Tough mortgage market to separate the best from the rest

Twenty-year industry veteran outlines the future landscape

Tough mortgage market to separate the best from the rest

When all is said and done in reference to the current tough mortgage market, it will be the fittest that will survive.

That’s the assessment of Enrique Braunschweiger (pictured), president First West Financial Corp. in La Quinta, Calif. Mortgage Professional America caught up with the industry veteran at the annual FUSE conference staged by the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME).

It’s been a wild ride of some 18 months of feast and famine that was kicked off by one of the most active refi markets ever seen before the wave all but dried up. The wheat from the chaff among loan originators began to separate during that period, he suggested.

Refi wave still washing away the unprepared

“When you have a refi market like the one we had – which really was a unique situation – we have to look at that as an isolated, one-time thing,” he told MPA during an interview. “A lot of people got used to that – taking shortcuts and not doing the things that we need to do.”

Those who were unable to pivot to a purchase market will leave room for those who never lost that focus – even during that refi boom, Braunschweiger suggested. “One of the things that is positive, at least for now, is the originators that are still working are going to have to get better. We have to sharpen up. In the end, even though it’s going to be a tough transition, it’s going to weed out a lot of people who are struggling – who are just order takers or don’t want to work that hard.”

Where will they go? “They’re going to move on to other industries,” Braunschweiger said.

Ending more with a whimper than with a bang, the refi wave was beneficial for Braunschweiger. But he suggested an institutional knowledge of the business – with 20 years’ experience, including 14 as broker-owner – helped guide his decision-making process during those halcyon days.

“I honestly thought it was going to last a year,” he said of the refinancing frenzy that was sparked by historically low rates in the 2%-3% range offered in the throes of the COVID epidemic. His feeling at the time? “Let’s make as much money as we can because when it stops, it stops. It ended up lasting more.”

Riding the refi wave before its demise

He personally availed himself of the low-hanging fruit of refi: “I was very fortunate,” he said. “We were able to pay off some debt, purchase a property – we bought a commercial building. But we knew this was coming to an end and when it ends, it ends rapidly. They really weren’t ready for it, even though they were told it was going to happen,” he said of those left unable to quickly pivot. “The thinking was it was going to last forever. And here we are.”

Even amid the chaos of a mercurial market, there are tactics that can be employed to soften the blow. “One of the things you see with human beings, we have a tendency to focus no things we can’t control – it’s human nature,” he said. “Like the weather or what the sports are doing or what the neighbor’s doing. When it comes to business, we have a tendency to do the same. We wake up in the morning, first thing we worry about is the rate; we worry about the bond market; we worry about what this other person is doing. I get caught up in that too.”

One way to avoid luxuriating over those thoughts is to have an actionable plan, he said. “I need to have an actionable plan every day – five things I can control. I can control my attitude, my education, and how much I put in my brain. The other thing I can control is prospecting on a daily basis – it’s non-negotiable for me. If you’re not prospecting on a daily basis – not seriously taking time to call realtors, past clients – than you’re going to have challenges. You also can control your brand – how you’re presenting yourself to your community, other loan officers, realtors.”

Giving props to AIME

Surrounded by peers at the conference – part of an exclusive club comprising people who thoroughly understand the things he goes through in business – Braunschweiger lauded AIME for  the benefits he’s derived by being a member. 

“I was part of the original group when it was a couple of hundred of us in the BRAWL moment,” he said, recalling the earliest incarnation of AIME that was known as BRAWL – an acronym standing for Brokers Rallying Against Whole-tail Lending.

“It really changed the game for me,” Braunschweiger said. “Mostly for two reasons. We have a voice we have representation but also it has given us more power with wholesale banks, vendors. It has given us the opportunity to really get better technology. I have access to the best technology, the best lenders, the best rates. AIME has put a lot of that together for us. And now that they’re representing us in Washington – having a voice and a seat at the table – that’s gigantic.”

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