraud, right?
Oliver Graf: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rodrigo Ballon: And you say, here’s my ID. I live in San Diego. No, I don’t live in Texas. I live in San Diego. No, I don’t live here. No, I don’t go there. That’s not me. Here’s all the proof. It’s just disputing it.
Oliver Graf: And then wait.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. So, here’s something. The second you dispute an account, that account stops reporting to the credit bureaus. However, when you buy a house, you have to remove your accounts off dispute.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, a lot of credit repairs will say, “Hey. Let’s just dispute all the accounts and your score’s going to go up.” Sure, because it’s done reporting. If you have one or two accounts that are good, it’ll help improve your score. But what they don’t tell you is the second you buy a house, you must remove the accounts out of dispute.
Oliver Graf: Oh, wow!
Rodrigo Ballon: And that will lower your score.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, it’s better in your case or anyone else that experiences this. You call the credit company. You explain your situation. A lot of people are forgiving, especially if there was no revolving charges. They’ll be like, “Okay. Well, someone did it. No problem. We’ll clean it up.” A simple letter, sometimes an attorney letter but always ask to speak to a supervisor. Never talk to the people that answer from all over the world. Ask for a supervisor and then explain your case.
Oliver Graf: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And then write a letter.
Rodrigo Ballon: Write a letter and a really good detailed letter explaining how you have great credit. You’re an honest person. You don’t shop. Someone clearly opened it trying to do fraud. It’s not me.
Oliver Graf: And how quickly do you see those types of things getting resolved?
Rodrigo Ballon: Generally about 30, 45 days.
Oliver Graf: Okay. So, that’s not too bad.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah, no.
Oliver Graf: It’s not like months and months.
Rodrigo Ballon: No, no, no.
Oliver Graf: All right. We’ll have to get on that. No offense, Macy’s but I didn’t buy any of your stuff.
Oliver Graf: Very cool. So, one other thing that I heard that I just wanted to run by you is that making your mortgage payment bimonthly will reduce the overall length of the mortgage. From what I understand, basically, let’s say you have a $3,000 mortgage payment. You pay $1,500 on the first and $1,500 on the 15th, and because you’re making 52 payments or whatever that is, 26, 24 payments, it reduces the length of the mortgage.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, sure. If you’re paying more monthly, you’re always going to reduce-
Oliver Graf: But it’s not paying more. It was cut your payment in half.
Rodrigo Ballon: Two payments. So, if my bill’s 2,000 a month, I’m going to pay 4,000. Example, right? Your [crosstalk 01:16:13]-
Oliver Graf: No, no. If my mortgage is 4,000, I’m paying 2,000 on the first and 2,000 on the 15th.
Rodrigo Ballon: Wait. Okay, but you’re-
Oliver Graf: So, you’re paying the same amount of money-
Rodrigo Ballon: … still paying the same. So, someone just asked me this yesterday. So, let me clarify. Is that going to shave your payment? You’re still paying the same amount and you’re still paying the same amount.
Oliver Graf: You’re paying the same amount.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, that’s not going to do anything.
Oliver Graf: Yeah, but there’s an extra payment because of the way that you’re paying.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, the best way and this is the way I learned way back when I started in 2005 is you always make an additional payment to a principal. So, let’s say your payment was $4,000. When you make that $4,000 payment, 75 to 80% of that payment-
Oliver Graf: Is going to interest.
Rodrigo Ballon: … is 100% Interest. Most people don’t realize that.
Oliver Graf: Yeah, especially at the beginning of the loan.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. Absolutely. So, what you do is you get a check and you write principal because banks are smart. They’ll apply it to interest. You write principal and you send them the check. By doing that, you’re reducing the amount of debt because we’re always going to pay on what we were lent.
Rodrigo Ballon: So that’s how you do it. You have to write a check separated, and you have to specify principal payment. If you do it for that same amount example yeah that’s how you’re going to chop it off. Some people say make two principal payments, full payments of whatever your mortgage is a year. You’re going to eventually chop that thing down from a 30-year mortgage down and let’s say like an 18 or 28 years.
