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Mortgages Reimagined

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How To Land A Whale With Michael Harrington

HBS Michael Harrington | Landing Whale Clients


Whales, or large clients in the real estate business, are often very tricky and challenging to make deals with. At least, that’s usually what people think. But what does it really take to land whales? Does it have to be so tricky and mind-wrecking to get a whale to say yes? In today’s episode, Michael Harrington shares his experience with landing whales and the valuable insights he learned on how to make effective relationships with them and ultimately make them say yes. Michael is a 26-year-old veteran of the industry and was named the Number One Loan Officer in Houston Agent Magazine in 2020. Tune in as Michael informs, inspires, and entertains us with the whole deal on how to hunt whales! 

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How To Land A Whale With Michael Harrington

Our guest is a 26-year veteran in our industry, married, and a father of four. He strikes a rare balance between family and managing his mortgage practice. He has a deep knowledge of the industry. Not only is he a coach, but he was also the number one loan officer in Houston Agent Magazine in 2020. He enjoys time with his family traveling, and he is a pilot. He’s also a coach. I attended an Amplifii event where I got to have a deeper understanding of his story. I’d love to hear more about your story. Welcome, Michael.

I’m looking forward to this.

I enjoyed our time together. Thank you for attending Amplifii. Michael, you’ve been in the business a long time, and I feel like I know you a lot better now. I have a lot more respect for you and what you’re doing in the industry. I’d love for the audience to get to know you. If you can give us a little bit of your background, like how you got into the business, that would be helpful.

When I was eighteen, I was living in New Hampshire. I didn’t have a career path, but I knew I didn’t want to go to college. I was working at that time at the United States Postal Service pushing buttons on a keyboard. I was what they call a DCO operator where stuff is flying across the screen and you’re typing in the addresses. It was the most boring job you can imagine. I thought I want to be the fastest at what I do and I kept getting faster and faster at that.

I would go in and they would sit me down and say, “Your accuracy rate is 98.736%. You could be at 99% if you slow down.” I said, “How fast am I?” They’re like, “You’re the fastest keyer here but you could be more accurate.” I was like, “If I’m the fastest keyer and I’m typing twice as fast as the next person, do I get a bonus or an override?” They said to me, “No, you don’t get any bonus. We don’t reward speed.” I realized at that point in time that no matter how hard I worked, I was only going to get a salary. That’s when I realized that I needed to do something that would pay for my efforts.

My mom knew someone down here in Texas that was in real estate, so I came down here. I’m very scared because I was by myself. I was renting a garage apartment behind the real estate office. It was international real estate and commercial. It was very hard. It was dealing with Chinese diplomats overseas. It was late nights doing faxes and so forth.

It’s back in ‘96 when we used fax machines and stuff. Having to work from midnight to 3:00 on a project, because that’s when they were overseas, I got disheartened. My mom knew someone else in Houston but she was in the mortgage business. I got robbed in the apartment and I was like, “I need to get out of this apartment.” She’s like, “You could buy a house.”

I was like, “I just turned nineteen. How am I going to buy a house?” She said, “You can buy a house. We can work this out.” I was making $22,000 a year, and the houses back then were $80,000 to $100,000. It was four times my income. I was like, “How am I going to afford a house?” In three generations, my family has rented our whole lives. We’ve never owned anything. She showed me how to use down payment assistance with the City of Houston and how to refinance my car. More importantly, the topic that we might cover has to do with what the market’s bearing right now, which is seller-paid temporary 2-1 buydowns.

The builder paid for a 2-1 buydown and then bought my rate down from 7.5% to 5.5% the first year. I was able to afford my first home and that’s what opened up my eyes to home ownership and the dream of people that thought they couldn’t own a house. At 19 and 2 months old, I bought my first home with $110.36 at the closing deal.

That’s what to be proud of. I was 32 when I bought my first home. Did you get into the mortgage business at that time?

I did.

Is she an agent?

No. My mom wasn’t an agent. She knew some people in Houston and was doing some over-the-phone consultant work. She was an interesting character, which I know you found out during our session together. It was 1996 and 1997, so it was like a market with the same interest rates. It’s almost the exact same rate than it is now, and they’re freaking out now about rates going up. I’m like, “We were excited because rates had come down 7.5%.” It’s all about perspective, but at least I was able to buy a house with such a low income. In that house, I made $30,000 three years later on the sale of that home at age 22.

