Interfirst Mortgage to lay off nearly 50 LOs

Interfirst Mortgage to lay off nearly 50 LOs
Chicago-based Interfirst Mortgage Co. will lay off 77 employees in its Charlotte, North Carolina office come January 2022, a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) notice filed by the company reveals.

Among those getting a pink slip are 49 loan officers, 10 national account managers, seven retail sales managers and seven transaction coordinators. The company provided no explanation for the upcoming terminations. It did not respond to requests for comment left by HousingWire.

Just shy of a year ago, Interfirst announced that it would be opening an office in Charlotte to serve as a second headquarters for the company’s wholesale business. To run the hub, the company hired Casey Nunn, a former Rocket Mortgage and Homepoint executive, as the vice president of wholesale lending.

At the time, Mark Freedle, executive vice president of production at Interfirst, said in a statement that the company’s “broker-centric approach offers the technology, competitive products, pricing and service to help our broker partners build and grow successful.”

Interfirst was founded in 2001 as a retail originator and then expanded to the wholesale channel and the correspondent channel in 2008 and 2011, respectively. In 2017, after years of plummeting volumes, the company, led by CEO Dmitry Godin, decided to shutter its business, only to relaunch in 2020.

In returning from its three-year hiatus, Interfirst said it had reinvented itself as a tech-forward mortgage lender. It said it developed its own proprietary loan origination platform that applied artificial intelligence to the loan process, which allowed Interfirst to eliminate upfront fees and cut interest rates.

In October, Interfirst’s tech-forward approach helped the company secure $175 million in funding to accelerate growth and fund new technologies.

One of the company’s investors, Al Goldstein, CEO of StoicLane, said in October that “the mortgage industry is fragmented and ripe for disruption by tech-enabled, customer-centric platforms.”

Layoffs at the Charlotte office will commence the week of Jan. 21, 2022, but before then, the company will provide notice to each affected employee and will ensure that “employees who are laid off are paid all earned wages and agreed upon benefits at the time of termination,” the company said in a letter filed with the North Carolina Department of Commerce. Only seven states have WARN requirements in the nation.

Meanwhile, in an interview with HousingWire in August, Dhaval Patel, senior VP at Interfirst, said the company was recruiting former teachers and first responders to become in-house LOs following a seven-week training and licensing course. Interfirst, which claimed to have originated $1.65 billion in volume between June 2020 and June 2021, pays new LOs between $44,000 and $68,000 annually, which is based on base salary and quarterly performance-based bonuses. 

“I feel that we do a good job in maintaining our processes, and make sure that we’re sensible in how we pay,” Patel told HousingWire in August. “Our loan officers, our team, they know that they can probably make more money somewhere else, but they’re gonna take it from someone, and it’s not going to be the company. They’re taking it from the customer. So you have to really decide that the work that you’re doing is worth more before you go out there and try to take more money.” 
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Homepoint’s Phil Shoemaker: Lessons from a tech-based mortgage leader

Homepoint’s Phil Shoemaker: Lessons from a tech-based mortgage leader

If you added up the impact that HousingWire’s Vanguard winners have had on the industry, you’d likely have a comprehensive list of the initiatives that have moved markets forward. These are the leaders who have dreamt, shaped and molded a better way to execute the home-buying journey. From injecting technology into the mortgage process to redefining the real estate agent and home shopper relationship, these leaders have laid the foundations for millions of homeowners. HousingWire sat down with three of these leaders: James O’Bryon, RE/MAX Gold Nation CEO, Cathleen Schreiner Gates, SimpleNexus CEO, and Phil Shoemaker, Homepoint president of originations, to learn more about the housing trends they’re closely watching, what they think will define 2022 and what they hope people remember them for when they retire.

Brena Nath: First off, congrats on being named a 2021 Vanguard. Who would you want to thank for helping you get where you are today?

Phil Shoemaker: I’d have to say my wife. I definitely would not have been able to do a fraction of what I’ve done without her support. I’ve been really lucky along the way. Outside of my wife, there’s a long list of people who really took an interest and invested in me and they all know who they are, and I very much appreciate all of them.

Brena Nath: What’s one accomplishment in your career that you’re really proud of?

Phil Shoemaker: Honestly, I think the biggest thing is that I’ve never sacrificed who I want to be. I feel like success can change people, and I’ve seen that. I’ve been around a lot of people who have found success. And I think that what I’m most proud of is, despite my success, is that I feel like I’ve stayed consistent with my values and who I want to be. It’s really all about me. I really find a lot of joy in helping other people and being a part of a team that wins together, as opposed to my own personal accomplishments.

Brena Nath: How are you helping move markets forward?