Oliver Graf: Yeah. It’s years. It’s a lot. It’s not just a small difference.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yes, absolutely but my recommendation is and that’s the way I was trained as a youngster, always make additional payment but specify that it’s straight principal, not interest.
Oliver Graf: I love that. That’s a good tip, too. Good distinction. Write, “Principal,” on the check.
Rodrigo Ballon: Absolutely.
Oliver Graf: And then send it in.
Rodrigo Ballon: Absolutely.
Oliver Graf: So, stated income, we kind of already addressed. Best loan for entrepreneurs.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah, bank statement loans.
Oliver Graf: What about you? What do you investing in these days?
Rodrigo Ballon: So, I’ve dabbled in some green investments and I’ve dabbled in real estate, right?
Oliver Graf: Okay.
Rodrigo Ballon: This year we’re going to be doing, my wife and I were going to be making some investments out of state.
Oliver Graf: Okay. What kind of projects are you looking at?
Rodrigo Ballon: Maybe doing some spec to sell, buy land, build construction, sell.
Oliver Graf: Wow! Ground up.
Rodrigo Ballon: Uh-huh (affirmative), on different areas, get a second home, [crosstalk 01:18:30].
Oliver Graf: Would that be like opportunity zone type development or just really building beautiful, custom homes?
Rodrigo Ballon: No. Really building beautiful homes, maximizing your money, make that dollar really work for you in targeted areas. Most people that are in the West Coast, let’s say California a lot of people are either moving to Arizona,-
Oliver Graf: Texas.
Rodrigo Ballon: … Texas, Utah, Montana, anywhere where state tax can be zero to a certain amount.
Oliver Graf: Zero to a lot less than it is here yeah.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah, but yeah, doing some of that. In the low run areas like in the … What do you call it? You just said it.
Oliver Graf: Opportunity zone.
Rodrigo Ballon: Opportunity zones of San Diego, those are huge investments. They’re really good. I’m just, I’ve been fortunate that I’ve invested a little bigger. I don’t like sitting on stuff for a longer time. I’d rather invest in something big that’s going to have a big payout and sit on it for a few months less than a year, reap the benefits and do it again. I like doing that.
Oliver Graf: And that’s why you like the development side?
Rodrigo Ballon: That’s why I like the development side. Check it out. You can do 20 flip properties and make 50,000, make a million bucks, stress out, get gray hair, piss off your family.
Oliver Graf: Do a lot of work. That’s a lot of work, yeah.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah or you can do two beautiful homes or less than five, make the same amount, chill out and spread it through a certain amount of time.
Oliver Graf: That’s cool.
Rodrigo Ballon: And it’s just thinking smart with your money. How can I maximize that profit but work smarter and work less? So that’s what I like doing.
Oliver Graf: That’s great. Where you guys looking at developing? Where …
Rodrigo Ballon: Utah.
Oliver Graf: Utah. Okay, and are you looking in the less populated areas? Are you looking in the resort-y, like Park City type stuff?
Rodrigo Ballon: Next door. Next order the resort-y areas.
Oliver Graf: So, like St. George and …
Rodrigo Ballon: Heber, Midway, and there’s all these beautiful towns around there. Why? When people go skiing, if you can afford it, you can go to Whistler, but if you want to splurge and you live in California, you’re not going to go to Mammoth or Tahoe. You’re going to go to Utah. You’re going to go to-
Oliver Graf: Colorado. Right.
Rodrigo Ballon: … Colorado. You’re going to go to Montana and Utah’s one of those places that’s got so much land, similar to Texas, where just developments going to blow up because there’s just a ton of land and everyone goes there to ski or to enjoy the summers and hike and fish and do this and that but the reason that I personally like it, the Olympics were hosted in Park City.
Oliver Graf: Tons of development happened.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. There’s talk that in 2030, next Olympics I think are in Italy, and the ones after that, there’s talk that Utah may get it back in 2030.
Oliver Graf: Oh, wow.
Rodrigo Ballon: Example, the Four Seasons is building a billion dollar resort. Most people don’t know.
Oliver Graf: With a B.
Rodrigo Ballon: Billion dollar resort.
Oliver Graf: Wow!
Rodrigo Ballon: And they already started dynamiting the mountain building trails last week,-
Oliver Graf: Crazy.