People are freaking out today about rates going up. We were excited because rates had come down from 8%, 7.5%. It's all about perspective. Share on X

That’s an opportunity most people right now might miss if they’re not looking at the market. Most people want lower interest rates but we’ve got massive inflation. That means your home prices are going up. It’s a conversation that I have every day. What’s the conversation you’re having with your clients? It seems repetitive every day right now about the market.

Obviously, they don’t want prices to keep going up. They’re concerned about raising the fed rate even further raising interest rates. I’m sure you’ve heard Barry Habib in our business say that he feels it currently padded the bonds and the market is already padded for the November and December increase in rates.

I personally think the top out is probably 8%. I don’t think it’s going to go much higher than that. When I’m talking to clients, I’m talking about the temporary aspect of the interest rates. I do think rates will come down. We can’t obviously promise that, but based on statistical data that is being provided to us by people like MBS Highway with Barry Habib’s Company, I do think rates are going to come down at the beginning of 2023. Do you use Optimal Blue as well?

No. We have our own pricing engine but similar.

A lot of pricing engines have the ability to save that price and the client. What we’re doing right now is we’re taking every single client we close, and we’ll put a rate watch on their alerts for 1 point or 1.5 below, or whatever we’re closing the math. When six months roll around, both me and the client are getting the same exact email saying, “It’s time.”

I learned that technique from a guy named David Jaffe. He’s worked for On Q Financial and Guaranteed Rate. He’s a $360 million producer in 2021. He is a Refinanced King in California. Most of his clients have always been adjustable-rate mortgages. Of course, we’re seeing a lot more ARMs. I think you saw the news where both HousingWire and Scotsman Guide were talking about the fact that an 18% increase in the adjustable-rate mortgage business. I’m seeing a lot more of that. People are going to ARMs in Texas.

I feel like it’s 99% fixed rates. People are not comfortable with a discussion yet. I would say getting them comfortable and doing a discussion with them about adjustable-rate mortgages and educating them that this is not a neg am ARM back in the ‘08 timeframe. This is a temporary interest rate until The rate comes back down. If they don’t, you can still refinance to a fixed rate down the road as well. I’m pushing people towards ARMs.

What I’m hearing you say is to use education as a way to help your client understand what’s happening in the market and getting them familiar with using an ARM. There are two schools of thought in this current market in my opinion. You can either use a buydown to help a client get a lower interest rate or if interest rates are going down, take a higher rate with no points as high as you can and then refinance it next year. Do you subscribe to either of those two philosophies? What advice would you give to a loan officer or a client who’s buying a home right now?

HBS Michael Harrington | Landing Whale Clients
Landing Whale Clients: There are two schools of thought in this current kind of market: you can either use a buy down to help a client get a lower interest rate or take a higher rate with no points as high as you can and then refinance it next year.


I would keep it super simple. If the seller is willing to give money, do this temporary 2-1 buydown if the seller is not willing to give money, do an adjustable-rate mortgage. Most lenders now are offering FHA, VA, and conventional on all three products. Have you seen jumbo do temporary 2-1 buydowns? Personally, I don’t think we have any yet on the ability to do jumbo but we’re in the process of asking. In regards to the adjustable-rates, I would offer that for all our jumbo and then of course, any conforming loans if the seller is not willing to work over the money.

Let’s say you’re selling a home that’s $500,000. Somebody is putting 20% down and you get a $25,000 discount on the price. Would you advise them to take 3 to 5 points and lower the interest rate rather than doing the seller buydown?

No. The rates are going to come back down. Which one would you want to sit in first? Let’s remember that if you’re in the buydown for eight months, which is the temporary 2-1 buydown, you can get a chunk of it back if, for some reason, it’s not utilized and you refinance the note. They don’t use the money in the buydown because the buydown is money that’s held escrow. if they don’t use the money, it comes back to you as a consumer, even if the seller’s loan has paid it.

I’ve never experienced a 2-1 buydown so I don’t know a lot of information about that. Could you touch on the 2-1 buydown and your understanding of how that works?

Absolutely. I’m not sure what kind of calculators most people are using. I prescribe and highly recommend having one of these puppies. I’m not sure if you’ve got one yourself.

What is it?

It’s called a Qualifier Plus III. This calculator, you can get it at the real estate store. It’s a real estate agents calculator. It’s even on the phone. It’s probably the number one app I use during the day if I was going to be honest with you. I’ll show you what it looks like on the phone here real quick. It’s a $20 app on the phone. You see the tax insurance then you see the payment term interest rate. What I do is I calculate, let’s say, 7.5% so I would put the 7.5 in for the interest rate for a 30-year term.

