Stories of Character and Courage-NDILC Luncheon Panel at 2018 NAWRB Conference

After a jam-packed morning of information and new industry developments, our conference attendees were treated to an informal panel session led by NDILC (NAWRB Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council) Chairwoman, President & CEO of NAWRB Desirée Patno, Co-chair Vanessa Montañez, and Council Members Sarah Goldfrank, Dr. Chitra Dorai, Stacey M. Walker, and Teresa Palacios Smith.

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mPower at NAWRB Conference 2018: Addressing Workplace Disruptors

For the first time at a NAWRB Conference, mPower (Mortgage Banker’s Association Promoting Opportunities for Women to Extend their Reach) presented a panel, kicking off our Year of Women with style and substance.

NAWRB President and CEO, Desirée Patno introduced MBA COO and Founder of mPower Marcia Davies noting “This is the first time we have had a collective group of women and men from all different industries and this panel is the first time we have had MBA be a part of us.”

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FHFA House Price Index Increases 0.6 Percent in February

In a recent news release, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) revealed that United States house prices in February rose 0.6 percent from the previous month, according to its seasonally adjusted monthly House Price Index (HPI). The previous house price increase in January, at 0.8 percent, has been adjusted to reflect this new finding.

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New Tax Laws Affect High-End Housing Markets and HELOCs

The new tax bill that was passed by Congress in December 2017, celebrated as the Trump Administration’s first major legislative victory, will have inadvertent consequences for potential homebuyers looking to buy homes in high-end markets, and those with existing HELOCs. A decrease in home prices and caps on tax deductions, among other effects, will lower affordability in some high-tax states.

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Catching the Next Wave of Mortgage Borrowers

Sometimes, a transition calls for a radical change, though some people try to avoid such shifts because they can be jarring. The sudden loss of refinance business has been that way for many lenders, and it will get worse in the future. How lenders respond to this transition into a purchase money market will set the winners apart from the rest.

The approaches loan originators will take to solve this problem will vary. Many will double their efforts to attract new refinance business, as writing that business has become their core competency. Others will seek out more purchase money business, pulling out old playbooks and relearning the rules of building strong business referral networks. A few will look for the radical change and catch the next wave of mortgage borrowers.

Speaking of catching waves, when learning to surf, even when you fail, you still learn something about yourself and become better for it. Mortgage lenders, on the other hand, cannot afford to fail. They must find the next wave of mortgage borrowers or face the threat of losing their businesses, which is all the more reason for them to consider the radical change.

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Nonprofit Counseling: Protecting and Preserving a Vital Service to American Homeowners and the Finance Community

The past decade has taught us a great deal about housing loss and preservation. Many of us were personally affected, or know someone affected, by the 2007-08 economic downturn period our country experienced.

There have been several lessons learned. Most of all, we learned that too many U.S residents have too much debt and lack the necessary reserves to weather the slightest bump in their financial lives.

History will argue about what went wrong and who to blame. There were lots of mistakes but there were several good lessons. One was the reminder of the value and need for nonprofit housing advocates, educators and counselors.

We learned that homeowners and homebuyers who took advantage of homeownership, credit and financial literacy counseling fared far better during the housing and economic crisis and avoided foreclosure and delinquency more than homeowners who did not. We learned that pre-purchase education, credit and budgeting courses prevented many homebuyers from buying more than they could afford and taught them to avoid the pitfalls of over leveraging their home and excessive debt.
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U.S. Home Prices Continue to Climb

U.S. home prices continued to increase in the third quarter of 2017 by 1.4 percent, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI). The index, which is calculated with home prices from mortgages sold to and guaranteed by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, depicts a 6.5 percent uptick from the third quarter of 2016 to the third quarter of 2017.

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FHFA Announces Increased Loan Limits for Freddie and Fannie in 2018

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has announced that it will increase the conforming loan limits for mortgages that can be sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2018. The 2018 maximum conforming loan limit for single-family homes will be $453,100, up from $424,100 in 2017.

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Homeownership Rate Increases in the 3rd Quarter 2017

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest “Quarterly Residential Vacancies and Homeownership” release, the U.S. homeownership rate increased to 63.9 percent in the third quarter of 2017. This rate was not statistically different from those of the second quarter 2017 (63.7 percent) or the third quarter 2016 (63.5 percent).

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How I Reinvented my Career without Reinventing Myself

Baby Boomers are living longer, retiring later and, the truth is, we’re finding that one lifelong career just isn’t enough. Long gone are the days when a high school or college graduate finds a dream job, spends the next 30-35 years moving up the company ladder and retires with a pension at 62. In fact, graduates are changing jobs nearly three times, on average, within the first five years of graduation; a pace that has nearly doubled versus just 20 years ago, according to LinkedIn Economic Graph data.

Whether you’re a Millennial, Baby Boomer or somewhere in between, if you’ve spent any time in real estate or financial services over the past five to 10 years, chances are you’ve experienced long and lean times as a regular course of doing business. With the ongoing interest rate movement and uncertain times ahead, there is no better time than now to consider where you stand in your career, how much it fulfills you and what might lie ahead.

