Small town, big business

Small town, big business

Small town, big business CMP: How did you get into the mortgage broker industry?
Christine Buemann: I’ve always been interested in real estate and had always used a mortgage broker myself, which was something unique in my community in northern BC. I had always seen the value of a mortgage broker, but it hadn’t even crossed my mind to become one.

Then I was going through a transitional time, trying to find out what I wanted to do. I happened to have a friend who is a broker, and he opened the door for me. The rest is history. I’ve now been a broker for seven and a half years.

CMP: How would you describe your time in the industry?
CB: It helped that I went in prepared and with realistic expectations. My broker friend encouraged me to save up enough money to account for not making any income for the first six months because everything would be going toward expenses.

My experience has been different than most in that I worked really hard to build my business and then had two babies – although there are probably a lot of women who can relate to that. My husband works out of town a lot, so it was a unique experience. That part I was not prepared for, although I don’t know if you can be!

In general, the industry is gratifying in the way I thought it would be, and I absolutely love being a mortgage broker. I am a complete mortgage nerd.

CMP: How has your market in northern BC been performing lately?
CB: The market here has been completely different than Vancouver. Increases have been slow and steady, and my average mortgage last year was for $239,000. Since the transitional stuff that has happened in the last 12 to 18 months, we are starting to see a spike in prices now more than ever. I’ve been investing in Prince George for over a decade, and we are now starting to see the overflow from the Vancouver market. We are getting investors who see they can buy a nice house for under $300,000 and get really good cash flow.

CMP: What made you decide to pursue your career in a relatively small community?
CB: I love operating in a smaller town. Buyers and sellers work together to reach an agreement, and it’s not as cutthroat. I work exclusively by referrals and never usually do advertising, apart from the occasional radio ad just to create brand recognition. Referrals are huge in smaller communities because everyone knows everyone. I feel there is more pressure to exceed expectations because you know one bad review can be more impactful.

The transactional part of the business here is definitely different, and I value that, but the broker-versus-bank dynamic is different here, too. We have far fewer brokers – we are a town of 80,000, and there are maybe a dozen of us. It’s really because of a lack of recognition around what mortgage brokers do – that’s the biggest challenge we face. Up here, brokers really support each other because there are so few of us. We get along well because we have to.

CMP: What’s the secret behind your success in the industry?
CB: I think it’s to do with having the ultimate goal of helping people. If you focus on the dollars and how it’s going to serve you, then often the returns will not be as plentiful. Focus on building relationships. Ultimately, that’s what this business is.

Cultivating relationships with lenders is something that more brokers need to do, and it’s something that has helped me get exceptions. I have been able to do deals that others haven’t just by leveraging those relationships. It’s also a part of due diligence: I know I can trust lenders, and they know they can trust me. Relationships with Realtors and clients are, of course, also crucial. At the end of the day, that is the most important aspect of the business.