Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Call me Anything You Like...

Except a mortgage broker. Many people ask me what I do, and its often difficult to answer them both concisely, and in layman's terms. Even those who know a thing or two about real estate, too often confuse my role with that of a mortgage broker.

A mortgage broker is a matchmaker of sorts, marrying borrower and lender least until one of them wants a divorce. Sometimes the borrower cheats on the lender in the form of shopping for better rates to take out the existing lender through refinancing, and sometimes the lender cheats on the borrower by packaging their loan and selling it off to a third party.

The simple fact of the matter is that while they want to see a successful partnership, mortgage brokers don't work for the borrower, or the bank, but for themselves. Many consumers assume that a mortgage broker works for them for free, in the form of shopping for the best rates and terms, and then gets paid by the lender for providing them the ability to loan money. Funny. That's the equivalent of a commercial broker telling a buyer that they've scoured the market for better deals, and can't find one better than the deal they are listing for sale.

The truth is that if you, as a consumer, aren't paying the broker a fee directly, then the broker isn't working for you. Sometimes lenders will offer brokers a rate to push to their consumers, and the only way a broker makes money is by inflating this rate until the spread reaches a number representing a fee for which the broker is willing to work. The bigger problem however, is that in recent years, banks offered brokers more to push certain loan terms like adjustable rate mortgages. “The ways brokers were paid created a conflict of interest and really meant that the broker to a very large extent was financially rewarded by betraying the trust of the borrower,” said Representative Brad Miller, a Democrat from North Carolina who co-sponsored the legislation in the House of Representatives.

Real Estate Investment Bankers are different for a whole host of reasons. First and most obviously, is that we offer capital solutions spanning the entire capital stack, not just straight debt. This means we can provide access to secured and unsecured mezzanine, and preferred and joint venture equity in addition to debt. We also provide more ancillary services like access to high net worth individuals for credit enhancements, bridge debt, and hard money. It is our network and creativity in addition to our services that provide value to our clients.

Most importantly of course, is that while any intermediary technically has two clients, the seller and buyer, borrower and lender or what have you, investment banking counsel really only works for one of them, the borrower. Lenders are our client in the sense that they are a vital partner to our business. By working closely with them, we can better understand their needs, desires and constraints to doing business, which in turn helps make our job easier on behalf of the borrower, our true client. It is the borrower who retains us for our services. We earn our fee in that we are only paid thereafter for success. Lenders value investment banking counsel for the relationships we bring to them, not any services we provide them.

Borrowers on the other hand value us for an array of things. First and foremost is our access to capital. Banking is a relationship business, and in today's economy specifically, if you don't have a relationship, you've got nothing at all (deposits help a lot, though!). Second is our ability to structure a client's deal in a way that presents their case to potential lending sources in the most favorable light. This means that we increase the likelihood of funding since we understand how bankers want information presented to them. Third is our industry knowledge. By working with lenders frequently, we know what types of deals they want to see, which means we know the most likely candidates to be competitive for each specific deal. Fourth, we save the client time, and time is money. Many of our clients are successful real estate operators, but they didn't become successful by wasting their time on the phone with 100 capital partners, shopping for the best terms. Others are business owners, where real estate is not their forte. In either case, we act as a trusted advisor to our client. Furthermore, no lender would dare call a real estate investment banker's bluff if we told them we can do better.

So next time when you are speaking with your investment banking counsel, remember why they might be upset with you for insinuating they are "simply" a mortgage broker, and choose your words wisely.

1 comment:

CoachingByPeter said...

Buying real estate is a complicated process that you do not want to mess up with. It is going to be the most expensive purchase you make in your life. Therefore, make sure you are well educated and understand the entire process.