Be your own boss: career as a mortgage broker offers possibility of flexible schedule

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      A nine-to-five job doesn’t work for everyone.

      There are people who hate being tied to a desk during normal business hours from Monday to Friday.

      For those seeking flexibility, a career in the mortgage industry could be their ticket to freedom.

      “People don’t always like traditional employment, where you work for an employer and you’re accountable to a boss,” Samantha Gale told the Straight in a phone interview.

      Gale, a lawyer, is the CEO of the Canadian Mortgage Brokers Association–B.C.

      It’s a nonprofit Vancouver-based organization that, according to its website, supports and enhances "professionalism and ethical standards within the mortgage industry".

      She also holds the same title with the Mortgage Brokers Institute of B.C., a related organization that provides training.

      As a broker, “you are your own boss,” Gale said.

      “They like the independence,” she said about those entering the field. “They like the ability to make their own income.”

      Brokers work as an intermediary between a lender, typically banks, and a person who wants to borrow money to buy real estate.

      If a real-estate transaction were a relay race, Gale said, brokers are found at the start, assessing how much a person can borrow.

      Brokers also often work with borrowers for a period of time well ahead of applying for a loan, by helping them with a plan to save for a down payment or improve their credit rating.

      Their services are likewise needed when a homeowner renews the mortgage or refinances the loan.

      To become a broker, one must take and pass the mortgage-brokerage course offered by UBC’s Sauder School of Business. Then one has to be hired by a brokerage firm, which sponsors the individual’s application for a licence before the B.C. Financial Services Authority (BCFSA), which is the provincial regulator.

      The Mortgage Brokers Institute of B.C., for its part, offers a practical course that covers topics not included in the UBC course. Although the course is not mandatory, it teaches newcomers how to go about their new job.

      A successful application with the BCFSA means that the person is now what is called a submortgage broker. That individual has to work with an established brokerage company for two years before being able to work as a full-fledged mortgage broker.

      “Most of the time, you, as a sub-broker, are paying a desk fee or a percentage to the brokerage to work there,” Gale noted. “There are some [sub]mortgage brokers who will work for salary. Most don’t, but it’s not unheard of.”

      Brokers are different from so-called mortgage advisors or specialists who work at banks.

      Gale explained that these advisors or specialists are typically trained by the banks, and they are not accountable to the BCFSA.

      “If there’s a problem with a mortgage specialist, they just get fired,” she said.

      According to Gale, some mortgage advisors or specialists leave the bank, go through the licensing process, and become submortgage brokers and, eventually, mortgage brokers.

      As brokers, they have access to many lending institutions and are not limited to offering the products of one bank.

      “They make more money. They’ll have a bigger commission than a mortgage specialist,” Gale said.

      Brokers are paid a commission by the lender. According to Gale, that commission may be 0.75 percent to one percent of the loan.

      Depending on the arrangement with the brokerage, a submortgage broker gets to keep much of the commission.

      “It is a business where you make your own living; you make your own money,” Gale said.

      Submortgage brokers can spend most of their time outside the brokerage office, meeting people and making connections.

      “That’s part of being your own boss,” Gale said.

      Successful brokers are individuals who know how to build a base of clients and generate new contacts.

      Except for young people whose families own or manage a brokerage, she said, it’s rare for high school students to think about becoming a broker.

      “It’s something that they fall into, probably later in life, when they’ve had some real-world experience,” Gale said.

      Gale noted that there are a lot of parents with young kids who find that careers in the mortgage industry are well suited to family life.

      “They can drop what they’re doing and they can go and pick their kids up from school at three o’clock in the afternoon,” Gale said, “whereas if they’re at a salaried position with an employer, they cannot just take off and leave.”