Monthly Spotlight on Local Businesses & Residents
Q&A with Mark Maimon, Vice President
Mark Maimon entered the mortgage industry in 2002 and quickly became one of the nation’s top loan originators. He is currently ranked as one of the top 100 originators in the country by Scotsman Guide Magazine and has ranked within the nation’s top 200 originators every year since 2006. Mark is an active member of the Financial Planning Association and has been a featured originator at various mortgage industry events and conferences — most recently serving as a panelist on the “$100 Million Loan Producer” panel at the Sales Mastery conference sponsored by Todd Duncan (NY Times Best Selling Author of “High Trust Selling”).
1. First question, and an obvious topic for a lender, what is your take on current interest rates and what are the takeaways buyers should consider when evaluating rates? They are currently at a four-year high, but generally rates have held fairly steady for the last 9 years. How do you advise clients who are trying to base part of their purchase decision on rates?
I think people tend to overthink this decision. In general, rates are near historic lows and that’s what people should focus on. Rates move on a daily basis up and down like an EKG chart and ideally you want to catch a rate lock on a day when they are down. But chasing the “bottom” is like chasing an invisible target. You won’t know if you’ve hit it until it’s too far in the rearview mirror to know if you’ve hit it or not. So I tell my clients not to bother trying to hit the absolute bottom with rates and just focus on finding the right home at a price that you’re comfortable moving forward with and not to get hyper-focused on whether it’s the absolute perfect time to buy or not. Especially when someone is buying a primary residence because then it’s not just an investment, but also the home where you and your loved ones will live and enjoy themselves and create memories and to me that’s even more valuable than the investment side of real estate. As a real estate investor where numbers are most of what matters this might be a different story, but for primary residence purchases I tell my clients to be comfortable knowing that rates are quite low even if they aren’t at rock bottom.
2. With the infusion of cash buyers in the marketplace, it can put buyers with financing at a competitive disadvantage for coveted properties. In those situations, do you have the ability to approve a buyer and/or the appraisal more quickly, or any other tools at your disposal, to level the playing field between finance and cash buyers?
The playing field will never be perfectly level between cash buyers and non-cash buyers, but sellers who neglect well-qualified buyers just because they aren’t all-cash may be leaving money on the table. I personally think that the perceived risk of accepting offers from financed buyers is overblown. If the lender does their proper due diligence upfront (which my team always does), then transactions should never fall apart because of something that should have been sorted out at the pre-approval stage if the lender was doing their job correctly. But in a day and age where you can get your mortgage on your phone without ever talking to a human or getting any real financial advice, I can see why some sellers would be concerned about banks cutting corners for the sake of speed while neglecting the quality of their work. Everyone likes speed until it backfires and kills a transaction.
3. You’re licensed in many states; talk about how that might impact LA-based clients.
I’m currently licensed in 16 states, but the majority of my business is in California, New York City and the surrounding states. I have a number of clients in Entertainment that have homes in both LA and New York and being an expert on both markets gives us a competitive advantage over hyper-local lenders. Half of my team is located in New York, so we have boots on the ground in both states. I think it gives us a better perspective on the market in general because each market we work in is at a slightly different stage of being a buyer’s/seller’s market and you start to see trends more clearly in once city when you’re already seen that transition in another. I also think that people who buy investment properties should consider going outside of state lines more often. New York has very high closing costs compared to LA, so I’ve encouraged my New York clients to consider buying investment properties in and around LA because the cost of entry is lower and the returns seem to be higher than what you can get on a rental property in New York. So if nothing else, I think I can give my clients more perspective on their options because of the various states I’m engaged in.
4. As a "mortgage broker," how does that differentiate you from an in-house lender at a large financial institution?
My firm is both a direct lender and a mortgage broker all in one. From the consumer’s perspective, that means that we have a number of different options to offer a client as well as several outlets for niche financing that doesn’t fit into the box of standard underwriting. This can be extremely helpful in cities like LA where many people don’t have 9-5 salaried jobs because the big retail banks can get caught up in the minutia of income transitioning from one source to another and might turn down a loan because of their inability to use common sense. I pride myself on being able to handle both standard transactions as well as ones with some hair on them that traditional banks won’t touch even though the client may not be a credit risk at all. The retail banks do what I call “checkbox lending” where they only do loans that are picture perfect, but in today’s day and age of entrepreneurship and non-conventional employment there is a significant need to help those people who aren’t in salaried jobs. And that’s where my team and I can add significant value because we’re able to use common sense to help get loans approved that otherwise would have no shot at a successful conclusion.
5. Compass recently launched a Bridge Loan program for its clients, with your firm being the designated lender. Talk about that program and how you're able to help homeowners who need to sell before buying new?
I was fortunate to be able design the program for our company and am running the entire bridge loan operation. I’ve seen countless situations where people have bid with a sale contingency (where your offer is contingent upon selling another home) and haven’t gotten an accepted offer after many tries. Then they come to us for a bridge loan and the climate completely changes for them. We’ve also had some really heartwarming cases where we’ve been able to help families who were really in need, such as an elderly couple who couldn’t sell first and move into temporary housing because the husband was very ill and may not have survived the transition according to his wife. Despite being denied loans from other banks due to their fixed income being too low, we were able to find a way to get them approved for a bridge loan large enough to turn them into cash buyers and that helped them get their new home for less money and with less headaches. And that successful transaction has set them on a path to financial security in their elder years. First and foremost, I think this program is going to be great at helping people in very meaningful ways and that’s the part of my job that I love the most and what I’m most excited to see take shape over and over.
6. What do you and your family love about living in Windsor Square?
It’s the people! My wife and I grew up in Seattle where people are naturally friendly and we have lived in New York City where people have a bit more of an edge. Then we moved to LA and found Windsor Square and we’re back in an environment where neighbors get together, kids play together, and people are enhancing each other’s lives. It’s a real community, which I think can be difficult to find in LA and most other big cities. Plus it’s right in the center of everything, so it’s never too far to go anywhere – unless of course you choose the wrong time of day to try!