For more than 12 years, Bobby Downey helped countless buyers finance the homes of their dreams as a loan officer for an independent mortgage company in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“I enjoyed the side [of the business] of helping people buy their first home or consolidate debt to put them in a much better financial position,” he said.
However, Downey’s passion for the mortgage industry began to wane during the years following the 2007 housing crash and mortgage crisis, as it became harder to approve loans.
“I’d been in the mortgage business for quite a while, and I had gone through the whole mortgage meltdown and downturn,” he explained. “It became harder and harder to get loans done for people, and I got frustrated with the job.”
In 2014, Downey reached his breaking point and told his wife, Jayme, that he wanted to walk away from the mortgage industry. To his surprise, Jayme was on board with the decision, granted he could answer one question: “What do you want to do?”
Thankfully, Downey had an answer.
“I was the primary breadwinner, so it was a bit of a scary moment,” he shared. “But I looked at her and said, ‘I want to do what you do.'”
For years, Downey watched Jayme serve buyers and sellers and even began helping her scour the MLS for potential properties. When Jayme’s clients needed help with financing, Downey would connect them with trusted colleagues.
The next day, Downey signed up for a real estate licensing class and kept working as a loan officer until he got his license in June 2014.
“I closed on my first deal two weeks after starting, and I closed 13 deals within my five-and-a-half months,” he said. “I’ve been on a roll ever since.”
The NextHome franchise broker-owner credits his success in real estate by taking a “Chick-fil-A approach” to customer service.
“It’s just like going to a restaurant,” said the former professional bartender. “McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A both serve fast food. If I go to Chick-fil-A, I’m typically going to have a much better experience than I do at McDonald’s.”
“At Chick-fil-A, it’s always ‘My pleasure,'” he said, repeating a phrase Chick-fil-A employees are known for. “At McDonald’s, they don’t care, as long as I’m buying a quarter pounder.”
Downey said he works to give clients Chick-fil-A-worthy service by connecting them with financial planners and trusted home-care vendors and hosting client appreciation events. He even uses his previous experience as a loan officer to help buyers become mortgage savvy.
“You have people who just look at it as a transaction or a commission check, but we care,” he said. “Our company-wide hashtag is ‘humans over houses.'”
“We build relationships with our clients,” he added. “They lean on use for more than just buying and selling their house.”
Downey said real estate agents battle negative public perceptions, and every transaction is an opportunity to change the narrative.
“So, it’s all about treating clients how you want to be treated,” he said. “A lot of agents would be best served to look in the mirror and ask themselves, ‘Would I do business with me?'”
“If you say, ‘I don’t know’ then work with a mentor or a broker in charge to help you dial into your service and give it at a high level.”
We’re highlighting agents with extraordinary stories through a new series, Agent Plus. Do you know someone who should be highlighted for their work inside and outside of the office? Send your nominations to AgentPlus@inman.com.