CMP: What made you first get into the mortgage broker industry?
I have worked in the financial services – starting in the banking industry – since I was 16, and it was a natural transition for me to move through the industry and become a mortgage broker.
I started in financial planning but recognized very quickly that I did not have a passion for it. I then took a look at the other opportunities. When it came to credit, the mortgage side was the biggest piece, and I went from there. With mortgages, it was about finding financial solutions for clients, and I loved working with people all day long. I still do today.
CMP: How would you describe your time in the industry?
I’ve been in the mortgage industry for 18 years, and it’s been a roller-coaster ride. I’ve had experiences with many different brokerages, and I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. I started as a mortgage specialist for a bank, and within one year moved into the brokering side of things. I stepped out of the comfort and safety of the bank and moved to a brokerage, where I stayed for five years before I started my own brokerage with a couple of partners 11 years ago.
CMP: Recent data shows a cooling in the GTA market. Have you noticed a slowdown in your business?
No. We have challenging periods, but they are not because houses are not selling. The challenges we face today are directly related to supply-and-demand issues.
The other challenge we face is to do with policies and regulations that are being implemented, we feel, almost daily at this point. That being said, our sales have not decreased at all. We’re actually up 13% year-over-year.
CMP: What are your views on the tightening of mortgage approval rules?
Some of the rules I agree with, one of which is the qualifying rate for clients who are putting down less than 20%. I think it’s important for everyone to understand that money is almost free today. The rates we’re looking at, whether they are 2.5% or 3.5%, are really cheap, and there is a huge impact to an average person if those rates change. They may have purchased a home that is well within their means today, but five years from now, when they’ve taken on two new car payments and had three children, a significant change in rate could have a huge impact. Qualifying clients at a rate that is 200 basis points higher than their contract rate, I feel, is important to making sure clients can tolerate a rate increase.
However, I do not agree with some of the other regulations. Programs for self-employed individuals are dwindling, if not gone, and it’s really unfortunate that people stable in their businesses are having to jump through hoops in order to prove themselves.
The new regulations currently being proposed by OSFI are looking at also qualifying clients who do have a significant down payment at a much higher rate. I don’t think that is a fair policy to put into play, but sure, we can work with it.
CMP: Are you being forced to direct more clients to B lenders?
Everyone is forced to look for alternative opportunities – I wouldn’t call them B lenders, but alternative lenders. Those lenders will tell you that today they are seeing more business than ever before. We have lenders that are not accepting business on the alternative side; they simply cannot keep up with the opportunities. What were A clients are now B clients; what were once B clients are now looking at private opportunities.
CMP: What’s the secret behind your success in the industry?
I don’t think there are any secrets – it’s about a lot of hard work, dedication, persistence and patience. As someone who owns a brokerage, the biggest part of our success in the last 11 years has been focusing on the right people. All of our agents and brokers have their own independent businesses, but there is a consistency in terms of the type of agent and broker they are and how they do their business.