From dabbler to dynamo

From dabbler to dynamo

From dabbler to dynamo

The journey of becoming a broker is different for everyone. Some dive in headfirst; some ease themselves in little by little. CENTUM Home Lenders agent Alex Lavender chose the latter route.

While still a student at Toronto’s Ryerson University, Lavender had unsuccessfully attempted to turn his considerable earnings as a server into his first property purchase. While disappointing, the experience of being denied funding also piqued Lavender’s curiosity.

“I wasn’t really given any insight into why,” he says. “I thought I made good money. I had the down payment. I had good credit. So it put me on a journey of trying to find out a bunch of information.”

Lavender took his education a little further than most probably would have been willing to go and got licensed as a mortgage broker prior to graduating from Ryerson in 2015. He entered a white-hot Toronto market in April and was immediately exposed to the harsh realities of trying to make it as a part-timer: With no name recognition, no reputation and limited funds for advertising, every day can feel like a losing battle.

But after a friend allowed Lavender to assemble his mortgage and that first commission cheque cleared, he realized what the hard work and long hours were all about: a better life for him and his clients. “That was really the start of my career,” he says.

After a move to Halifax in 2016, Lavender soon found a home on Clinton Wilkins’ powerhouse CENTUM team. Since then, he has leaned heavily on his own experiences as a thwarted mortgage applicant in assuming the role of educator for his clients, carefully laying out their options in each stage of their mortgage adventure and providing an explanation when their requests hit a snag.

“There is a big lack of available information out there,” Lavender says, adding that while borrowers might be doing more online research than ever, there’s little guarantee that the information they’re arming themselves with is actually up-to-date or that the sources they’re consulting are accurate. “They’re getting all this information, but it’s often incorrect.”

To better prepare prospective homeowners for the rigors of the mortgage process, Lavender spent a significant portion of the last 18 months writing his first e-book, Mortgages for Millennials, in which he provides answers to the most common questions he’s asked by consumers. Finishing the book during a historically busy year required a 5 a.m. wake-up call every day.

“I like keeping busy,” Lavender says. “That’s what keeps the lights on.”

“Busy” hardly does justice to the current state of Lavender’s business, which grew by roughly 65% year-over-year in 2020. While an increased focus on alternative and private deals helped fuel the surge, Lavender says the key was simply being available.

“Some days were 14 hours,” he says. “Most days were 12.”

But after a slow entry into the mortgage industry, being overwhelmed by client demand isn’t something he’s going to complain about.

“I’m all about pushing through, because when I started out in the industry four years ago, I went about five or six months without making a dollar,” he says. “I was so broke, and I remember saying, ‘One day, I’ll be so busy I won’t know what to do with myself. I hope that day comes.’ Now, when I think back to that, I’m like, ‘This is what you wished for. You have it.’”