Self-described 'lender to the stars' sees herself as an educator
Kristi Hardy (pictured) is a study in taking ownership of one’s own career path. Having previously worked in finance, sales and marketing, she sought a new career after a three-and-a-half year period of world travel in her 20s.
“I started in the mortgage industry in 2004,” Hardy, now 53, told Mortgage Professional America during a telephone interview. “I had spoken to a few friends I used to work with who were doing mortgage and that I had worked with in my previous career. They loved it, saying it was a natural progression from what they had been doing. I chose it because of the flexibility and in that it fit my strong suits – sales, marketing, and finance.”
Lured by the flexibility afforded by the industry and the complementary skills set required, she interviewed with a mortgage firm and was offered a position. Here’s the part about taking ownership over one’s career: “At the company that I originally interviewed for, the regional manager said at that company you weren’t allowed to be a loan officer right away – you had to have two years of experience,” Hardy said. “I said ‘well, I’m not really assistant material. I’ll go somewhere else that will let me be a loan officer right off the bat’ because I was confident in my abilities. I had been very successful in my previous career.”
That perked the regional manager’s ears up. Not wanting to lose such a good prospect, the manager suggested she enroll in Xinnix, a mortgage education academy based in Atlanta. Once she fulfilled the training, the company would pay off her $10,000 tuition after reaching certain production levels six months into the job. “I chose that option,” Hardy said. “I bet on myself, and it really paid off.”
What happened with the mortgage meltdown of 2008?
Between 2004 and 2013, she worked at the now-defunct CTX Mortgage and George Mason Mortgage. But early into her second career, the mortgage meltdown emerged. “I was number seven in the nation my first year as a loan officer,” she said. “And as far as rookies go, I was the only top rookie in the country for Virginia. I was used to being at a certain level and then when the mortgage meltdown hit, I was kind of like, ‘you know, this sucks. This is not cool; I don’t like this’.”
Yet the timing, for her, turned out to be fortuitous. As mortgage lines died on the vine, she experienced birth – that of her two boys, now 15 and 16.
Which is not to say the period was without challenge. “We literally had loans that were supposed to close that week and the banks shut down,” she recalled. “That was a challenge to get through mentally.” As for the arrival of children: “That actually timed really well with the mortgage meltdown,” she noted. “I was able to stay home.”
Unfortunately, she was on doctor-ordered bedrest while pregnant. “I was on the couch, working,” she recalled. But she sees the silver lining in that as well: “That really was a positive thing for me, because I never went to an office after that. I learned how to get very efficient and work from home. I was not tied to an office and got really efficient. I took advantage of it because I had two little ones; I took the time to just chill out.”
Now at Atlantic Coast Mortgage – she posted $248.7 million in 2021 and $122 million last year – a respectable showing considering the market downturn that began in 2022. Her team pitched in another $20 million in volume last year, she noted. All told, she’s been at Atlantic Mortgage for a decade. “That’s a long time in the mortgage industry,” she noted with palpable pride.
What is the power of social media?
Given her tenure in the business and the challenges she’s overcome, Hardy sees herself as something of an advisor to new generations coming into the industry. To that end, she produces educational videos under the handle of kristibhardy and the monicker “the lender to the stars.”. While others focus on such virtual outreach for monetary gain, she sees it as part of her role as an industry veteran.
“I am hearing from a lot of people that they’ve seen the videos and they’re learning,” she said. “That’s really what my goal is. I’m not attached to any outcome. I’m not attached to receiving a certain amount of business from it. Really my goal is to be seen as an educator and a trusted advisor. People can know and learn from me.”
Given her stature in the industry, there’s much to learn.