Rodrigo Ballon: … when I was there and we’re in 2020. It’s common sense. Okay, if they’re expanding, blowing up, developing maybe I should buy something now whether it’s a lot, build whatever, sit on that for a little bit and then sell it for a profit, So, yeah that’s … Again, I’d rather invest bigger and make my profit quicker with less stress-
Oliver Graf: On less deals.
Rodrigo Ballon: … on less deals.
Oliver Graf: And then take the money and run-
Rodrigo Ballon: That’s right.
Oliver Graf: … and repeat.
Rodrigo Ballon: Repeat. Yeah.
Oliver Graf: I love it. It’s a great strategy. Then, this is one of the kind of questions I like to end with. What are some of your favorite tools, apps, softwares that you just love in terms of just running your business?
Rodrigo Ballon: I love Crisp.
Oliver Graf: Okay. Never heard of that.
Rodrigo Ballon: Crisp is a keyboard that lets you do templates on your Outlook email. So, I’ve got about, call it, I’m just going to throw in an example. I’ve got I think 15 different templates. If you’re a VA buyer, if you’re a new applicant, if you’ve applied or whatever it may be, I’ve got three templates. If you’re FHA, I’ve got three templates. If you’re doing a bank statement loan, I’ve got templates. If you’re a lead from an open house, whatever I’ve created these templates via the Crisp keyboard on my phone, where everything … All I have to do is put the realtors name, their name, and the address and I’ll just blast it. Instead of creating an email and getting … What do you call that? [cumper 01:23:11] tunnel?
Oliver Graf: Carpel tunnel.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah, carpel tunnel, arthritis, whatever. It’s just one click. It’s like they say, “The one-stop shop.” I’m the one-click [inaudible 01:23:19] on my iPhone.
Oliver Graf: That’s great. Crisp with a K or a C?
Rodrigo Ballon: C.
Oliver Graf: With a C?
Rodrigo Ballon: C-R-I-S-P.
Oliver Graf: And that’s for your iPhone? That’s an app?
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. I don’t know if it works for Androids and whatever else type of phones out there but yeah. Crisp is phenomenal. I also love using, so whatever title company you work with as a lender. Me, I work with type or title with my buddy Ryan Lipsey.
Oliver Graf: Ryan Lipsey. Shout out to Ryan Lipsey.
Rodrigo Ballon: Ryan Lipsey and they have a phenomenal tool where you can just, a realtor and a lender can be with a buyer at an open house and just put in the numbers. Everything’s already populated. You have the target rate, target mortgage insurance, property tax average, because we’re in San Diego, for San Diego.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, I love having tools on hand as opposed to busting out a calculator and doing everything backwards, you just plot it in and it just spits it out and it breaks it down colorfully. It breaks down what a closing cost would be. So, everything’s already pre-populated-
Oliver Graf: Love it.
Rodrigo Ballon: … which is super cool.
Oliver Graf: What was that called again?
Rodrigo Ballon: That? I mean, it’s what every title company has a separate one.
Oliver Graf: Oh, gosh. So, it’s Ticor’s tool?
Rodrigo Ballon: It’s Ticor’s tool. I think it’s called Ticor Pro, or Ticor One, I think.
Oliver Graf: So, holler at Ryan Lipsey, if you want to get that.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. That’s right. That’s right.
Rodrigo Ballon: Then, another see tool that I like using. I don’t know. You know what? Let’s look. I have like 40 tools. I have a tool for everything.
Oliver Graf: I love it.
Rodrigo Ballon: So, let’s see. I’m looking at this right now.
Oliver Graf: Rodrigo the tool man Ballon.
Rodrigo Ballon: I have Salesforce on my phone. I love Salesforce. So, someone’s applying, I can just click here and it’ll tell me how many leads came in. They’ll tell me what agent sent me the lead. It’ll tell me what they’re acquiring and if anyone’s touched it.
Rodrigo Ballon: I like having Word. You can have Microsoft Word on your phone. Why? Because when people need approval letters, instead of me going to my office, which I used to do. Waste of time. I just put everything in on my phone, send the name, send the address, send whatever. I mean, I’ve even been at the movies when I see the phone ringing and I’ll auto-text, “Hey. I’m in the movies.” “Cool. No worries. Can you sent me an approval letter?”
