Top Originator spotlight: Neil Surgenor's mortgage medicine

TD Bank physician home expert reveals proven formula that catapulted him to the top

Top Originator spotlight: Neil Surgenor's mortgage medicine

Guided by a desire to carve his niche in the mortgage world, Neil Surgenor (pictured) found his calling in serving medical professionals. Physician loans, with their unique advantages, paved the way for a meteoric rise in his career as a certified physician loan specialist at TD Bank.

In this exclusive interview, we unravel the key elements that have set Surgenor apart, from his relentless work ethic to razor-sharp focus and unwavering passion for his client’s well-being. Aspiring loan officers looking to make a mark in this specialized field can take a cue from Surgenor’s roadmap to success.

Mortgage Professional America: To begin, could you share a bit about your background and journey in the mortgage industry that ultimately led you to your role as certified physician loan specialist at TD Bank?

Neil Surgenor: I was a financial advisor in the late 1990s through early 2001, working for a top 10 investment firm. I was also a trader for the largest short-term trading company in the world at that time. I enjoyed Wall Street, but there was some volatility in the financial markets at the time, making it a bit challenging to navigate. I was engaged to be married and thinking of having children – the constant worry and uncertainty that comes with this profession was getting old. I knew a colleague that was also a trader who left to get into the mortgage business, and it piqued my interest. So, I decided to make a career change.

I joined one of the largest mortgage companies at that time and learned the business. Within one week, the office manager grew tired of me wanting to come in early and stay late, so he gave me my own set of keys to the office. I would cold call from morning until night and come into the office seven days a week. Having been born in England and having been raised in Africa, almost everything was new to me in the US. I didn’t know what escrow was on a mortgage when I started. Three months into my career, I was the top producer in the nation out of thousands of loan officers, and three months after that, they asked me to become an office manager at a new office they were opening. One year later, I was promoted to Metro New York manager for purchase business supervising six offices in and around the NY Metro Area.

Over the next decade, I took time to learn all facets of the business and remained in the top 1% in my field, both in retail and wholesale.

My goal at any organization is always to be number one in the nation within my first six months – I consistently did it in three.  The ‘secret’ to my success was no secret at all – I just worked harder than anyone else, something I believe I still do to this day. I have always been competitive, which motivates me to be the best I can be. I realized along the way I wanted to separate myself from the crowd and wanted to specialize in some sort of niche products. I became interested in the physician space, studied it, and slowly became recognized as a resource for people in the medical and dental world to help them navigate buying a home. I have been blessed to have become known as one of the top experts in the country and a top producer for TD Bank.

MPA: What inspired you to focus on this niche, and what specific advantages do physician loans offer compared to traditional mortgage options?

NS: I wanted to become a specialist and known expert in an area where I could help people in a space I enjoyed. Physician loans, also known as doctor loans or physician mortgage loans, offer several advantages compared to traditional mortgage options:

1. Reduced or no down payment: Physician loans allow doctors to secure a mortgage with little to no down payment, which can be beneficial for medical professionals who may have significant student loan debt or want to preserve their savings for other expenses.

2. Flexible debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: These loans are designed to accommodate higher debt levels, such as medical school loans, and may be more flexible about how it’s calculated in the DTI ratio, making it easier for physicians to qualify for a mortgage.

3. No private mortgage insurance (PMI): Physician loans typically do not require PMI, even with a low-down payment. This can save doctors from additional costs associated with traditional mortgages.

4. Streamlined application process: Lenders offering physician loans often understand the unique financial situations of medical professionals and have a simplified application process tailored to their needs.

5. Qualify before starting work: Physicians may be able to qualify for a physician loan and to close up to 90 days before starting their training or going into practice, which can be beneficial for those in residency or fellowship programs.

6. Favorable interest rates: While interest rates may vary, physician loans offer competitive rates, considering the earning potential and career stability of doctors.

7. Higher loan limits: Some physician loan programs offer higher loan limits compared to standard mortgage options, enabling doctors to purchase more expensive homes with less down payment.

MPA: The demands of a medical career can be intense and time-consuming. How do you accommodate the busy schedules of physician clients, and what steps do you take to simplify the mortgage application and approval process for them?

NS: I commit to working seven days a week because of the flexibility my clients need. I have become accustomed to working around a physician or dentist’s schedule and even making myself available to speak with them between patients. I move fast and make it as easy as possible for them so I can limit the interruptions to their day. Buying a home does require time, but I know better than most of the demands physicians have and ensure I’m flexible.

MPA: You’ve likely worked with medical professionals at various stages of their careers. How do you adjust your strategies and services to cater to the distinct requirements of residents, fellows, and established practitioners?

NS: Great question. I think the main thing is understanding the different mindsets with regard to finances. Usually, someone coming out of training has worked so hard for so long with limited income, so they have more trepidation over what they can afford compared to someone three years out of training. The mindset is just very different. It takes time to feel comfortable with their new income and, in turn, allow themselves to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Physician loans can allow them to start their first year or residency with a new home, with no down payment, no mortgage insurance, and great rates, which is often a surprise to them. And as a bonus, they don’t have to worry about high rent and landlords.

Read more: Find a niche in your market by asking the right questions

MPA: The mortgage industry is highly competitive. How do you leverage your expertise as a certified physician loan specialist to differentiate yourself and attract medical professionals seeking specialized mortgage assistance?

NS: I have been fortunate to have become known as an expert in my field over the years. I have had perfect reviews my entire career from hundreds of physicians online. I’m also spoken about in physician groups and referred by others. It’s taken 23 years to build my reputation in the lending business, and it has paid off. Do the right thing for your customers, and it always comes back to you.

MPA: If you could offer one piece of advice to aspiring loan officers who want to specialize in this niche, what would it be?

NS: Find a lender that offers a competitive physician loan program. Build a brand that aligns with a physician’s mindset. Understand their lifestyle to make sure you’re available to accommodate schedules. Understand the doctor’s life cycle from med school to becoming an attending physician. Learn the different specialties and potential earnings to understand their full financial picture. I know this was more than one piece of advice, but collectively, it will help aspiring loan officers in this niche build a reputation for being an expert in the field. 

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