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.

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.