The price is $500,000 and they’re putting 5% down. It’s calculating everything and I can hit payment now, and there’s the payment right there. I can save it. I sort that payment in as number one and that’s 7.5%. If it’s a 2-1 buydown, then the first year is going to be 5.5%. It’s a 2% bracket difference. If I would put 5.5 payment, I’m going to store that under number two. I’m going to subtract to recall one and that’s the difference per month for the first year.

That’s a $624 difference in the first year.

What’s $25,000 on the price difference?

It’s not much.

If the seller is paying this and you multiply that by twelve, that’s the first year cost. You would do the same thing for the 6.5% and then add that to this. There’s your total and you divide that by the loan amount. It’s usually an average of 2.25% to 2.4% of the sales price on a lower down payment.

Does the client have to pay anything upfront on the 2-1 buydown? How does that work? Do they get a little bit higher interest rate?

Think of it this way. It’s a locked product like a normal locked product. All you’re doing is you’re having your closing department keep the money aside, which most companies are now offering the 2-1 buydown. Our company currently is offering the 1-1-1 and 3-2-1. 3-2-1s are very expensive because it’s 3% different.

If you think about it, that’s going to be almost $20,000 by itself. If you can get a seller to pay $25,000 or $30,000, that’s awesome. You have to check with your compliance department. Some compliance departments might think of this differently. With the temporary 2-1 buydown, it is not included in the 3% cap because the seller is paying for it.

What about jumbo? Did they have the 2-1 buydown on jumbo? Do you know any jumbo lenders out there that are doing it?

I don’t. Our company is currently asking because there’s so much interest in this now even at the higher loan amounts. As of right now, I haven’t heard of any jumbo offering either a temporary 2-1 buydown on any of the fixed products or the ARMs.

What are some strategies you’re using with your database right now as the market starts to slow down? We’ve got extra time with your database that you think will help if interest rates do come down. You already mentioned earlier about doing a rate watch in Optimal Blue. What other strategies do you think are going to help loan officers in this market that will set them up for success?

The first thing is you’ve got to decide on how many touchpoints you’re going to have and what type of touchpoints. I’m talking as if you’re designing a war room image like, “Am I going to flank them from the side? Am I going to flank them from the front?” How are we doing this in regards to attacking? I hate to say it but attacking the drawbridge that it comes down, which is their ability to see what you’re sending them. You have to design something via text, phone calls, email, and mailing. All four.

Let’s start with the most snail part, which is the mail. We don’t mail automated stuff. I have my marketing gal. She handwrites the envelopes because it’s been proven that 68% of what’s handwritten gets opened. It’s proven that if you have it typed on there, the chances of them tearing that sucker up is pretty high.

Handwritten always gets opened up. It’s rare that it doesn’t. That’s why when you do it for sale by owner or something like that, you get a lot of handwritten mail from agents. It’s because they know it’s going to get opened up. Handwritten envelopes if you can. I’ve got a huge database so we can’t mail our database every single month.

Handwritten always gets opened up. That's why when you do a “for sale by owner” or something like that, you get a lot of handwritten mail from agents. It's because they know it's going to get opened up. Share on X

What we do is partition it with the alphabet so 1st quarter, 2nd quarter, 3rd quarter, and 4th quarter. That way, every year, every single person is getting at least one envelope from me that’s handwritten because I’ve got 2,200 people in my client database that we’ve kept in the database. We do it that way. It was put up into 400 to 500 envelopes per quarter.

What are you writing in that card?

We do a combination of Brian Buffini’s mailing that he’s got. If realtors are familiar with Brian Buffini’s systems, lenders might be as well. They have both a lender letter and they also have a realtor letter. That way, you’re not saying the same thing as your real estate agents if they’re in Brian Buffini’s system. It’s slick with a cover letter that’s usually pertinent to nowadays information. The last one that went out had to do with something to do with pets. I did a combination of that plus a little thing about the best healthy-eating pet stores around town type.

That way, it’s localized. The month before that, it was how to spring clean your house or something like that. It depends on the time of year. Christmas is approaching but I don’t send out recipe cards. I don’t like recipe cards personally. My wife does her own recipes online. Whatever you think is going to get their attention. I know with the core, we used to do Letter of the Heart. Of course, a combination Letter from the Heart, which is something more personalized about you and your family and there’s also more information about your industry.

What I hear you saying is to give something of value that you think your clients would get something out of. For those reading, if you’ve never heard of a Letter from the Heart, it’s every quarter or every month writing something about your life, a story about what’s going on, and maybe a lesson that you’ve learned. I’m surprised when I get those Letter from the Heart how often I read that but yet I’m still not doing it. You’ve inspired me to start doing a Letter of the Heart. Thank you. For mail, we got that. How about email, phone, or text?

