Julie Aragon is founder of the LA based Julie Aragon Lending Team which she launched at the age of 19 back in 2002. What makes her agency stand out is the mortgage process she developed where every detail matters. She literally carved out a piece of the mortgage industry and grew it to the success it is today.
With thousands of happy clients and hundreds of five-star reviews, Julie has a team and a technology stack that’s consistently ranked as the top mortgage company in Los Angeles.
Julie Aragon shares her success story and how she ‘disrupted’ the mortgage- lending business in LA. Her story is an inspiration.
Q: Julie, share with our readers how and why you got started in the Lending / Mortgage field?
A: After dropping out of UC Santa Barbara, I stumbled into a job with a local real estate agent where someone suggested I get into loans. I knew I couldn’t work for anyone else and I wanted financial freedom asap…and the rest is history. Shout out to Mirna Batz for that initial push btw!
Q: What roadblocks did you face?
A: I was just 19 years old, brown, and female…and back when I started in 2002, mortgage was an old, white, male dominated industry. I had no intention of building my biz on the golf course or any of the other typical biz development methods. I had to do things my way. Fortunately, this set me apart right from the beginning…and gave me more freedom to do things that weren’t in the norm. However, I did feel like I had to dress more “grown” and I ended up dropping a bunch on skirt suits at Ann Taylor Loft. As I got smarter, I realized even that norm wasn’t important and I switched it up to stretchy pants …or as I like to call them business PJs.
Q: When did you know that you were a success and you made the right decision?
A: Buying my first home at 21 felt pretty successful…but it didn’t last for long. “Success” always felt like a moving target. A few examples: in 2005 I started getting clients that weren’t just friends and family, in 2010 I paid off all my debt, AND so far in 2020, I’ve funded $100M in loans which was a milestone I’ve wanted to hit my entire career. We’ll just have to see what’s next from here…
Q: How do you feel you have “disrupted’ the lending / mortgage business?
A: I think I originally made my mark by skipping the typical cookie cutter mortgage marketing, and instead, talking about who I am and why I am passionate about what I do. I expressed this in my website design, marketing copy, as well as, in a unique “day in the life” video interview. At the time it was such an unusual way to position a mortgage brand. Over time dozens of loan officers across the country copied my website and video script (in some cases, word for word!). It’s not unusual for loan officers that I’ve never met to come up to me and mention how unique they thought my video was way back then. It also wasn’t unusual for some haters to criticize the brand decisions…but as Nikki Minaj said “haters mad for whatever reason”.
Q: How difficult is it to hire the ‘right employee’ that fits your business model?
A: I ain’t gonna lie. It’s tough for a couple reasons. First is that I am deeply committed to making every aspect of our client experience amazing — after all the business has my name on it. I want clients to see why working with the Julie Aragon Lending Team is 10X better than going with a big bank SO I set a higher bar for my team than many in the mortgage biz might be used to.
Beyond that, I want to make sure we stay true to our brand…which is so different from the typical mortgage company. I am casual with clients and business partners and the mortgage industry trains people to be stuffy. So often times I have to re-train new teammates that have decades of experience in mortgage. It’s nothing that a few improv classes can’t fix though 🙂
Q: How did the pandemic affect your business?
A: The pandemic didn’t hit mortgage and real estate as hard as many other industries. In the beginning there was a lot of uncertainty with some loan programs and requirements but things have steadied out. Also, interest rates have stayed at or near record lows since the beginning of the pandemic…so there’s lots of consumer demand. We’re relatively fortunate compared to most and have been glad to hire two more people this year to keep up with our pipeline.
On that note, our team processes have evolved quite a bit this year. While we always maintained a majority virtual work environment, it’s been interesting working closely with some people for months without ever physically meeting. We finally got a chance to bring the whole crew together for an outdoor meal and was pleasantly surprised that we weren’t being cat-fished by any of the new hires 😉
Q: How have you been able to help families or business owners during this difficult time?
A: We’ve been able to help out a lot of clients (many of which are small business owners) reduce their monthly expenses by getting a lower interest rate on their mortgage. In the beginning of the pandemic, there was so much uncertainty we had to make some difficult decisions for our clients just because the world was changing so quickly. Everyday some “unprecedented” change would rock the macroeconomic world that mortgages are depend on…and we had to try to see what new boulders would be headed our way so we could situate our clients best. We regularly had to help clients through simultaneous “this has never happened before” moments with implications from mortgage forbearance plus extra volatile lending requirements. Unprecedented, abundance of caution and perfect storm are all now trigger phrases for me.
On a non-professional level, however, I’ve been trying to support as many local businesses as I possibly can. Whether it’s ordering take-out, buying groceries from restaurants turned pop-up corner stores, or finding safe ways to keep patronizing other affected businesses like cleaners, I’ve tried to do my part so they can survive through this difficult time.
Q: What advice do you have for women who want to venture into the lending business?
A: Go for it! Since back when I started in 2002, things have progressed a lot with women in the mortgage industry. This business is great because the barrier to entry is low and there is unlimited earning potential. I think it’s perfect for women who aren’t afraid of hard work and are ready to bet on themselves. If you’re not ready to go all-in and live entirely off your commission, join a team or become an assistant to an established loan officer. Just like any major career decision, pick your mentors, biz partners, and employees thoughtfully!
Q: What are your plans and goals for 2021?
A: Regain some work-life balance by entrusting my team with more and more responsibility. Mama needs a break. Also, we have some new branding and marketing strategies that are going to go live throughout 2021. Looking forward to that bringing even more energy to the business.