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The relatively high pay is still one of the main drawing cards to attracting sales people to the business. Image: Fotolia.
The relatively high pay is still one of the main drawing cards to attracting sales people to the business. Image: Fotolia.

Despite Poor Outlook, Industry Still Attractive to New Salespeople

JAN 3, 2014 5:04pm ET
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Prospects for the mortgage industry look bleak, so is it a good industry for new people to want to get into?

The Mortgage Bankers Association is predicting a 32% drop in mortgage volume this year, mainly due to a nearly 60% decline in refinance volume. Prospects beyond 2014 for the business don’t look much brighter either, with low household formation, millions of young people burdened with student loans, homeownership losing its appeal and federal mortgage regulations and licensing requirements getting tougher.

So how do mortgage originators attract new loan officers to the business given this rather depressing outlook?

At least one lender is having some difficulty finding new LOs.

Michael Moskowitz, founder of Equity Now, a New York-based mortgage banker, says his firm is seeking up to 40 qualified loan officers but says they are very hard to find despite the fact that “it is a challenging, satisfying field and pays up to $160,000 at our firm.”

Moskowitz thinks some applicants are discouraged by heavy work demands and licensing requirements, but is still hard pressed to understand why, with a stubbornly high unemployment rate, more people do not enter the field.

“You need one or two years of experience and no more than a two-year degree, preferably in finance or accounting,” he says. “It is a great career and well paying.”

Indeed, the relatively high pay is still one of the main drawing cards to attracting sales people to the business.

“Our industry can afford someone to make a very great living—not a good living, a great living,” says Drew Waterhouse, managing director and chief executive officer at Hammerhouse LLC, a mortgage sales recruiting firm in Mission Viejo, Calif.

In addition to the high pay, being a loan officer also allows the person to generally set his own hours and often work from home, provided the work gets done and the deals come in.

“You can do a lot of things to control your own calendar because it is outside sales and it is commission based,” Waterhouse noted.

David Hall, president of Shore Mortgage in Birmingham, Mich., says his firm’s headquarters offer many amenities to retain and attract talent, “including an expanded cafeteria, state-of-the-art workout fitness center, dry cleaning pick-up/drop-off services, Starbucks, valet parking, a 24-hour self-serve convenience store, and modern designs normally associated with a high-tech Silicon Valley company.”

In addition, the company offers initial training to help new LOs get through the SAFE mortgage licensing process plus on-going training after that.

Lenders and recruiters are expecting a new crop of freshly minted loan officers to join the industry in the coming years who will have the skills, energy and mindset to thrive in the business ahead, even if the pie will be a little smaller, says Al Crisanty, vice president of national wholesale production at 360 Mortgage Group in Austin, Texas.

“People moving into the industry are just getting out of college and are looking for an opportunity. I can’t think of a better place to be,” he says. “The opportunity is exceptional. It’s hard work—there’s nothing easy about it—but I don’t know that there are easy jobs out there anyway. For someone who’s ambitious, resourceful and disciplined, this job offers them the ability to have some flexibility in their schedules and to earn a good living.”

“We find that young professionals often have a more positive, aggressive approach and always find new ways to do business,” says Brian Koss, executive vice president of Mortgage Network Inc. in Danvers, Mass. “When you're young and full of energy, you're less likely to take 'no' for an answer.”

"The bad economy not only hurts buyers, but it also hurts young people who are recently out of college and looking for work,” Koss says. “We look for recent college grads who are hungry, who maybe worked their way through school and did not have everything handed to them. They're not hard to find.”

Waterhouse says there is a growing “age gap” between today’s homebuyers and the average age of both real estate agents and mortgage loan officers.

“They don’t talk the same language,” he says. But younger LOs would be better able to communicate with today’s and tomorrow’s borrowers.

“You have to work weekends, you have to be accessible 24 hours a day, you have to be more technical than ever before. Who’s best at that stuff? Who’s the most adaptable? It’s that new workforce,” Waterhouse says.

Last but not least, being a loan officer also has its psychic rewards.

