More than 80 percent of home buyers might start their search for a home on the Internet. But most will continue to ask their agents for referrals to good mortgage lenders.
That’s why so many real estate firms have brought mortgage lending inside the four walls of their office.
One-stop shopping has been a real estate industry buzzword for at least the past decade. But finding a good fit between a real estate broker and mortgage lender isn’t always easy.
Rob Nixon worked as a loan officer, and later as a mortgage account manager inside several different real estate brokerage firms. At first, he worked for a small mortgage company that was bought by a real estate firm. Later, he worked inside a real estate company affiliated with Cendant Mortgage. Today, he is a vice president with Chicago-based Guaranteed Rate (GuaranteedRate.com).
“When you’re outside, you think the person working inside has the advantage. But real estate agents are independent contractors, and they don’t like being told who to use for loans,” Nixon recalls. “There are advantages and disadvantages to being outside and inside. Being outside allows you more freedom, but when you’re inside, the manager’s compensation is tied to your mortgage development.”
“There were cultural differences between the banks and corporations that ran the other joint ventures that didn’t fall in line with what we wanted to do,” said Maureen Penta, general sales manager of Diane Turton Realtors, a multi-state real estate company with more than 500 agents in 26 locations in Florida and New Jersey.
“For years, we tried different companies with in-house lending, but it didn’t work,” explains Joe Alexander, President of Park Regency Realtors (ParkRegency.com) in Granada Hills, Ca. The companies “were nice, but they didn’t have a functional system in place at the corporate office.”
Diane Turton Realtors and Park Regency Realtors teamed up with Metrocities Mortgage (metrocitiesmtg.com), a Sherman Oaks, California based company that forms joint ventures with real estate companies and installs loan officers onsite.
Real estate companies that team up with Metrocities Mortgage help capitalize the venture by writing a check to get the operation going. Then, the start-up venture gets a budget and a business plan, and goes through the regulatory process in order to get licensed. Then, there is a search to select the right loan officers for the location.
“The loan officers are deployed into the real estate office and work on becoming a part of the real estate office (team),” explains Paul Wylie, CEO of Metrocities Mortgage. “We then take a look at marketing and integration and formulate an action plan to make the (office) successful.”
Real estate companies that work with Metrocities Mortgage have the benefit of being an owner of the joint venture, and so share any profits or losses that are generated by the business. At the same time, the loan officers are Metrocities Mortgage employees, and are accountable to, and managed by, a team of experienced lenders.
Last year, Metrocities closed over $10 billion in loans with 150 partners in over 30 states.
“We have customer service guarantees,” notes Wylie. “We have put in writing that we guarantee a decision in a timely manner and that we will close on time.” And if something goes wrong? “There’s a pathway directly from the loan officer to either Art Ringwald, president of the eastern division or John Stewart, president of the western division.”
“We were attracted the fact that Metrocities Mortgage was built up by Paul Wylie, who we knew, and that he had specialized in mortgages and had built up a successful company,” Penta explaines. “Paul Wylie understood what the agents and clients were looking for and he knew how to win in a joint venture.”
“We combined forces five years ago and now have three different loan officers and they deliver every time,” says Alexander. His company closes on an average of 30 loans each month.
“Buyers are happy because it is so convenient for them. This is one-stop shopping. They go to one part of the office and can find a home.” Then, they can sit down with a lender and sign the loan documents right here,” Wylie explains, adding “There isn’t a whole lot of time to be driving around trying to put all these pieces together to get a home loan. So this is definitely a less stressful process for the buyers.”
Finding the right mortgage from the 7,000 loan products offered by Metrocities Mortgage isn’t easy. But partners say having so many different products is a good thing.
“We like the variety and choice. It’s like going into a restaurant and having a huge menu where you get lots of choices,” says Alexander. “We have hundreds and hundreds of loan programs. If a buyer doesn’t qualify for one, we can put him into another.”
But perhaps the best part about a Metrocities Mortgage joint venture is that it takes away the fear real estate agents have that the lender will simply not come through with financing.
“We can now guarantee that we will close on a mortgage,” states Penta.
But does that make it a good choice for consumers?
“Smart consumers might start with the inhouse person to get preapproved for their loan. But after finding the right property, they should shop around to find the best deal,” suggests Nixon.
“The inhouse person will maybe get a first chance to make a good impression. But if he doesn’t have the rates, he shouldn’t get the business,” he adds.