MANATEE — Tired of feeling like the “bad boys” of the home mortgage industry, a local group of mortgage professionals have formed the Mortgage Alliance of Southwest Florida in hopes of educating the public about their role.
The group of eight independent mortgage bankers and brokers believe consumers as well as others involved in the home buying and lending sector need to better understand how independent mortgage professionals operate. “We all recognize that consumers trust banks rather than local independent mortgage professionals,” said Joe Adamaitis with Academy Mortgage Corp. and a member of the newly formed group. “We are a better alternative to the big banks and nobody knows about it.”
Adamaitis says large banks like Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase “put people through unbelievable hurdles” when they are trying to refinance or get a mortgage.
Loan originators at banks also are not required to be licensed or certified while mortgage professionals must pass state and federal testing and go through checks on their finances and background, he said.
“They claim they have internal training and that’s enough,” Adamaitis said.
However, Ken Wagner, producing branch manager of BB&T Bank in Bradenton, says he is licensed and required to have background checks just like independent mortgage professionals.
“We are licensed by the nationwide mortgage licensing system just like any other loan originator,” Wagner said. “We have background checks, fingerprints, employment checks. We also are highly trained at the bank and we are bonded and insured through the bank.”
There currently are two statewide organizations — the state chapter of the Mortgage Bankers Association and the Florida Association of Mortgage Professionals — but Leslie Swart, co-owner of Blue Skye Lending and a member of the new group says these are industry associations groups for everyone and don’t clearly represent “what originators stand for and what we are all about.”
“We aren’t the bad guys but we have been the scapegoat for sure,” Swart said. She said “it is frustrating because a lot of things being implemented for consumers aren’t helping.”
Adamaitis agrees. Independent mortgage professionals have the experience, knowledge, local presence and ability to compare loans from various lenders to help customers, while banks are only able to offer their own loan products, Adamaitis said.
In 2006, before the housing crash and the problems with people getting mortgages who weren’t qualified, there were about 80,000 licensed mortgage professionals in Florida, he said. Today, that number has shrunk to 4,500.
“We are still under siege,” Adamaitis said. “It feels like you have a target on your back.” But he says he doesn’t expect to get business out of being a part of the Mortgage Alliance.
“We are drawing attention to the alternatives and educating the community,” he said. “We want to educate the consumer on what is really going on in the lending world,” Swart said.
Other members of the Mortgage Alliance include Marci Walker, Blue Skye Lending; Geoff Allison, Blue Skye Lending; Joseph Knight, Gulf Coast Mortgages of Southwest Florida; Lill Denham, Gulf Coast Mortgages of Southwest Florida; Sean Martin, Martin Funding Corp.; and Bob Ward, Prospect Mortgage.