Pfeiffenberger: “Surround yourself with ethical people”

by Scot Kersgaard19 May 2016
With 10 originators in Albany, New York, Maple Tree Funding does a decent book of business, and it all started with marketing, said owner Marty Pfeiffenberger, who started the firm with one partner in 2004.

“We were right in it. It was really blossoming from 2003 to 2005, and then we hit the downward spiral,” he recalled. “It has been an interesting ride.”

Pfeiffenberger, president of the New York Association of Mortgage Brokers, estimates that the number of mortgage brokers in upstate New York has dropped by 70% since the bubble. “It has been an interesting ride,” he said.

He had been in the securities industry and partnered with a builder friend to open Maple Tree. He said his friend had been frustrated with the lending process that his home-buying clients had been going through.

“He was building a lot of houses and he hated that lenders were taking forever to close and would lie about things. He said, ‘I trust you and I know if we get this started, we’ll be able to close deals,’ and we were,” Pfeiffenberger said, adding that he has since bought his partner out in a friendly takeover.

Even when the market was plunging, he said he was able to grow Maple Tree. “We grew a little during the spiral. We upped our marketing and just did enough to get by and pay our bills. We kept our nose to the ground,” he said.

“It was different back then. We did a lot of radio in ‘08 and ‘09 because the cost of advertising had gone way down. It was very cheap compared to where it is now, so it worked out really, really well at that stage, and it really kind of helped us as a new company. Radio helped brand us in our market. The cost of those same marketing tools is 10 times more today. It worked out really well for us, that’s for sure.

“We ran on the radio for 3 or 4 years. People still remember the ads and we have not been on the air in 6 years. Now all of our marketing is internet based. We do a lot of internet marketing. I have a team that does that. We drive people to our website. We don’t take applications online. People just fill out a form and we call them,” he said.

Pfeiffenberger said he thinks Dodd-Frank is “crippling rural America. It has hurt the housing industry exponentially in rural areas.

“There are divergent opinions on the effect of Dodd-Frank, of course, but it has hurt rural America, because of the fees. People don’t want to do smaller loans. The under $100,000 market is really struggling because you can’t make enough to cover expenses. I just heard of a few more brokers in upstate about to close their doors. It is really bad; these are people who have been in the market forever. Big city markets don’t have these issues; it is the little guy who gets bumped out,” Pfeiffenberger said.

His rise to through the ranks of the New York Mortgage Brokers Association began 7-8 years ago, when the then-president “stopped in and recruited me to be the local chapter president, and through the years I just worked my way up.”

Asked if being involved in the association has helped his business, he laughed and said it does not. “It hurts the business actually because it is very time consuming, but you don’t get on a board like this to help your business. You do it to help the industry.

“You need a lot of people that care.”

His advice to people entering the industry: “Educate yourself. Take time at night or whenever you can to educate yourself, there is so much to learn. Surround yourself with people who are good and ethical; don’t surround yourself with people just cutting deals. Go to your state conference, meet people. It’s crazy not to go to industry events. If you are not going to trade shows, what are you doing?”

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