Phil Shoemaker: The No. 1 thing would be that I think this industry as a whole has become a little too focused on the wrong thing, specifically technology and automation. Just to give you context and background, I’m a technologist, and so I started out my career as an electrical engineer. That’s what I got my degree in. And then, I got into technology and built two loan origination systems. So, I actually came into the industry with a very heavy focus on technology. I think technology and process are extremely important because efficiency really does matter in this industry.

But this is still very much an industry that’s about relationships. It’s a people-centric industry. I believe what we’re doing at Homepoint is unique, and we’re coming at it with a people-first mentality. Our goal is to kind of double down on that. If you think about what we’re doing, putting people in homes, it’s a very noble thing, and it’s oftentimes one of the biggest transactions that a person ever does.

It’s stressful, right? And so, creating a company that recognizes it’s not just about profit and making money, it’s about something bigger than that, which is we are putting people in homes. Oftentimes, I think that gets lost in the industry. I think that you can win and do both. You can make money and you can also take a people-centric approach, and you can be efficient from a technology standpoint. One doesn’t have to trump the other.

Brena Nath: What are two trends in the mortgage and real estate industry that you’re closely watching?

Phil Shoemaker: The number one trend is that I do believe that there’s going to be a persistent migration between from retail to wholesale. And let me back up and give you the perspective there. Physical distribution in this industry is still very important. Having originators in the market that have access to referral sources, like real-estate agents, who are familiar with borrowers, communities, and the different nuances of the market is really important. And there are two ways you can get that.

You can build a company with distributed retail where you’re employing those LOs, or you can engage in wholesale lending where you are a lender but you’re leveraging this network of originators around the country. And I’ve had deep experience in both. I’m not saying an originator in retail or wholesale is better. But I do believe that the overall platform that wholesale offers an originator is superior, and the reason is that in wholesale, there’s more alignment with the originator and the lender.

The originator is able to focus on what they do best, which is originating loans, and the lender is able to focus on service and building scale and efficiency, opposed to trying to manage the originator, which is very costly and time-consuming in retail. It got muted a little bit in 2020 because when rates go down, everyone’s pipelines get full, and people stop moving. As rates go up, which they undoubtedly will, refis will go away and capacity’s going to start to become more constrained.

You’re going to see more and more originators take that leap and move to wholesale because they’ll give their borrowers better rates, and I think they’re also going to be able to give their borrowers a better experience. The second thing I’d point out is that there is a severe issue in mortgage with diversity. You could also broaden that to other industries, but since this is the industry we’re in, I’ll focus on mortgage. There needs to be more minorities in leadership positions and owning businesses. It’s the same thing with women. The industry has been dominated by one class for far too long. That’s why last year we did a $1 million grant to help minority- and women-owned brokers start.

Brena Nath: The past two years have been filled with a lot of uncertainty; what factors do you think will define 2022?

Phil Shoemaker: First, it is pretty certain that rates are going to up. If you look at every single data point around where rates are going, it’s up. And if you look at what that means in terms of forward forecasted volumes, there’s a heavy shift towards a purchase market, which is why I think physical distribution will matter and why you will see wholesale start to grow. With that same concept, when you see that shift with refi s going away, you’re also going to see a pretty healthy amount of consolidation. And that’s something that, honestly, I do struggle with because I think consolidation is good since you do have to have it to some degree.

If you can create a company that has more scale, you’re able to bring down costs, that ultimately benefits the end consumer. But there’s a degree issue there. Too much consolidation is bad. You don’t want three companies because then you lose all the optionality and that’s bad. That is one thing that I’m hyper-aware of. The industry will consolidate, but I do think that collectively as an industry, we should be concerned about how much it consolidates.

Brena Nath: After you’re finished with your career, what do you hope people remember you for?

Phil Shoemaker: This might sound a little cliché, but I just want to be remembered as a good person. Look, I am very competitive, and I like to win. But for me, winning is not about getting a certain number on the ranking tables. It’s about achieving a goal and the process you go through along the way, and the people you impact and having a positive impact in the world. That would be number one — that I was a good person. It really is about the process and who you impact as you go through it. That’s what’s important. Not the destination.

Brena Nath: To wrap, what’s one piece of advice you would give people in this industry?

Phil Shoemaker: It’s not about you. If I’m focused on making other people successful, I win. It’s not about you. I think the people that are most successful are the ones that actually find their success in helping other people as opposed to helping themselves. And oddly enough, I think you end up getting further that way.

This Q&A was originally featured in the Oct/Nov issue of HousingWire magazine. To view the whole issue, go here.

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How to help homeowners make the most of home equity

How to help homeowners make the most of home equity
As home equity reached another record high this year, mortgage companies have a big opportunity to help homeowners understand how to better manage or leverage their home’s equity to improve their housing and overall financial outlook.

