Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Is this career for me?

Mortgage brokers come from many different walks of life. The most common paths to this career choice are (a) former bank employees and (b) realtors. Both of these groups have an advantage going in. They are both experts in various aspects of real estate and mortgages. Their previous work provides them with a great introduction to the work of being a broker.

The problem for those entry points, however, is that being a mortgage broker is a fundamentally different type of work than either of those two careers. It is useful to point out a couple of obvious differences for each.

People choose to work for a bank generally because they like job stability and regular work hours. They also tend to expect a regular salary they can count on. Although a broker can make a lot of money it takes a while build a consistent income. If you have a flair for promotion and marketing, and you don't mind the occasional late night at work, then this career could be just what you need.

Many former bankers try to become mortgage brokers. Some succeed beyond their wildest dreams. Many more don't. Those who do are very happy they made the change because it is a career with real jets. Those who don't feel like they should have made it, but often don't understand what they did wrong.

The main thing for bankers to know before making the leap to becoming a mortgage broker is to become successful as a broker you will need to learn how to market yourself and your services. When you worked for the bank the bank they supplied the leads and as an idependent broker (essentially self-employment), you have to generate leads yourself . And it is harder than it looks.

The second category of jumping off points is former realtors (and other real estate professionals). In some ways former realtors tend to do really well, if they were successful at all as realtors. The reason that a successful realtor might choose to become a mortgage broker is that mortgage brokers tend to work more rational hours, and never have to work an open house.

Realtors and mortgage brokers share a lot in common in terms of training and background requirements, as well as an ongoing commitment to lifelong learning. Realtors are used to having to promote themselves and their services, and don't expect the company to do that for them. Realtors also understand the real estate sales process and are often extremely successful at working with other realtors to obtain mortgage clients and leads. This is because they also understand realtors.

A lot of former realtors who have become mortgage brokers did so because they could stop having to do open houses, and generally avoid working outside of business hours. These aren't good reasons for picking mortgage brokering as a career. They're both true, however being a mortgage broker has its own hidden obstacles, some of them significantly more challenging than attending to an open house or having to work on weekends or evenings.

Don't get me wrong, I think that both banking and real estate are great foundations for a mortgage broker to have, and do give a new broker a bit of a leg up in getting started in the career.

Let's summarize what this tells us about mortgage brokerage in terms of the types of people who are most likely to succeed:

  1. Marketing, marketing, marketing. First of all brokers have to be comfortable and eager in marketing themselves and their services to everybody they meet. Brokering is selling, and don't you let anybody ever tell you differently.
  2. Training. Lifelong learning has to be a passion because the mortgage industry is constantly going through significant changes. We are providing an essential service in turbulent times and as a broker you need to understand the economic context of mortgages. Education is the foundation of being good at this career choice, once you have a client to provide service to.
  3. Self confidence. If you need someone else to provide you with a salary or a guaranteed income then don't become a broker. This is a career totally dependant on your own moxie. Your team can help you but it can never do it for you.
  4. People person. You need to like them. If you are the kind of a person who is sought out by others for your advice, or who always finds yourself helping others then you might find this career a perfect job.

There are of course a number of requirements to complete before you can become a mortgage broker. Each province in the country sets up different regulatory regimes you have to get through but they all boil down to a license course and fees. The legal requirements are only the first step.

But before you take that first step you might want to spend a little time talking with a mortgage professional, and see if the life we lead appeals to you.

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