Oliver Graf: Here you go.
Rodrigo Ballon: They’re like, “Oh, that’s cool. I don’t give a shit, but hey I need an approval letter.” “Cool. No worries. Let me just send it to you real quick.” I’ll just, I’ll turn down the brightness and I’ll just send it over, so having Word really helps.
Rodrigo Ballon: I love having another app called WhatsApp. So, I do a lot of foreign national business. There could be a lot of Canadians, a lot of people in South America, Latin American countries, Mexico, whatever, maybe where WhatsApp’s a resource where you can just talk. It’s for free and texts internationally no problem, which is super cool. That’s a tool that other people around the world use more than text messaging.
Oliver Graf: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Than texting, yeah.
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. So, I love-
Oliver Graf: Cheap and free.
Rodrigo Ballon: … cheap and free. I mean, honestly, Waze. I love Waze in traffic, Dropbox. So, my clients obviously cure a link through my email which gets automatically uploaded, which is really cool but I also like Dropbox. A lot of people like sending their documents. Always protect it so Dropbox is super cool. You just put the email address you’re going to send it to and upload it that way. It’s super secure, so I like that. I mean, I’m-
Oliver Graf: So, you’re creating a transaction file on Dropbox?
Rodrigo Ballon: Yes.
Oliver Graf: Giving them the email so when they need to upload something they just fire it straight in?
Rodrigo Ballon: Yeah. Straight in.
Oliver Graf: I love it.
Rodrigo Ballon: It’s pretty cool. I mean, I don’t know, man. Those are just amazing apps that I love to use that tailor to what I do in business, which is [crosstalk 01:26:36]. I have three different calculator applications that I have. Some the amortize loans over 30 years and give you a payment from year one to year 30, showing you how you pay down the balance. I mean, I love just lots of different tools but yeah those other ones. Crisp is great for a keyboard app.
Oliver Graf: Yeah. I’m going to check out. Love it, man.
Oliver Graf: Well, dude, I really appreciate it, man.
Rodrigo Ballon: Well, thank you.
Oliver Graf: It’s been a ton of great insight. I think there’s been a ton of nuggets that you dropped.
Oliver Graf: If you guys have any questions or want to know more, leave a comment below. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. We’re on iTunes, YouTube, all the major platforms. Again, if you’re in Real Closers on Facebook, you can make these interactive with us. We look forward to seeing you on the next one.
Rodrigo Ballon: Cool. Thank you.
Oliver Graf: Thanks a lot, Rodrigo. Appreciate you, man.
Rodrigo Ballon: Thank you. Cheers.
Oliver Graf: Cheers.
Rodrigo Ballon: Thanks.
“Business comes from relationships.”
“I would deliver on my YES.”
“That’s the future of business: Automation.”
“I love systems.”
“It’s not about picking up the phone and calling 300 people. It’s about creating one killer campaign and sending it to 300 people.”
“It’s called delegation and letting go.”
“The people you trust with your business, you better damn well take care of them. You’ve got to pay them great, make them feel loved and appreciated every single day, thank them for everything that they’re doing … because I’m nothing without them.”
“When I prospect realtors, I need to know more about them than they think I know about them.”
“You have to respect people’s time.”
“It’s not always about giving back to the top, top, top people. It’s about who you really believe will work best with that other person because you want to give them a phenomenal experience.”
“You’re as good as your last deal.”
“Every transaction is an opportunity to get at least three referrals.”
“I’m nothing without my team.”
“I’d rather invest bigger and make my profit quicker—with less stress.”
- Big Purple Dot
- Follow Up Boss
- Real Closers Facebook Group
- Credit Karma
- Ryan Lipsey at Ticor Title
Connect with Rodrigo
Connect with Oliver
Other episodes of founders club you might like:
From Goldman Sachs to Developing a $20,000,000 Commercial Project ft. Sal Buscemi
Cory Boatright – How to Make Big Profits Wholesaling Real Estate
Thank you for watching!
If you’d like to see all the episodes go to: www.OliverGraf.tv/FoundersClub
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