Even as rates are slowly beginning to increase, cash-out refinancing options are still a relevant and potentially beneficial option for many as the amount of equity in homes reaches new levels. In fact, recent data shows that 93% of homeowners have at least 10% equity in their homes.

This is especially important as more borrowers emerge from the pandemic and look to better understand the financial options they have available to them.

Through proper communication around refinancing options available to borrowers and by outlining differentiated interest rates and opportunities for cash-out refinancing, home equity can be used as a tool to help homeowners leverage their home as a financial asset.

Use home equity to raise home value

With equity high and rates still low, this is a great time for mortgage companies to be having conversations with borrowers on cash-out refinancing options and sharing the potential this option gives them for additional cash flow.

This form of refinancing can help borrowers who need a source of money to add additional value to their home, especially as the current market is incredibly attractive for sellers.

This route can be especially beneficial for homeowners looking to sell their home in the future as it can be put towards much-needed home improvements to increase overall home value.

Using cash-out refinancing can help homeowners create more resale value in their properties, pushing them towards a successful emergence from any pandemic-related stress across their financial profile.

Tackle high-interest debt

Cash-out refinancing is also a valuable option as it can be used as a means of consolidating non-home related, high-interest loan payments.

While borrowers may be up to date on their mortgage payments, fallout from the pandemic caused many to get behind on other debts, including on their credit cards. A recent survey from found 42% of U.S. adults with credit card debt have increased those balances since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Many borrowers don’t realize they have equity on the table in their homes that can help them pay down their high-interest credit debt through the use of cash-out refinancing. Mortgage companies have an opportunity to communicate the option for borrowers to refinance and free up equity that is beneficial to them.

Invest in the future

Another benefit of utilizing cash-out refinancing is the ability to use newly freed up cash flow to invest in the future. Whether this be investing in real estate properties, creating a college fund for children or utilizing extra cash to start a business, using a cash-out refinance can open up doors for homeowners.

Using equity to get cash flow that goes towards long-term investments is an attractive opportunity for some homeowners, depending on their specific situation and financial goals.  

While investing has generally become more prevalent across age generations throughout the pandemic, mortgage companies should also be sure to guide borrowers into fiscally responsible paths for cash-out refinancing.

While investing in highly volatile assets can be a great option for “quick cash,” betting on high-risk assets can be detrimental to homeowners looking to utilize cash-out refinancing for long-term success. Homeowners should view cash-out refinancing as an option that gives them flexibility to have more control over their long-term financial success and should be cautious using it as a path toward a quick return.

At a time when homeowners and their families have gone through tremendous financial loss because of the pandemic, cash-out refinancing can be an option that positions borrowers for a brighter financial future.

While many of these options can be beneficial for homeowners, caution should be exercised when newly freed cash flow is used towards returns that are not guaranteed. Mortgage professionals can help best position borrowers for success by communicating refinancing options on a case-by-case basis to ensure it is the most viable option.

Through conversations on better management and leverage of home equity, mortgage providers can help borrowers improve their financial outlook.

Whether the result is to make home improvements, consolidate high-interest debt or even use the free cash flow towards investments, with more equity on the table than ever before, it is crucial for servicers and lenders to maximize their impact by helping borrowers understand all options available to them.
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FNF’s title segment has another record quarter

FNF’s title segment has another record quarter
Fidelity National Financial, Inc. reported total revenue of $3.9 billion in the third quarter, up 31 percent year-over-year. In the title segment, total revenue excluding recognized gains and losses was $3.1 billion, compared with $2.5 billion a year ago, a 24 percent increase. Read on for more from the third-quarter earnings report.

Survey shows how industry adapted to pandemic

Survey shows how industry adapted to pandemic
The pandemic taught everyone to quickly adapt and change. According to PropLogix’s fourth annual State of the Title Industry Report, those lessons continued guiding the title industry in 2021.The record title order volume due to refinancing activity spurred title and real estate professionals to make some changes to handle the demand, according to the survey. Read on for more.

Redfin expands brokerage to second-home destinations

Redfin expands brokerage to second-home destinations
Redfin launched in Big Bear, Calif., and Ocean City, Md., and extended its brokerage services in Hudson Valley, N.Y., to include parts of Ulster County. Redfin now serves more than 100 markets across the U.S. and Canada. Read on for more about the expansion.



Fidelity names SVP of investor and external relations

Fidelity names SVP of investor and external relations
Fidelity National Financial named a new senior vice president of investor and external relations. Most recently, she was senior vice president of financial planning and analysis at F&G. Read on for more about the new SVP.