Let’s go to the phone and text. We also want to hit them with a phone call once a quarter. What I’ve been doing is 5 to 10 phone calls per day to the past client database. It’s a rolling thing on my phone where I have all my contacts. I’ll pick a letter, start somewhere, and then start making calls from the card.

My conversation is so simple right now. You don’t even have to write this down. It’s easy. It’s like, “With everything going on with the economy and craziness out there with inflation, I want to see how you and your family are doing. How are things going?” I keep it that simple. Let them open up. Let them say, “Oh my gosh.”

I talked to a guy, Mark Graff. He’s one of my past clients. His father passed away. He wants to talk about financial advising so he’s going to be a referral that I can then give to my financial advisor. Also, a will and testament attorney. By giving them referrals, you know what that means. They refer back to me.

I’ve got three new financial planners I’ve put on my sheet because financial planners are so busy right now with conversations with people. It’s the perfect time to connect with those financial planners. That shows my old school right there. For me, it’s about making sure you’re also connecting with them as a person rather than it being about business. You’re like, “How’s your mortgage doing?” Some people will call and say, “How’s the house doing?”

The house is standing. Don’t ask them about the house and renovations because then, it starts to sound like you’re looking for a deal. What you want to do is connect with them. Let them do the talking. They might say their kid is going off to college at UT and then the conversation might turn into, “The rents are going so high.”

HBS Michael Harrington | Landing Whale Clients
Landing Whale Clients: Don’t ask them about the house or renovations because it will start to sound like you’re looking for a deal. What you want to do is connect with them. Let them do the talking.


You might say, “I have a client that recently purchased a condo in Downtown Austin and his kid rented it to the other three kids in the condo. They’re now cashflowing on this property. Have you looked at that?” It stems from a real estate question. All you’re doing is giving them an example but you’re trying to help them from a wealth-building standpoint. They’re going to be more accepting of it because they’re the ones that brought up the topic. You’re the one that intercede and said, “This might be a solution for you.”

What I hear you saying is call and touch them, ask them a simple question, and see where it goes from there. I love that idea. I remember when I was young in my career, I used to get nervous to call my clients. Now, the calls that we’ve been making is calling the clients and saying, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed how much your home has gone up in value.” The reason I’m reaching out is some people want to know what’s going on in the market. No surprise rates are going up and I’m referring out a lot of lines of credit. Thanks for sharing that. Any other advice on previous clients on what you could do?

If you don’t have an email campaign through your company or the marketing, find one. There are so many campaigns out there with great material. Here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter what’s in the email. It matters that your name pops up. Something went out about our veteran campaign because it’s Veterans Month. It went out to 1,500 people. I got six responses that had nothing to do with the email. I then ended up with one veteran calling me and saying, “I’m going to rent out my current place.”

I knew exactly who it was because I’ve done client appreciation parties and he’s shown up. He’s one of the biggest, baddest, looking veterans I’ve ever seen. He’s a big teddy bear. He’s got the coolest German Shepherd dog that’s so well trained. My daughter got to pet her. I was asking him about the dog and himself. I wouldn’t have done or known that much information about him or thought I know exactly who this is unless he had come to a client appreciation party. I do it every quarter.

The last thing I was going to mention is if you can do it once a year, have a nice big $6,000 to $10,000 party. I know it’s expensive, but the rewards are significant, and here’s why. You have a client appreciation party and you’re trying to figure out who your A clients are. Guess what happens? You find out immediately because they show up at your event. You write them down. Those are going to be your best referral sources out of your client base.

Most of my referrals come from realtors. That’s sad because if you were giving referrals back to your realtors’ solid referrals from your past clients, it builds a better relationship with the realtors that gave you the business in the first place. It’s half the time that client doesn’t remember the realtor, but they remember you because you’re doing all these touchpoints. Second, if it’s a realtor that you never even worked with, now you’ve got the ability to give that business out to somebody. I gave $7.2 million in business in 2021 to my realtor base. I would not have been able to do that if 38% of my business wasn’t coming from my past clients.

That idea of doing a client appreciation party has helped me. One of the strategies that I use is I limit it to 100 people. We did a Top Gun event. It’s a Top Gun movie and we had 100 seats available. It was gone literally in three days. It cost me $1,500, I dressed up in a fighter suit saying the song. It was great.

