“The feeling that you’ve provided someone with a solution, a key to continuing their life however they choose - that’s the ultimate reward.”
That’s Mark Chala, one of One Stop’s senior Mortgage Brokers. Mark is a firm believer in taking charge of your circumstances and using special tools to get to where you want to be.
And for Mark, it’s ok (in fact, it’s natural) to encounter some bumps along the way.
Kelvin: How did you get into the industry?
Mark: I actually started when I was still a teenager helping my family with their lending business. I officially started working as a broker in 2006 with a company called Spectrum Canada with the ultimate goal of coming to One Stop. We did business with One Stop and I built a relationship with Serge, so it was a good fit here.
You’re helping people build a financial roadmap for, sometimes, the rest of their lives. Does the pressure ever get to you?
It doesn’t any more, but early in my career it was common. As you gain experience and confidence the pressure dissipates. You see so many situations it gets easier, so the more you work in the industry the easier it gets from a pressure standpoint. The level of duty and care is always serious because it’s a major situation for anyone, lending or borrowing. So each transaction deserves the same level of attention. The person who’s borrowing the money is the key to the transaction, it really has nothing to do with the amount of money because it’s relative to their situation.
Is it a rewarding career?
Because we work in a specific niche the rewards are massive. The feeling of providing something to someone who might have felt they were put of options - I just love it. I love making a difference. As private lenders we have the ability to tailor a deal to save someone some money or consolidate debt so they can fix another area of their life. For instance, maybe people need to borrow money because of health issues or injury, so they pull some equity from their house until they can pick things up again. You’re really helping people through tough times or unique situations, with the goal of seeing them get back to non-private deals.
That’s interesting, is it normal practice to refer people back to non-private deals?
For sure. We have the ability in-house, but a lot of our deals are from other mortgage brokers who are at an impasse. So we clean up their client’s debt or their credit and then we send them back to an A-level lender. If we’re dealing directly with a borrower who comes in with debt consolidation then we provide that service here, maybe a private second mortgage or whatever it might be, and then through some advice and some planning we can take them back to the bank. Our mortgages are meant to fix problems, they’re a stop-gap for people unable to get what they want from the bank, but we fill that need.
You see all kinds of situations, different types of people and different stories. Do you see yourself as an all-inclusive problem solver?
That’s a great word to describe us. Every deal we get has some kind of story or a catch to it. It gets really interesting to meet all these new people with a story to tell.
What are some of the common mistakes you see with new young mortgage brokers?
I’d say the ability to look at things other than credit scores, or TDS (total debt servicing) and GDS (gross debt servicing). Institutional lenders have a percentage requirement, debt vs income. For instance, I was working on a deal yesterday with a client approved for a mortgage of $100,000 because he drives a car that eats up a lot of monthly income. So his debt service ratio reflects that. Without the car he’d be approved for twice as much. It doesn’t mean he can’t afford a larger mortgage, but the institutional lender doesn’t see it that way.
So, there are other ways around most situations that brokers sometimes don’t consider. Like I said though, a lot of our referrals come from brokers. There’s the private avenue and certain requirements need to be met, such as an equity-based requirement instead of a credit and interest based requirement.
Think back to your start in the industry. What advice would you give yourself now?
The first two years is tough, but after that you’ll know if it’s the job for you. So if you think it’s the job for you then stick it out for the first 24 months for sure. There’s no way to grasp the intricacies of the industry it in any shorter time frame then that. It might seem fairly straightforward but it’s not at all. You need in-the-job experience over multiple deals to be able to se it from multiple sides. You need to get over that one-dimensional viewpoint of the industry. It’s been ten years and I still learn new things every single day. There’s no way a new broker can grasp it, you have to be immersed in it, work hard and learn as much as you can for those first two years and then re-evaluate.
Anything less than that and you haven’t given yourself enough time. Two years might seem like a long time, but it’s a line of work that requires a lot of thought and skill. You learn how to give people advice and how to advise them.
And you’re happy you stuck with it?
Absolutely. I can’t see myself doing anything else. This is where I’m supposed to be.