“Being a loan officer is altruistic,” Hall says. “At the end of the day, you are helping clients achieve the American dream.

George Yacik has been covering the residential mortgage business for more than 20 years and writes frequently for industry publications. He can be reached at gyacik@yahoo.com.

Comments (4)
I'm not sure that I agree with the prediction that 2014 will see a drop in mortgage volume of 30% and 60% drop in refinance volume. Since February, 2013, the bottom has dropped out of the refinance market with volumes already down 60% (or more). Many, many industry analysts (do a Google search) are predicting an upturn in the market due to new housing construction and sales (and the lightening of credit restrictions). I wish the author had done a bit more homework rather than opening his story with inflammatory (and perhaps unjust) analysis.
Posted by joe o | Friday, January 03 2014 at 5:41PM ET
Sounds good when the average loan is 300k and much higher. Our average is low 100k. Been turning away anyone below this. All of a sudden too many companies telling us they will pay us 2.5% to 2.75%. I always tried to protect client's identity and will not do a loan without having met with them personally. Bad for production and in best interest for the client. We will survive as have survived a fire, the 2008 (sky is falling)and more. Seriously, anyone that cannot see that the banks were at the helm needs to believe in "Peter Pan". Guess I will join the numbers in obtaining a warehouse. Kind of feel like I am cheating. Only one got screwed is the public by higher rates, and third party appraisals. Remember un-related third party processing is not part of the 3%. Just make sure it is not part of your company. Where there is a will there is a way. Oh yes we will be having a one on one with our Congressman and Senators this month. Let them know why the person that wants a home for less than 100k has fewer and fewer choices.
Posted by gary H | Friday, January 03 2014 at 6:57PM ET
No offense Joe but I don't agree with your assessment but I do hope you are correct. Analysts are more wrong than correct in their predictions. Again, not attacking you but I just don't agree. New construction while important will not fill the gap. They cant build them quick enough to fill the gap in lost volume when refinance transactions crashed. There is not enough move up buyers to free up homes for first time buyers, and the new QM will take some consumers out of the market. Also unemployment and underemployment will impact final numbers for the year. I think you will see some growth, but overall it will remain flat. Regarding attracting new loan officers to the industry, it will take lots of changes to the industry to appeal to those entering the work force. Candidates do not embrace the current model of how income is earned. They want more assurances then the industry is willing to provide, especially with student loan debt over their head, in addition to normal living expenses. There are not enough candidates willing to risk the ups and downs of our compensation models. There are other industries they can enter with greater stability in income. Its still a great career path but new candidates see it as more risk than reward. Remember, they have just seen their parents get laid off and lost homes to foreclosure etc., over the past few years so its not wonder they are adverse to entering a field where they perceive the risk as high.
Posted by Mark M | Tuesday, January 07 2014 at 3:05PM ET
I am a brand new LO and agree with some of Mark's statements above. I have a young family, a wife that is in grad school, and on top of all of that a job that is straight commission based. Becoming a loan officer is a risky avenue to venture to say the least, especially if you dont have the right mindset going into it. I don't have a four degree, and don't have a fall-back plan for attaining a solid income. What I do have is unparalleled drive, motivation, and an eagerness to learn. I am already doing business with the top 2 agents in one county,the top agent in another, and a builder account in a new developement in my county. Did I mention I didn't even know what an interest rate was 3 months ago? haha! My point is that it can be done, but it takes a special kind of willpower to succeed. I spend time every single day to read any articles I can find about our industry like this one. I am "all in" on this career choice and won't take failure as an option. I have spent more money on gas going to visit prospects that I can even afford, but it's paying off. Sometimes it doesn't take a person that has a degree in finance or an MBA to succeed in this job, or any other for that matter. It takes someone that is truly up for the challenge and is dedicated to continued education on the materials that can make you better. I have taken something from each one of the responses you all have taken the time to post, and appreciate any and all of the insight you have to offer!
Posted by | Wednesday, January 29 2014 at 4:41PM ET
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