I was super nervous before I did it but it went off well. What I want you to take from this is doing a client appreciation party, once you have your clients coming, you can call the realtors that referred them to you and ask them to attend. That’s the leverage you have there. Thanks for that. For ideas on client appreciation parties. what do you do?

We’ve got three coming up with our agents. We co-op with our real estate agents, which I’m going to tell you about. You want to talk about a way of making sure you’ve weaved your web of business into your real estate agents is when you are actually doing client appreciation parties and combining it with them.

Now, they’re truly your partner. They’re not going to go off and find another lender tomorrow because now all their businesses weaved in with you. When you offer the support and ability to help them plan a client appreciation, maybe it’s their first one. This is the first one I usually do with people. That’s why we have three on November 12, 2022. It’s going to be fall photos. What we do is we tell the realtor, “Where’s the nearest part to your house or nearest part to where you normally work that you would take your kids? You basically get a photographer and you co-op the photographer.

That’s about $250 per person, you and the realtor. $150 for Chick-fil-A. because Chick-fil-A will stay for three hours because it’s nuggets. It’s real easy finger food. People can use napkins. That way, they don’t get on their nice fancy clothes. You do fall photos or spring photos for them. This is great for realtors that don’t worried about the clients and whether they’re going to like each other. They don’t have to like each other. They show up for their appointed timeframe. It’s a fifteen-minute increment to do the photos with the photographer. You’re giving them family photos, but here’s the most important thing.

You and the realtor are taking photos with the families as they’re standing there in their most perfect clothes with their kids. You’re holding a baby up. I’ve had pictures of realtor holding babies that were not their babies and then they put that on social media. It goes so viral because the baby looks awesome and the kids look great.

You got the photographer taking both photos of you mingling with the parents before the photo shoot. You also have them doing the photos themselves and then they give the photos to the families. It doesn’t cost the family anything. It’s a nice thank-you gift at the end of the year. It’s better than a pie day because it’s a lot less expensive. You don’t have to worry about ten extra pies. Everyone is doing pie day. I told everyone, “There are so many pies.” I had one person coming and they’re like, “This is my fifth pie.” I’m like, “This is no longer special anymore. Everybody is giving pies.” It’s like Oprah Winfrey, “You get a pie.”

I love that fall photos. I’m going to steal that. Any other ideas on some movie night and fall photos?

I’ve done the movie night. The one we did was instead of Cinco de Mayo, we did Casino de Mayo. I invited all my top agents and clients. I used this office space WeWork-type location. They let us use the common area and we had seven tables. It was, which is Bill Howard’s company. He’s got a huge poker/casino company here in Houston. It was very inexpensive.

It won’t bust the bank. With what you said about $1,500, you can get 4 or 5 tables for $1,500. We did seven tables so we were a little bigger at the party, but I’ll be honest with you. Four tables would’ve been fine. I don’t think we needed the extra blackjack tables. It’s better if you have more people at one table. Looking back, I would limit it to maybe four.

That way, it’s got a little bit more exclusivity of people sitting. People were up. We had a cocktail at night type thing. They even have a cocktail company. You have the liquor and stuff, and they bring the bartenders as well and the card dealer. For about $1,500, you can have a nice party. Even if it’s your family and a few realtors at your house or something, they’ll move the furniture and they’ll bring the tables in.

You do none of it. You let them do their thing. You provide the food and you’re good to go. That party did require a little bit of planning because I’ve got a marking person. t. Honestly, other than getting the food here, which we had delivered. We did Lupe Tortillas. It’s nice Mexican food and of course, it was casino. We had some giveaways. It was nice tequila bottles. We did a little raffle for that. We had about 100 people show up and that was on a night. There was a major storm. We had the windows leaking in this place that night because it was way windy but people dressed up in full cocktail gear. It was awesome.

Thanks for that. You have 26 years, I know you got a few wells that you do business with. For the readers that want some ideas on what they could do to follow your footsteps and grab some of those wells, what advice do you have for some of our listeners?

The first key is the target. What’s your target audience? It’s what Rene talked about in our three-day training. He’s like, “You got to figure out who your audience is first and how are you going to communicate with the audience?” To the audience is usually top agents. When people say top agents, they can go through a list. You might not know if that agent is an agent that works for a builder. Maybe they do a lot of relocation or they’re a listing agent. They’ve got a lot of buyers agents. The key first to getting a whale account, which means to get an entire team like a top listing agent. If he or she has got 4 or 5 buyers agents, you have to go after the buyer’s agent first.

