Broker finds 'true path' after shaky start

After suffering a setback early in his career, this broker is now thriving

Broker finds 'true path' after shaky start

Being fired by your boss – at the office Christmas party no less – for having the temerity to express wanting to strike out on your own. That’s what happened to Adrian Placinta when he started off in the mortgage industry.

But if the adage positing success as the best revenge is true, he’s living proof. His company, True Path Loans Inc., is expanding and posted some $78 million from 136 units in the last 14 months. 

Yet the road hasn’t been easy. Having survived the real estate crash of 2008, the subsequent firing had him scrambling for resources on how to become an independent broker. He chatted with MPA about the rocky road that eventually yielded True Path Loans.

Placinta entered the mortgage industry in 2005 after playing football for San Diego State University, he told Mortgage Professional America in a telephone interview. As he describes, them, those were heady times indeed.

“I’m from Orange County, California,” he said. “It was the mecca of mortgage at the time. Everyone was doing mortgages as far as I knew, and I just fell into it. I was in the retail side for a couple of months while I started to understand the industry.”

Before long, he was working for a smaller brokerage house before moving to another firm that got bought out by HSBC, one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organizations.

“We did well for a little while through the crash,” he said. At the brokerage firm where he worked, he was involved in refinancing mortgages “from this huge pool of loans that we’d go to Wall Street to buy for 10, 20 cents on the dollar.

“And they’d hand us all the customers and say, ‘go refinance them and knock off the balance 50%, whatever you need to make the loan work.’ We’d call these clients and say, ‘Okay the house is appraised at $500,000, you owe $800,000. So let’s do a loan at $400,000 and they’re going to forgive the balance.’

“They were buying the loans at ten cents on the dollar, so they were making good money. Having that hedge fund partner through the crash is what carried us through.”

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He became intent on venturing out on his own around 2011, continuing to learn the trade at a five-person shop where he spent about five years. That’s when he was unceremoniously fired.

“I told my broker/owner at a Christmas party that I was thinking of going off on my own,” Placinta recalled. “I wanted to start my own brokerage shop to see what that was like. I thought he was going to be excited for me. He fired me at the Christmas party.” To add insult to injury: “He told me I was going to fail.”

To this day, Placinta wonders if he was fired because the boss didn’t want competition or didn’t want to lose him. But that was the least of his concerns at the time. He now desperately needed to understand the complexities of his chosen profession.

“He kind of lit a fire under me,” he said of the Scrooge-like boss who fired him in December 2016. “I had to figure out how to do it. By the first week of January I’m on my own, trying to figure out how to be a mortgage broker. I’m looking around online, Google, Facebook, I called NAMB [National Association of Mortgage Brokers], every trade association I could find.”

Early support came from BRAWL (Brokers Rallying Against Whole-tail Lending) the precursor to AIME (Association of Independent Mortgage Experts), he said. The path then led to KickStart program, a $500,000 grant program to grow the independent mortgage channel offered through NAMB to which United Wholesale Mortgage contributed.

The idea was to offer 50 individual loan originators $10,000 toward startup costs – office space, software technology and the like -- that would make it possible for them to accept loan applications.

“I applied, and was one of the KickStart recipients,” Placinta said. “So I got strapped in with $10,000, and never looked back.”

From 2017-19, his was a one-man shop, still doing some $40 million to $50 million by himself while also processing on the loans. His business was all through referrals, with no marketing. Soon, it became too difficult to run the shop single-handedly: “I can’t handle all my calls, my voicemail is full, I’m always missing text messages because I was so slammed. So I started hiring people.”

His first hire came highly recommended from a friend who had to let her go but vouched for her abilities. She was planning on leaving the industry at the time and was doing commercial financing, Placinta said. “She was going to be an escrow officer and asked me for an escrow contact. I’m like ‘Forget that, come process with me.’”

It was just the two of them for about a year, he originating loans while she processed them. Together, they did about $100 million in volume. By the end of 2020, Placinta had added 15 more people with an equal number last year. He’s since opened a branch in Wills Point, Texas, outside of Dallas along with another in Ventura, Calif. Plans call for a third office in Arizona, he added.

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His wife, a resources manager for a publicly traded company, has also aided his growth, he said. She called his attention to Hiring Our Heroes, a program that connects military members in the waning months of their active duty with US businesses. Placinta said he ended up hiring two of the program’s participants, including a high-ranking female officer who hails from the Wills Point for whom he opened the office there.

AIME looms large for Placinta, who credits the organization for having given him the freedom that comes from being an independent broker, now on the wholesale side. He recalls traveling to Europe when he worked by himself during those salad years, closing loans from little coffee shops along the way.

“That’s something that’s big with AIME as well – what it does for you to having your own shop, owning it. Just the freedom it gives you. Definitely it’s been a blessing finding AIME and being able to grow. I have three kids, two houses. I probably wouldn’t have all this if I didn’t start my own brokerage.”

Collegiality and camaraderie are big at AIME – a far cry from his former boss who fired him over the holidays years ago. “They help you with connecting with other people who’ve been through it,” Placinta said. “That’s bigger than anything else. You can get advice from Google, but to be able to call a top producer – some guy who has 300, 400 loan officers and get an hour of his time just because I’m part of AIME.

He recalled one such contact who helped him during his early forays into the industry, Peter Galvez of United Wholesale Lending. A top 10 broker nationally, he talked to Placinta for two hours: “He went through every step of everything he does, and what his people do. He went through the individual roles, and how they do it and sent me examples. He was an open book, not afraid of competition.

“That’s what you get from AIME – people who want to help you who aren’t afraid to share.”

The money ain’t bad either, he suggested. He said it’s not uncommon to hear of people making $300,000 per year – more than doctors in some instance. “It’s a pretty cool industry,” he said.

But the true reward is in helping people achieve the American Dream of home ownership. Asked what drives him, he described a letter he received from a single mom the same week he spoke to MPA expressing her desire for home ownership for her kids.

 Mid-interview, Placinta sent a copy of the letter via email – as if it were at the ready to remind him what drives him.

“Let me tell you a true story about why it is so important to me to be able to purchase a home,” the woman’s letter reads in part. “My inspirations are my kids. I felt like a terrible mother. I get depressed when I think about how I didn’t buy a home when they were young. I love my kids with all my heart. There’s been something missing for us to grow old together and enjoy the future. I would love a home for our family. We have a lot of love to catch up on.”

Placinta vividly remembers getting that letter which the woman wrote in the wee hours of the morning.

“She sent me that letter at 1:30 in the morning telling me how she felt like such a bad mother because she’s been working since she was 15 and a half, and she has kids she never sees because she has to go to work and she’s been in apartments bouncing from house to house and how buying this house is going to change her whole world. At 1:30 in the morning, I’m sure she was up at night hurting, thinking she wasn’t going to get the house.”

By the following morning, Placinta was able to call the woman alerting her loan had been approved.

“I enjoy that part,” he said. “I have quite a few of these!” he added after a suggestion he should frame the letter. “I’m not a doctor – I’m not going to be able to save people’s lives – but I can help people on the mortgage side.”