New Rocket Pro TPO EVP on broker aims

From a credit program to manufactured home financing, it's about helping brokers

New Rocket Pro TPO EVP on broker aims

Rocket Pro TPO has appointed a new executive vice president who’s already started off the new year with a heady charge of helping the broker community amid an ever-evolving industry landscape.

Mike Fawaz (pictured) has been tapped as executive VP, leading the arm of Rocket Mortgage that serves mortgage brokers and correspondent lenders. He formerly served as senior vice president of sales for Rocket Pro TPO. In that role, he led all account executives working with Rocket’s broker partners. He also formed personal relationships with thousands of Rocket’s mortgage broker partners, meeting with them to ensure their needs are met, according to a company press release.

Previous executive vice president Austin Niemiec is now chief revenue officer of Rocket Mortgage, company officials announced. In that role, he will have an overall vision of – and lead the strategy for – the company’s home lending, officials said.

Fawaz spoke to Mortgage Professional America about his new role in a telephone interview. In particular, he expounded on ways he’s poised to help the broker community amid inflation-spurred challenges.

“In my opinion, the change is a title change,” he said. “As far as what Rocket Pro TPO’s focus is, nothing’s going to change. This is not an overhaul of our business. It’s just a change of names and change of positions but our mission is to continue driving toward building stronger relationships with our brokers in 2023 and growing together with the broker community in 2023.”

Getting to know the broker community

Preparation for his new role is at least two years in the making, Fawaz suggested: “In the last couple of years, I’ve spent a lot of time on the road meeting with thousands of brokers across the nation, whether they were partners of Rocket Pro TPO or not, and I got to experience what the broker community was all about firsthand – how they build their businesses, the things they go through on a daily basis,” he said.

Strong ties were forged in traveling so many miles, he said. “I built some amazing relationships along the way,” he said. “I always say our relationships start as a partnership but it gradually becomes a friendship, and it’s more of a family feel and family atmosphere. To me, it’s all about the human being, and it’s all about the people. In my new role, I will continue being out there with the broker community; I will continue being out there on the road with broker partners and continue to work together and figuring out what 2023 is all about and how we become stronger in 2023.”

Even prior to his appointment, the company launched several programs designed not only to bolster access to lending for consumers but help brokers with new products and offerings to secure clientele. Just this past week, Rocket Mortgage launched Purchase Plus – a special purpose credit program aimed at enhancing access to homeownership in a half-dozen underserved communities – offering up to $7,500 in credits for first time homebuyers to use toward their mortgage costs. For now, the initiative will focus on six test cities with large swaths of consumers who have been historically underserved: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis and Philadelphia.

Getting to the closing table sooner

Fawaz also invoked the example of the “crews model” that was recently implemented to help brokers. “Our mission and our dedication to the broker community is beyond just offering a rate sheet – which we’re very consistent at by the way – and that’s important. But to us, it’s how do make the brokers’ lives a lot easier. So one of the things we did a year ago, we rolled out our crews model which is a dedicated operations team to the broker shop. Meaning that you have your chief officer and his or her team working for you as a broker – picking up the phone when you need them, working on your loans for when you need them, having access to your underwriter. It’s one of the things we did, and when you speak to our broker partners, the feedback has been incredible  because it’s made their jobs a lot easier and the process a lot smoother getting them to the closing table a lot sooner.”

Working together – with a team leader, director, a couple of dedicated team leaders and a group of underwriters – in the shop not only yields an esprit de corps of sorts, but ensures a smoother process for brokers, he continued: “You get to know the team on a personal basis because you’re working with them consistently,” he said. “You’re building relationships. They know how your business is and the type of loans you submit; you know how they run their businesses. It’s just to build the relationships to make your process smooth. The feedback has been incredible from the broker community.”

Getting folks into manufactured homes

And in what might be seen as a sign of the times in light of a softened single-family housing market, Rocket Mortgage has introduced a conventional loan option for borrowers interested in purchasing or refinancing a manufactured home. Manufactured homes are built at indoor homebuilding facilities in accordance with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Manufactured Home Standards, company officials noted in describing the new loan offering similarity to a loan for a traditional single-family home. What’s more, manufactured home is then delivered to the land where the owner will live in it. Once the home arrives on site and is placed on a permanent foundation, it becomes real property and is able to be financed through a mortgage.

This housing option offers a cost effective choice for homebuyers as evidenced by a recent report from the Manufactured Housing Institute showing manufactured homes are about a third of the cost, on average, of a site-built home. The Institute also stated that 22 million Americans currently live in manufactured homes and this building type accounts for 9% of new home construction, company officials noted.

In a prepared statement, Rocket Mortgage CEO Bob Walters explained what prompted the offering: “After revolutionizing the home loan experience for traditional site-built homes, we are proud to bring the technology and expert guidance Rocket is known for to those who are purchasing manufactured homes. It’s our hope that, through this new option, more Americans can realize their dream of homeownership.”

Fawaz echoed the sentiment: “In an effort to bring opportunity to the broker community and bring product to the broker community, one of those products was manufactured homes. There’s a need out there, and our brokers, knowing where the market is and knowing that we need to provide our brokers optionality, it was important for us to give that product because we want to make sure we deliver to our brokers, especially in times when the market is a little challenging.”

In his 12 years in the business, Fawaz hadn’t envisioned the manufactured homes option, he acknowledged: “It was never a product that we never thought about rolling out.” But the times, they are a-changin’.