The first key in selling is the target. What's your target audience? You have to figure out who your audience is. Share on X

The way to do that is if you have listings that are being done. Let’s say you get a buyer and they’re with the Loken Group and you’re wanting to work with Loken Group. It’s just an example. When you’re at the title company, that title company belongs to the Loken Group. How you treat the title agents and intermingle with those people at the top company is going to make a difference. There’s also an office coordinator.

I would send flowers or something to the actual transaction coordinator on that team and say, “This transaction was so amazing. I wish every one of my agents had a transaction coordinator like you.” I’ve developed relationships with the top transaction coordinators here in Houston. I could tell you one gal works for six different top whales and she’s one of the top transaction coordinators in all of Houston.

She’s very well known. I take her out to dinner, her and her husband. She pokes into the ears of those top listing agents and says, “I wish we could do more deals with the Harrington team because they got it together.” If she says that enough times then I’m the one making the phone call and I might say something like, “Chad, I know you’ve seen our deals come across your desk in the last six months. I’m a top producer. You’re a top producer.” I do that core thing that like-minded individuals need to work together. Sometimes it is timing. I’ll be honest with you. I got 2 whale accounts in the last 2 two months, and I’ve been after 1 of them for 3 years. This is also one thing I need to tell you.

It takes time. This is not something that happens overnight. If you think you’re going to have a lunch meeting or breakfast meeting with a whale and suddenly they’re going to hand you their business on a platter, that’s not going to happen. When you’re talking to a whale, don’t have a PowerPoint presentation that you’ve given to fifteen other agents.

They’re going to see through that real quick. You need to get specifics with them as to what they’re wanting me to partner with them on. It’s going to be something big like client appreciation parties or a program. For database management, how are you going to help them generate more business from their database?

I help them do stuff like that. I ask them questions first like, “What do you want from a partner other than money?” Obviously, they want to keep up with you on money. If it’s money, I’m out because that’s not a partner. You’re grabbing the money from their wallet to help pay for your stuff. I’m not going to get anything from your agents because you’re not introducing me as your preferred lender. If they keep using the word vendor, you’re out, period.

What I heard you say is go after the buyer’s agents, title companies, and the lower-level people that are working for that whale so that they put a good word in their ear. If you’re having a conversation, could you talk about what the framework looks like? what conversation would have the most impact on these whales?

I’ll give you an example. I got a text message from a whale that I’ve worked with in the past. I haven’t worked with them for years because we weren’t working together. I did a couple of strong things for them and then they went elsewhere. I still wanted the account. He texted me and said, “Would you mind doing a review for me?” I guess they’re trying to build their reviews. I said, “Sure. I would love to.” He said, “I’ll do a review for you.” I was like, “Can you mention that one time I did this for your dad in the transaction?”

He said, “Absolutely.” He sent me that little snippet of him doing a review. I send the review I had done for him. That was a couple of years ago but I went ahead and revised and edited it now. I mentioned to him, “Are you still having issues with your database management within your last 30 years of doing business?”

He’s like, “We never did get on that.” I was like, “I offered to come and show your team how to maximize the CRM and the one that you’re using currently, but also how to set up appreciation parties. I’ve got a marketing gal. She’s got a degree in event planning. I’ll bring her along for the ride. She’ll take notes and then she’ll help you guys to implement and get it done.”

We’ve got a Zoom call at 9:00 with me and him, his marketing team, and my marketing teal. It all stemmed from a text message that he sent me. I’ve been trickling on him for quite some time through both Facebook and Instagram. I said, “Congratulations.” Just so guys know, one of the top teams for eXp in the whole nation is this SS team. As I said, I’ve worked with them in the past. They’ve had a couple of turnovers but this is the guy that runs the whole team. He’s known me for twenty-something years. I hate to say it, but it’s putting the bugs in the ears.

I then segue. I didn’t go, “I’ll do a review for you.” End of the conversation. I thought this is my end and I used it. He saw right through it. I’m direct. I’m not pussy footing around. Don’t beat around the bush with top producers. They don’t like that. If you pussy foot around, they’re going to think that’s how you are with their clients. They want to know that you’re solid in the way that you deliver because that’s how they got to where they’re at.

What I heard you say is when you see the opportunity, jump on it and be direct with those agents. This actually popped into my head while we were speaking. What do you think about this? When you get done every month, is the listing agents doing a review on the listing agent for what a great transaction it was and then following that up with a phone call?

When you see the opportunity, jump on it and be direct. Share on X

I’m guilty because we were calling all the listing agents for the last three years. We would call them and say, “I did a transaction with you last year and because rates have gone up, I’ve got so much time on my hand. I thought I would reach out to you to see whether or not we could be a good fit working.”