My own employment, some 30 years of trials and successes in financial services, has taken me over a lot of winding roads. I’ve had to make a number of adjustments to my career path—either preemptive or forced—most recently several years ago when my employer (a very large and well-established insurer in the mortgage banking ecosystem) descended into receivership.

As with twists and turns I’d experienced before, the writing had been on the wall. Banks were substantially cutting back from residential lending and servicing. The once robust non-agency market was anemic and unlikely to emerge as its former self. Warehouse lending, title services, mortgage insurance, appraisal services and others survived, but were (and are) very competitive commoditized value propositions that expand and contract based on market need.

Fortunately for me, I had diversified jobwise. Since 2005 I had been following a passion and teaching evening college classes in finance and macroeconomics. So while the sudden change stung, it didn’t sink me.

As both a student and professor, I’ve spent a lot of time studying employment trends. Virtually every generation has faced changes in both opportunity and employment requirements due to advances in technology. In real estate and mortgage lending, automation of workflow has been a driver of technology in loan originating, appraisal, loan processing, underwriting, servicing, brokerage services segments and much more. I had been exploring how to capitalize on my 30+ years of mortgage banking, structured finance and capital markets experience to refresh my career. My research led me to financial technology companies that were quietly making inroads into the space, but with improved value propositions.

Shortly after things went south with my employer, I accepted a position at a fintech company in San Francisco called Alight. It was a leap for me—I was a died-in-the-wool mortgage guy and while Alight was exciting, I have to admit to having a bit of trepidation about becoming a tech sales guy. But I was hooked from the start. Alight’s value proposition suited my expertise, my educational background and my view of where the mortgage industry needed to head. It was a win-win for me from day one to the end of my time at the company.

Back to you. Chances are your industry—your livelihood—is (or will be) undergoing substantive change, change that will likely affect the way things run. You need to be prepared for any surprises that may come your way. But where to start?

1. Do your research.
First, study the advancement of tech companies and the
inroads they made during periods of change. Tech advancements are the proverbial writing on the wall and typically herald significant change coming. Technology that enhances productivity may curb manpower needs, while technology that opens up new areas previously undiscovered may require additional manpower, so education and training—even just some self-study—may be necessary. Investigate the field you’re in now (if you’re satisfied), and some other industries where you can leverage your expertise and about which you think you can be excited.

2. Take the five-year plan and stay relevant.
Use your imagination to consider where the industry might be five years from now; it’s a reasonable and practical timeframe on which to base decisions. Read thought leaders and influencers, not only in your industry but also in related industries and broad, innovative areas like technology, sciences, economics. And then, instead of focusing on the job you would like to have five years from now, begin by considering what types of employment will be part of the future economy. Play to your strengths, your experience and your skillsets, and educate yourself in unfamiliar areas that have potential. Be sure to only pursue things that excite you and will be worth really working for.

3. Get in touch & stay in touch.
If you’ve been working in an industry for a while, you’ve likely accumulated a lot of contacts. Take the time to reconnect with old colleagues as those contacts will come in handy as you look for new opportunities. Begin to grow your network out beyond the borders of your industry, particularly into areas you are exploring. People like to refer and hire people they know.

4. Find your paper route.
Develop a hobby, passion, talent or value proposition into a business that is economically rewarding, convenient timewise and psychologically liberating. Start it as a paper route, something you do in your spare time that can add a second or third source of regular and predictable incremental income. Your paper route may start off small, but with time and energy you can grow it into a meaningful source of income. Get certified or licensed, and keep it active. When I first started teaching 12 years ago, what I made was laughable. I taught one class and earned $400 for an eight-week session, and today I am an adjunct professor. My teaching income is not inconsequential and the benefits are substantive. Best of all, I love teaching and it is something that I can do well into semi-retirement.

5. Develop an achieveable, but not too slow timeline.
Life is busy and there are a million things that can get in the way of making changes, particularly when it comes to revamping a career. It’s much easier to continue on the same trajectory than to change course. Take a breath and reevaluate. The things you start today, the things that require extra effort, the things that require a journey, are the very things that will contribute to your success sometime in the future. I once had a boss who always said to me, “Ralph, the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” Well, go ahead and take that first bite.

Expanding your career into a new area or converting a hobby into an income-producing enterprise requires a lot of care and feeding, a whole lot of discipline and some sacrifice. But, once you’ve done it, you won’t remember the pain, you’ll be basking in the rewards. Things like supplemental income, or a “side hustle,” as the Millennial demographic calls it, can turn into a meaningful addition to your personal bottom line. Money is fungible, $3,000 to $25,000 per year in extra cash can be very additive to lifestyle, savings or whatever you decide.

Start thinking about what may lie ahead for you—life’s big milestones—kids, houses, weddings, college, rainy days, retirement—and factor those into your plan first. Once you have those cornerstones laid, the only limits to what comes next are the ones you impose. Live your best life many times!

Ralph Armenta
Technology and Mortgage Banking Consultant & Adjunct Finance Marcoeconomics Professor