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Tom Hurst, President StreetLinks Lender Solutions BY DAVID J. COSTER




Each month, National Mortgage Professional Magazine will focus on one of the industry’s top players in our “Mortgage Professional of the Month” feature. Our readers are encouraged to contact us at to be considered for a future “Mortgage Professional of the Month” feature article. This month, we had a chance to chat with Tom Hurst, president of StreetLinks Lender Solutions. Tom joined Superior Appraisal Services in 2002 as senior operating officer after leaving the aviation industry. Tom was instrumental in the rapid growth of Superior with his involvement in strategic planning, marketing and sales. Upon the formation of PipeFire Lender Services, his focus shifted to creating the operational support and infrastructure needed to implement the appraisal fulfillment services. Tom was responsible for securing PipeFire’s first AFS customer and continues to focus on sales growth at StreetLinks. Tell me about your background and how you chose the mortgage industry? It is definitely a unique path. I didn’t choose it—it chose me. My background in going to college and right out of college is in aviation. I was a double-major in business and aerospace administration and was also a professional pilot. I came out of college and was a flight instructor. I flew traffic watch over Indianapolis for about six months building up my hours to move to a career in the airlines. In June of 2001, I got married and bought a house. I was ready to move on and start pushing my resumes to the airlines when the September 11th tragedy happened. Certainly, the effect that day had on my life was nowhere near what it was on thousands upon thousands of people, but I quickly realized that I have a new wife, a new house and responsibilities. By about November of 2001, it became apparent that the likelihood of me moving to the airlines any time soon was dwindling. Tony Ebeyer was the owner of Superior Appraisal Services in Indianapolis. We had become good

“We focused on quality and service rather than price and speed. I think singular focus on profitability is a road to failure in service-oriented businesses.”

friends. I had actually sold him an airplane. He said, “Hey, I have never had anybody market and sell my local appraisal company; would you want to come over any do that?” I said, “Sure”, thinking with 100 percent certainty that that was going to be a temporary gig. So, I took a crash course on appraisals and mortgages. I was the guy who, in the middle of buying a home a few months earlier, bought a car. I knew nothing. I opened up the phone book and started calling people. How did the company evolve into StreetLinks? We grew Superior Appraisal Services at our peak to 28-29 appraisers that worked just for us in central Indiana. We prided ourselves on delivering service and quality. The technology platform we were using was proprietary—back then, there wasn’t anything you could go out and buy that

allowed people to order online and track online. Today, someone would laugh if they couldn’t do these things! We had orders coming in from all over the country for our central Indiana appraisal company. We started getting questions like, “Your service is great … Your technology is great … Would you consider handling our orders in all these other areas?” You only have to hear that a few times, particularly as uniquely positioned as we were. We had worked for 12 of the appraisal management companies (AMCs) that existed at that time. We knew many of the major faults, we had this technology and we had a belief that we could create a better product. We built PipeFire d/b/a StreetLinks on the foundation that still exists today, not knowing how revolutionary it was at the time. For us, it was simple: Treat appraisers with respect and loyalty, don’t set their fees, assign on

the right criteria — not fees, have the right people on staff to give great service, and perform a quality control review every file. We took our first order for StreetLinks in June of 2006 from Oak Street Mortgage. They ended up being purchased by NovaStar Home Mortgage. In 2008, NovaStar came in and said, “Are you guys interested in capital and some infusion of leadership?” Their idea was, “Put some capital, leadership and experience behind this phenomenal idea you guys had and see if we can create what everybody believes can be created.” That’s exactly what happened, and we started growing like gangbusters. We did 385, give or take, appraisals in January of 2009, and last month, through both our LenderPlus and LenderX divisions, we completed just shy of 53,000 appraisals. It’s definitely a great story of everybody committing to doing things the right way and really succeeding. What are your business philosophies? Where can you bring value, and where can you develop long-standing partnerships and relationships? That’s the philosophy that works for us. It drives our entire culture. We work hard to make a difference. I feel like we led a revolution, even before regulation pushed for it, in the AMC industry. We focused on quality and service rather than price and speed. I think singular focus on profitability is a road to failure in service-oriented businesses. Most others have moved toward a settlement services concept. People say, “You do 50,000 appraisals a month, do you realize the money you could make if you just got 10 percent of that in title?” But for us, the philosophy is to do one thing and do it better than anyone else. What marketing strategies do you employ? When it boils down to what really makes a difference in marketing, I believe it’s our people. The best marketing we have is the people that we have on the phones in our operations.