That conversation turned from, “Really?” They would either ask me the address and I would give it to them. The other thing that I would say is I would go directly at them and I’d say, “We’re going into a difficult time. What I believe is I’m looking for someone that number one I like and who is serious about your business. I only want you to accept this meeting.” If you’re serious about your business, you’re a little scared but you want to work with someone that thinks they can get through these next six months. It did work on a few people, but that’s just an idea.

Another idea is to do a panel. If you can pull it together, it’s a little more difficult to do that. If you’ve got a few whales as I do, you can pull together maybe some mini whales. If you do a panel of either a builder panel talking to whales or you got a whale panel talking to their agents, it gives them a little bit of honor. We talked about it in the core of how to honor agents. Quite frankly, people that are big have ego, and therefore, if you stroke the ego, it works. Instead of saying, “I heard you’re a great big agent,” that’s not enough.

You can say, “You’re a great agent. I’ve heard so much about you. I’d like to put you on a panel in front of your peers to talk about X.” Right now, we’re planning two peer panels, both builder and realtor based for the next couple of months. I’m trying to somehow figure out how to do it with the holidays but it’s critical now that people listen to the whales as to how they’re staying in business and doing it with the current marketplace the way it is.

They want hope. Listening to a few top producers is a way of getting hope, especially if they can attend it for free. I’ve done it at my church because it’s a pretty nice facility right here in Katy. I’ve done it at a public library and Lone Star College. It doesn’t have to cost you money. You can hold an event at a title company because a lot of them have training rooms like Stewart Title Elko, Chicago, and Allegiance. They all have big training rooms so they can invite their database. I’ve done a couple of things with Bar Louie here in Katy with top real estate agents. For the last one I did, I had nine people vendors that contributed towards it. Guess how much I had to pay? Zero.

HBS Michael Harrington | Landing Whale Clients
Landing Whale Clients: People want hope. Listening to top producers is a way of getting hope, especially if they can attend it for free.


We all like to have a little free sprinkle on top of our events, don’t we? How many whales would take that phone call when you say, “I know you’re busy but I wanted to see whether or not you’re interested in being one of our top agent panels.” As soon as you drop one anchor name like Heidi Dugan, they’re going to be like, “Yeah.” You’ve given us a lot of great information from the 2-1 buydown to what to do with our previous clients.

I’ve got a whole page of notes that I’m going to implement. The first thing is giving the review to the listing agent that you’re talking about. Before I let you go, I’d love for you to share with our audience either something that you learned from Amplifii that you think they can take with them like a quote or a book. Something that our audience will appreciate hearing.

I was talking to my number one mentor. He’s the one that brought this up. It’s called Becoming a King. It’s for men and it’s got aspects of Christianity, but it is also a big aspect of being the male figure in your household. When he told me about the book, he was like, “Michael, I only recommend two books. It’s the Bible and this one.” I was like, “I’m listening.” I would recommend that book based on the recommendation that he gave me.

I’ve read Relentless, which is the guy who was the personal coach of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. Relentless taught me during a time like this how to be relentless and not sit on my laurels. That’s another book I’d recommend. Going back to Amplifii. We learned the acronym of LOVE. I’ve listened to every one of my own conversations since that happened. I’m so tempted to do that thing where he said, “Don’t try and interject and relate by telling your story.” What that does is it one ups the conversation.

It’s like I did earlier in this show. As soon as I did that, I was like, “Did I say that?” In my mind, I’m thinking this is a great idea, but I wound up you.

I almost went up on yours too so I held back. I was like, “Your party. Wait until you hear about my party.”

It’s because we know each other. I know you’re not offended. I know you’re giving more to our audience. I’ll let you explain it because it’s such a powerful way to have an impactful conversation, not only with an agent but also with your spouse. This is a great takeaway, so thank you. Go ahead and explain it. First is listen.

You’re listening to them tell you something. You make the observation of something that maybe you could pull out of that statement they gave you. Maybe they told you that they worked for a marketing firm then you validate, “You work for a marketing firm. That’s amazing. I’m always impressed with people that can think outside the box and do marketing. What do you do for the marketing firm?”

Listen to your clients as they tell you something. Make an observation, validate them, and then expand. Share on X

That would be the Expand part and then they say, “I’m actually a project manager.” In the back of your mind, you’re thinking project manager. This is what your mortgage mind says, “This person needs both visual and audio and how they’re going to work. I’m going to have to put numbers in front of them. They’re going to want to analyze it because they’re a project manager, but they’re also going to want to take ownership of it.” You’re thinking that. That’s your analytical part but the caring part should be, “What are the last projects that you did?” That would be the fun part.

