On Tuesday’s edition of the Mortgage Leadership Outlook series, Mat Ishbia, president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM), joined series host Andrew Berman, head of engagement and outreach for NMP magazine, to discuss the state of the industry in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, UWM set a company record of $107.7 billion in mortgage loan volume, more than doubling its 2018 production of $41.5 billion, breaking a mortgage wholesale industry record of $103.3 billion hit in 2005 by Countrywide Financial.
On The Verge Of A Boom?
As Ishbia proclaims patience is not a virtue he lives by, he feels the mortgage industry is on the precipice of a historic run; low rates, refinancing, and affordability will converge into a “Perfect Storm” of events.
“My perspective is this … if we can be patient, and I am the least patient person you will ever meet, there is a nine-month mortgage run that may be the best run in the history of the mortgage industry and that’s coming,” claims Ishbia. “The fourth quarter, first quarter or second quarter of next year … it’s coming!
“Everyone in America who has a mortgage is going to refinance. People are going to buy houses and affordability is going to be great—it’s coming! So, get ready and don’t worry about May not being as good as you want it to be. That’s short-term thinking. Just realize it's coming. The sunlight is coming and it might be here in a week, a month, three months, but it’s coming.”
Prep For Better Times
Ishbia suggests three things loan originators take advantage of now in order to properly prep for this upcoming historic nine-month span he forecasts. For starters, LOs should get ready and prepare their company to win right now.
“Training, making sure you know your technology, making sure you are investing, making sure you are on social media … do all of these things right now because the biggest nine months in mortgage industry history is coming and everyone has to know that you are available to help them with their mortgage needs,” said Ishbia.
“Train, get your processor to do more … figure out how to use technology, bet on yourself and invest in technology, spend the time and know the guidelines. Get ready with your past clients, get ready for your future clients, but train, coach and improve yourself right now. Don’t take a month to lay on the couch and watch the news.”
Secondly, Ishbia feels LOs should reach out to a currently neglected segment of the homebuying process, the real estate agent, and begin to build a healthy relationship.
“Realtors are not being talked to by anyone right now,” said Ishbia. “Now is the opportunity to call Realtors because they are going to be an opportunity. When rates are 2.75% or 3.25%, nobody calls a Realtor. When rates are at 4.5%, everyone needs to talk to Realtors. Now is the opportunity to build your business long-term. Purchase season is going to come, maybe a little late, but Realtors will want to hear from someone who can close a loan in 15 to 20 days. Go dominate! Go get those Realtors.”
Finally, Ishbia feels this is the time to write some loans and to build rapport and trust with clients.
“It’s OK if you don’t lock and close them right now. Get them ready because the opportunity is going to be there, it’s going to come, take advantage of it,” said Ishbia. “Don’t sit there and say ‘I am not going to take any applications because I am going to wait for lower rates.’ Take those applications! Educate your borrowers on why you think they will save more money, look at mortgage-backed securities. Now you have educated them and they are sticking with you. They are going to say, ‘He educated me! He is the expert and I am going to believe in him.’ Write the loans, focus on technology, train because it’s coming and it’s going to sucker punch you in October. It’s an opportunity right now!”
Ever the optimist, Ishbia chooses to block out the negativity of the news. Instead, he takes aim at the positive. He has even encouraged his team members to avoid the news.
“I look at things as opportunities, and the reality is, if you watch the news all day, all you hear is news about the coronavirus and negativity,” said Ishbia. “I look forwards instead of backwards and look at opportunity. That’s how we have done it at UWM, to think of all of the great things and I am proud to be part of this industry and a positive light in some respects to my team members and broker partners.”
One thing that concerns Ishbia is mortgage forbearance. While it is a must for some who are struggling after job losses, Ishbia feels it is incumbent upon the industry to properly educate consumers on what it means to request a forbearance.
“The one low spot may be about forbearance and properly educating consumers, not because we don’t want people to take it, because we want people to know what they are getting into,” said Ishbia.
Backing The Broker
"I am all in on the mortgage broker, and I have always been all in on brokers, that’s who we are at UWM and am proud of it,” said Ishbia. “The best place for a consumer to get a mortgage is through an independent mortgage broker. Not because I want to send them to UWM, because I want them to have options with many lenders. That’s why brokers are better.”
It’s the options that mortgage brokers bring that makes them stand out as the one-stop shop for the homebuying public. Even in the middle of a pandemic, the value a mortgage broker brings to the table is priceless, he said.
“That’s the great thing about being a broker,” Ishbia continued. “COVID-19 has made being a broker 10 times more valuable and the ‘why’ is this … because every lender, including UWM and all of my competitors, has tightened something, changed an overlay, changed a price, changed a guideline and guess what? If you are in retail and you don’t like a change that a retail company made, you know what you do? You deal with it! Or, you quit. You have no choice. If you don’t like something, you can go to another company! That’s OK. That’s what being a broker is.”
Missing ‘The Family’
A constant proponent of the mortgage broker, Ishbia leads a team of 5,800 at the UWM campus in Pontiac, Mich. Just as his team has had to adapt to the new norm as has the smallest broker shop, it’s the feeling of “family” that Ishbia misses the most as his workforce has gone the remote route as the Coronavirus has taken hold.
“We have 5,800 team members and 5,750 are working from home right now,” said Ishbia. “I am here with about 50 people in about 1-million-plus-square-feet, so we have plenty of social distancing here in our office. The reality is it’s been a different environment. I am really big on ‘team.’ We are big on culture, people and family, and it’s lonely here!”
While the personal feel of UWM’s usual bustling campus is taking a pause, the efficiency of the company has not suffered in the slightest, Ishbia said.
“The most common question I get from my team is since their efficiency is so great and we are working so hard is: ‘Are we going to work from home going forward?’ I answer that, ‘Absolutely not,’' said Ishbia. “I love people here. We have a big campus and I love being part of it. The synergy and culture of our brokers coming in here—we host trainings with hundreds of people coming in here every single week—it’s awesome and I cannot wait to get back to that.”
“Can we work from home any time we want? Of course, we could now but that’s not who we are at UWM. We are a family,” said Ishbia. “When you are a family—at least the families I want to be around—we want to be together and spend time together and work to get better every day.
“Right now, it’s a temporary situation, but whether it’s the middle of May, beginning of June, middle of June, July, we are going to be back here together as a family, working hard to deliver great service with great turn times and speed and quality to all of our clients.”
Check out the entire chat between Ishbia and Berman in the video below.
Previous guests in the Mortgage Leadership Outlook series include Carissa Robb, David Schroeder, Robert Stephens, Christine Beckwith, David Luna, Barry Habib, David H. Stevens, Rob Chrisman, and more. See all the interviews from the Mortgage Leadership Outlook series on its YouTube channel.