It may be counterintuitive, but loan officer Scott Betley, a 32-year-old TikTok sensation, says he isn’t worried about a potential U.S. ban of the short-form video app.

Betley, who has more than a decade of experience helping first-time and move-up buyers, joined NFM Lending as a loan officer in 2021. The following year, the Maryland-based lender created an Influencer Division, appointing Betley as vice president and co-creator. 

Using trending videos, educational content and humor to reveal all the secrets about buying a house, Betley, known as @thatmortgageguy, has reached 870,000 followers and garnered 15.5 million ‘likes’ on TikTok. To put this into perspective, he claims 300,000 followers on other platforms. Such a substantial audience results from spending four to five hours per day on social media.

“It does not cost me anything [to be on TikTok]. We get paid for it and we’ve monetized our brands tremendously,” Betley said in an interview. “I’ve probably closed a little over $100 million in loan volumes from people who have contacted me through TikTok over the last three years. TikTok is probably 40% to 45% of my business.”

Greg Sher, managing director at NFM, stated in a social media post that the lender’s Influencer Division, comprised of a team of 14 LOs, has generated nearly 70,000 leads over the past 35 months from five major social platforms. Specifically, 75% of these leads (or about 52,500 in total) were driven by TikTok, Sher said.

The figures demonstrate the potential impact on lenders like NFM — and LOs like Betley — if U.S. lawmakers were to prohibit the social media platform from operating in the country.

This possibility has grown since March 13, when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, through a bipartisan vote of 352-65, that gave ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese owner, a deadline of six months to sell the app’s U.S. assets or face a ban.

The bill is now in the Senate, where the outcome is unknown. Meanwhile, investors are taking steps to acquire the business. For instance, former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — who recently injected capital into Flagstar Bank’s struggling owner, New York Community Bancorp — announced his intention to form an investor group to purchase the video app. 

“In terms of the ban itself, I’m not too worried about it just because I know the user base in the United States for TikTok makes up a large percentage of the total. … I feel they’re going to pivot and sell and figure something out, just because there’s billions of dollars left on the table,” Betley said. TikTok reported in March 2023 that 150 million Americans use the short-form video app. 

As for his business, Betley added that, “at the end of the day, we built the skill set in terms of content creation and short-form video, and then the attention is going to be somewhere.” To mortgage pros, “it’s just a matter of staying on top of where that organic attention is and continuing to put the content there.”  

Like Betley, several loan officers who have invested time and resources into publishing content on TikTok over the past few years told HousingWire it’s unfortunate that the short-video app could face a potential ban in the country. 

TikTok has primarily served as a tool for mortgage pros to connect with first-time homebuyers through educational and entertaining content, maintain long-term relationships with the audience, and establish a reputation in the market. Moreover, the app has been a source of leads, representing a substantial portion of some LOs’ businesses.

But mortgage pros also believe there will be opportunities as the audience shifts to other social media platforms and content creators inevitably follow suit.  

Rebecca Richardson, a loan officer at California-based Kind Lending, joined TikTok about four years ago “not to dance,” but to “experiment” and “build a library” aimed at explaining complex concepts related to the homebuying process in a simple manner, she said.  

The endeavor led to Richardson, known as @the.mortgage.mentor, attracting 147,200 followers on TikTok and receiving 1.2 million likes. In total, Richardson dedicates approximately 10 to 15 hours per week to social media platforms. In 2019, 4% of her business originated from social media, but from 2020 through 2022, it increased to an average of 30%. TikTok alone accounted for about 12% to 15%, she said.

“The bill is going to the Senate and I think it would be unfortunate [if TikTok is banned], just because that opens up rabbit holes for other concerns about other platforms,” Richardson said. “But at this point, if TIkTok goes away, I’m not so worried about it from my personal business, just simply because I have other platforms that I can lean into. And now I have a content creation process.”

Richardson anticipates the audience transitioning to YouTube Shorts or Instagram Reels if TikTok is banned from the U.S. Her expectation was echoed by other loan officers. 

Exploring alternatives

Matt Gougé, a loan originator at Philadelphia-based UMortgage, said that “like many things, you learn to adapt,” implying that if TikTok is banned, loan officers will find clients and real estate partners on other social media platforms where “people’s eyeballs are going to be.”

Gougé, whose handle is @matthemortgageguy, currently has 2,545 followers and 14,200 likes on TikTok. He anticipates the audience transitioning to YouTube, where he enjoys far greater popularity, with 21,300 subscribers to his channel.

This shift would primarily impact the 25- to 45-year-old demographics that are on TikTok. It aligns, for the most part, with first-time homebuyers, he said. Gougé views TikTok as a shorter form of content intended to capture attention and educate borrowers, a strategy that has become more relevant in a shrinking mortgage market.

“In 2021, people got preapproved, submitted an offer, got a contract in a weekend; we’re seeing more and more, six months, nine months, 12 months to nurture, educate, preapprove, and so on, and you can do that on some of these platforms,” Gougé said. “Anybody who’s been on long enough realizes that putting out educational content is the best form of nurturing through the beginning of that lifecycle of a client.” 

Gougé’s colleague Kyle Koller, a UMortgage branch manager who has invested effort into increasing his followers on TikTok, said that LOs should be on multiple platforms to mitigate risk. In his case, if TikTok were to be banned, he would lean on Instagram due to his familiarity with the app. 

Koller spends at least $8,000 a month on social media platforms. He employs two full-time professionals who work to boost his social media presence since he is also originating loans. Thus far, he estimates that he receives probably “two deals a month” correlated to TikTok and Instagram. Koller, known as @kylemylender, has 4,608 followers and more than 1,760 likes on TikTok. 

“I’m using it as an educational tool,” Koller said. “Sometimes borrowers don’t want to have a phone call. The newer generations want to see stuff. So, instead of just texting back and forth, I’ll say, ‘I did a video on social media,’ and direct them to that. I can use it as a storage tool for educational value propositions to clients. I’ll try to sprinkle in some funny stuff because that’s what people want.” 

Marketing experts believe that LOs are mainly reaching Gen Z on TikTok, although other demographics also use the app. Researchers use the mid-to-late 1990s as the starting birth years and the early 2010s as the ending birth years for this generation. 

And, “what we’re seeing with Gen Z is that they have a longer research-to-buy lifecycle,” said Corie Meredith, vice president of marketing at UMortgage. 

“They read a lot of comments; they watch a lot of influencers. So, there’s a huge opportunity for loan officers or anyone within the mortgage space to be true educators on the platform,” Meredith said. “Gen Zs look at loyalty as not just purchasing but following and engaging with that brand or that influencer online. The marketing funnel has shifted due to this generation and the impact of things like TikTok.” 

Meredith said banning TikTok would be unfortunate from a customer experience perspective since it’s designed to educate borrowers. 

“TikTok does offer something special when it comes to those key elements that Gen Z finds so much value in. It’s an easy way for us to educate and be transparent about financial literacy and prepare them for homeownership. At the end of the day, the customer would be the one missing out versus the business.”  

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