When they start talking about that project, then they’re going to be letting go of some stuff. I was talking to a guy named Ali. He was very analytical. He’s the analytical guy for That’s literally his position. I got to see right on my sheet who I’m talking to. I tried to do the LOVE thing. This is where sometimes it can go wrong because I was expanding on his family situation like, “Your wife. How long have you guys been married?” He stopped me because he’s so analytical. He’s like, “I want to ask you a few questions about the mortgage.” He stopped my dig. I was trying to dig in and get to know him better. Look what’s going to happen.

That’s the Observe. You got to observe. If you’re on Zoom, you can look at someone and know what you have. I got on a phone call and it was a husband and wife. I hadn’t talked to the wife yet, but I talked to the husband. This is a decent sized loan and the wife got on and I called her by a wrong name. First of all, I didn’t read the Zoom. I didn’t have any of her information.

Instantly, she corrected me and then she’s chastising the husband. I’m like, “This is so weird.” He is observing. The reason I tell you that is because when you’re on the phone with someone, you can figure out, “Do I need to continue to ask them questions about their personality or do they want to talk about the numbers?”

Needless to say, I went in the wrong direction. The irony is he went ahead and set up a 45-minute discussion because I gave him little things but not too much information. It’s just enough for him to know that I’m the better out. I planted seeds because he was shopping me against There are so many things wrong with right now in regards to their company.

I planted seeds without saying, “You’re going to hate that company.” I had to figure out a way to throw that in there. I said things like, “You might want to check out my reviews online because I’ve got 107 5-star reviews on Google. I’m the most highly reviewed individual loan officer in all of West Houston.” That’s 7 million people and 100,000 loan officers out there. I said, “Go check out reviews for the entire company of on Google. You’re going to find out that my little team has almost 1/3 the amount of reviews of an entire company like I want you to look at the differences. Read through them.”

I could talk to him until I’m blue in the face and it’s not about numbers. I was like, “It’s about you closing on time. You’re getting a house.” I was trying to relate it to his job and he wasn’t biting for that. I was trying to use some of Rene’s stuff and I was working at one point. Again, it’s practice. Practice makes perfect.

Before I let you go, you said earlier that you’ve got more reviews than anybody in West Houston. I’m curious, how do you get those reviews? What do you do besides ask for them?

What I first do is observe whether or not they’ve got Gmail. If they have Gmail, they’re much more likely to do a Google review because they can easily go into their computer or iPad. If they log in, then they hit and go to Michael Harrington Cross Country Mortgage and search my name, it says Post Review right there.

I’ll send that link to them, but I’ll do it right at closing and say, “While you’re doing paperwork and getting funded right now, would you mind doing a quick review from me on Google because the company review is great? You’ve got a great transaction and you sent us some amazing emails. If it’s not on Google, I can’t show other people. I want to show people what you’ve said about my team.” I always make it not about me but about my team. That way, it doesn’t sound so big that you talk about me. Honestly, they usually talk about the entire team. That’s what the review is about. It’s not Michael. It’s Shelly, Fernando, the whole team, and the team effort. They always reference the team. That way, it makes people realize that I’m not some lone Wolf out there.

This has been outstanding. I enjoyed this episode. Thank you for opening up your book of ideas and sharing them with the audience. I’m already looking forward to our next episode and sharing a glass of wine with you soon. Thanks for being on, Michael.

Talk to you soon.


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About Michael Harrington

HBS Michael Harrington | Landing Whale ClientsWhen you come to Michael for your mortgage, he begins by truly listening. He wants to understand your goals and priorities so he can offer a home loan that is right for you, your family, and your future wealth strategies for investment.

As a 26-year veteran of his industry and married father of four, Michael strikes a rare balance: raw knowledge of residential mortgage products as well as deep dedication to his family and community. He was voted by real estate agents as the No. 1 loan officer according to Houston Agent magazine in 2020. In his time off, you’ll find him with his family, traveling, and flying airplanes.

Michael prides himself on having a great team that includes multiple processing and administrative professionals, including a Spanish-speaking loan processor. This team allows him to focus on providing the highest service levels to his clients while also helping him serve even more families in the area.

With clients ranging from Realtors and builders to repeat clients, Harrington stays busy. Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or an avid investor, Michael offers a wide range of loan programs.

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