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Massachusetts Agencies

Garnering Business in a Down Market

Articles from The Massachusetts Focus

Newsletter of Stewart Title Guaranty Company, Massachusetts Offices
Winter 2008, Volume 7, Number 1

Garnering Business in a Down Market
by Melanie Hagopian, Agency Services Representative

It was easy to become complacent when the real estate market was booming. You hired more staff to assist in handling all of the transactions lenders and brokers were sending to you. You worked nights and weekends to keep up with all of the work that was flowing your way. You did not have the time or the inclination to seek new business. As attorneys it may be comfortable answering the calls and responding to the needs of your clients. It is far more difficult to seize the phone and initiate calls; to market our services as professionals. After all, as law students laywers were cautioned against actions that could result in accusations of champerty. Lawyers were admonished against cheapening their profession by advertising their services. Is there a difference between advertising your services and marketing your practices? Absolutely. Rainmaking has always been a necessary part in the vitality of any practice.

In light of the on-going slump in the real estate market, the demise of the subprime mortgage market and the backlash against aggressive lending practices, what can real estate attorneys do to sustain and grow their practices? The short answer is: a lot. You can choose to become part of the solution by working with lenders as they develop residential loan programs that are based upon underwriting standards that carefully balance the borrower’s ability to repay while keeping access to credit available. You can work with MassHousing and community organizations in offering homebuying counseling. You can provide advice and counsel to first-time homebuyers with respect to evaluating appropriate lending vehicles. You can educate and guide your clients throughout the whole homebuying process.

This is also a good time to meet with your lenders to offer assistance in educating their loan originators about new secondary market requirements and to be sure that all personnel understand the closing process from the time the transaction leaves the lender’s office through the pre-closing, closing and post-closing phases and attendant issues handled by your office. When the market picks up, and it will, you will have established a better rapport with the originators and they will better appreciate why you cannot close on Thursday when the loan was sent to you on Monday. It all boils down to communication. When the loan originators understand the closing process from the attorney’s perspective, they will be better able to guide the consumer and set reasonable expectations. During this process of communicating with the loan originators you are marketing, or as lawyers you may prefer to think of the process as rainmaking.

My colleagues and I at Stewart Title Guaranty are here to assist you in rainmaking. We have developed programs and created materials to enable our agents to offer support and guidance to their clients in this difficult market. As attorneys we have a rich tradition, some would argue an obligation, to contribute to the common good. What better way to do so at this critical time in the housing market than for you to offer support and guidance to your clients and for us to do the same for our customers?