Inventing a Better Wheel – Part 3
In the first two parts of this series, we explored the value of developing a strong niche with home buyers and refinancers and how connections in the real estate sector can help. We also explored elevating your marketing for success with these real estate partnerships. In this final piece in the series, we examine the importance of leveraging all your relationships—among staff, clients, carriers, and referral sources—for success in carving this real estate niche in insurance.
LEAN ON YOUR BEST CARRIER RELATIONSHIPS
As we discussed in the previous article, working successfully with mortgage lenders and real estate contacts depends on being punctual, nimble, ready to work quickly and even adopting a mortgage lender’s mindset. Once you get your timing down (kind of like baseball), then you can start swinging for the fences. No matter how great your marketing is, how fast you can issue quotes and binders, or how many cupcakes you bake for the local real estate office, if you don’t have great partners at the carrier level, all of your marketing and process efforts will become a moot point. As an agency, we’re appointed with over 20 carriers, but we consistently place business with about 5 of them. The reason is that they MUST check off three boxes for us.
- They must be a financially strong company, with competitive and consistent rates.
- They need to be great with claims. That’s what insurance is for after all.
- A relationship with underwriting that is fair, flexible, and mutually respects our fast-paced model.
We recently contracted with a large carrier with national reach, because they sold us on these criteria. What surprised us even more, was the investment they are making into this real estate model. On the agent portal you can find resources on how to “cultivate relationships with mortgage brokers.” The page explains, “Mortgage brokers need quick action from agents who can offer an array of insurance products to their constant stream of clients.” It continues, “When people are purchasing or refinancing a home, there’s a good chance they’re also reviewing their overall financial situation and are open to reviewing their insurance portfolio with an agent their mortgage lender recommends.” They also offer services to help locate local mortgage brokers, position yourself as a resource, and build relationships. This made our eyes light up. This is a national brand that really understands the value in our process. Partnering with carriers like this will be a huge asset to your business.
Even carriers with a regional reach understand the value in this model too. I had a discussion with the marketing team at Vermont Mutual a few weeks ago. By volume, we place more business with this carrier than any other. On our end, they are everything we are looking for in a partner. Strong financials, excellent claims service, and an underwriting team that understands our process and is willing to work with us. Shaun Farley, vice president of marketing, echoed our mindset that there is a lot of value in this real estate model. “Traditionally, new purchases perform better from a loss ratio perspective because new homebuyers are more likely to be taking care of their property and showing a pride of ownership,” he said. Not to mention, most homebuyers have a thorough inspection prior to buying, and so they should know what may need to be fixed before the insurance risk inspector even sets foot on the property.
Vermont Mutual had a record year on the back of a record real estate market in 2020, and I believe it’s because there is one common goal, and a mutual trust between agent and carrier. Our marketing representative Diane Hanson added, “I think the relationship you have with your underwriter is remarkable. You realize that when he needs something it has to get done, and in return he’s going to advocate for your agency.” She makes a great point because that’s also something we stress to staff. We treat our underwriters the same way we treat our top referral sources. Responding to inspection recs should be handled just as swiftly as a binder/EOI edit needed for a real estate closing.
An effective process, marketing, carrier experience all hinges on relationships. Developing strong relationships and trust between staff, clients, carriers, and referral sources are going to lead to success in this market. Sometimes it feels like we’re balancing steak knives on our heads, trying to appease everyone at the same time. At the end of the day, we want to write more business, but tread carefully and vet everyone before jumping through hoops–particularly when it comes to your referral sources. Diane at Vermont Mutual has said this to me from day one: “Qualifying the lenders you work with also makes a difference. It’s important to find lenders that have your best interests in mind as an agent too.” Don’t get burned by a referral source that is going to put you in a position to lower your standards for client experience and carrier relationships.
As of December 2020, pending home sales are up 21% from last year, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. Extraordinary demand for new and existing homes, brought on by the stay-at-home culture of the coronavirus pandemic, has the housing market at 10-year high. If your agency is not already implementing a strategy to capitalize on the homebuying market, now is a better time than ever to jump on the bandwagon. While it’s not a secret, a few agencies are figuring out how to corner this niche extremely well and are disrupting the insurance space to drive sales through the roof.
Millennials are evolving from city-dwelling post-grads with a low budget to adults with a budget and desire to move. These insurance consumers need the serious relationship that independent insurance have been providing for decades. They want agents that can work well with their mortgage lender and realtor and can get it done fast.
Create that experience, and they will choose your agency over any other.
John Lapointe is the executive VP for Lapointe Insurance. Through social media marketing and a careful balance of participation in local networking organizations, John has built a virtual network of referral sources within the housing industry in MA, RI, and CT. The strategy has grown monthly new business commissions by over 600% since joining the agency in 2016. His vision is to be an “agent of change” in a 60-year-old family business, to create an agency that embraces change, new ideas, and where people love coming to work. John and his team subscribe to their core values of teamwork, information, growth, doing the right thing, and having fun.
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