When borrowers are referred to Seattle Loan Advisor Maggie Richter, they often look her up online, and find her video series on homebuying. “That just starts to build some of the rapport that I get with clients,” she recently told Mortgage Media. “That makes it not feel as cold to reach out.”
With 52 closed loans (or as she says, “families helped”) in 2018 through early August, Richter is on her way to her goal of helping 100 families.
Richter also discussed her desire to work with other women in the industry. “I’ve struggled to find who’s a really good mentor. Somebody I really want to be like in the industry,” she said when asked about challenges facing women in the industry. “Like who’s a woman who I want to emulate or emulate her business. I’ve had trouble locating or identifying who that person is. Whereas I think there are a lot more men in the business who have either made bigger names or just are well known or easy to find just even within my own company.”
Q&A With Maggie Richter (NMLS # 896109)
Eric Souza: We’re in Seattle, Washington, talking with Senior Loan Advisor Maggie Richter at RPM Mortgage. Thank you for taking the time to speak with Mortgage Media.
Maggie Richter: Thank you for having me.
Eric Souza: I wanted to talk a little bit about what your role is as a loan advisor.
Maggie Richter: Yeah, so my role is to help home buyers who are thinking about buying, or maybe somebody refinancing, but generally I work with home buyers to help them figure out what are they qualified for? What could they buy? And then once they find a home, I help them finish up the loan. So kind of that beginning stage through the final part of them getting their keys at closing.
Eric Souza: And what are some the challenges that are facing home buyers right now?
Maggie Richter: Certainly, from the loan side, I think a lot of people come in with concerns or misconceptions about whether they’ll even qualify. And we see homes prices, certainly in the area, going up. So, could I qualify for a home I really even want to live in or in a neighborhood I want to be in? So that’s a lot of their concerns. And certainly what we see a lot in the market is … just a lot of inventory, low inventory, and things like that.
Eric Souza: What type of trends are you seeing right now as far as owner-occupied, non-owner, second homes?
Maggie Richter: We mostly see primary homes, right. A lot of people are buying that primary home, either their first home or that next home or moving up as maybe their family grows, or they’re moving into the city for a job. But I am starting to see some second homes, a handful here and there, and certainly some investors are out there making purchases and we hear about that. I think in the news we hear a lot about investors buying up properties, especially maybe foreign investors. A lot of times they refer to the part, maybe they’re paying cash for them.
So if they’re paying cash, they’re not working with me. But I do work with a number of investors who are maybe building a portfolio and know that this is a desirable area to own and to rent to people who are working for companies here that are recruiting and bringing more people in.
Eric Souza: Seattle is an entirely different beast than a lot of the rest of the country. First-time home buyers probably make up a lot of your business. Do you have any suggestions to what first-time home buyers might do to prepare when they come in to talk with a lender?
Maggie Richter: Yeah. I’d say, really, just come and have that conversation. I think that’s a huge step. I’ve met with lots of clients, and many of them my own friends who’ve come in and been surprised by how qualified they might actually be. By how what a mortgage payment really looks like. Maybe it’s not as high as your rent. Maybe it’s similar to what you’re paying in rent, because rent isn’t very inexpensive now either. So I think when you’re thinking about coming in and preparing, get your paperwork together, you know, your pay stubs, your income, things like that. But make that step. A lot of people haven’t ever looked at their credit. They’ve never thought about some of those ratios we look at, debt to income. And then are surprised to see, oh I could buy something that maybe I would actually enjoy living in and not change a lot of my quality of life and have a similar payment to what I was paying in rent. Or they learned that they didn’t have to put 20% down. They could put 5% down, or 3% down, or 3 and a half, depending on the program.
So there are more options out there, I think, and I love that part of the educating people. Even if they leave and say, “Hey, I learned something great and now I’m going to save more. I’m going to pay down some of my debt, and I’m going to come back in one or two years.”
Eric Souza: So on your website you have a series of videos and social posts. What led you to market yourself this way and how has it worked out for you?
Maggie Richter: The videos and kind of social posts just felt natural to me. It feels like I go to the internet to learn things, to want to find out who I might want to work with before I meet then and learn about them. So it felt like a logical place to start. And I’d say the response has been really positive, I think. I don’t always know. I think a lot of people probably go there before … Maybe their real estate agent says, “Hey, you should call Maggie Richter.” I’m guessing they go online and look me up and maybe look at them before they make that initial call. And I think that just starts to build some of the rapport that I get with clients. That makes it not feel as cold to reach out.
Eric Souza: Do you find it easy to separate your work and personal life since you do share so much about yourself socially?
Maggie Richter: I don’t find that to be too difficult. I think I was never a really naturally high sharer on social media. So when I started kind of bringing in some more of that business side, I almost have to work a little bit to share some of that personal side. Just because I think my default would be not to share a lot of photos and I probably got on Instagram more related to work than personal. So I don’t think that line, in terms of the social media has been hard to balance.
Eric Souza: That being said, I did notice that socially you posted about you and your husband just recently buying your own home for the first time. Congratulations.
Maggie Richter: Thank you.
Eric Souza: How did that experience go being on that side of things?
Maggie Richter: Yeah, it was fun. I mean it’s certainly different because I think the loan piece is a big stressor in getting, especially your first home. I mean it’s the biggest debt most people take on and it’s overwhelming and scary so I think that part was really removed for us just because I am so experienced in that and by default he is too. So that part of it was probably a lot simpler than most first time home buyers. But still those same feelings. We looked online for years. Kind of checked out different neighborhoods. Thought about or dreamed about what we might want to buy. That process was really long for us since we weren’t really sure what we wanted. Which I think is very common. And then came upon something that was really different than what we had even thought we would consider. So yeah, it was a really fun experience and we’re so happy to own. And the loan part obviously was very simple and we knew what was going on so that wasn’t a big stress of it. But yeah, it’s still a really stressful and exciting experience just to go through.
Eric Souza: Well congratulations.
Maggie Richter: Thank you.
Eric Souza: A lot of the first time home buyers that you meet with must take some hand holding. What are some of the ways that you make things easier for them?
Maggie Richter: Yeah. I love that part. I love working with the newness of first time home buyers. So some of those videos that you saw are kind of, I consider them maybe like some of those stock videos that you can look at online any time. But I also have personalized videos that go throughout the loan process. So when somebody gets in contract, they get a video from me that just kind of says, “Congratulations. Here’s what to expect.” So there’s videos throughout the process that help kind of show them. And I think is a good way, more than maybe the phone or email, for some clients to get.
Now, I still call them on the phone and email them too but it’s giving these alternatives and I think really, by and large, I want my clients to feel like they can reach out to me at any time. So I text with most of my clients to check in. Many people are really busy with their jobs so if we need something quickly I might text them and say, “Hey, do you have a minute to look at your email?” So I think all of those things help people feel really cared for and sometimes those are later night, evening conversations after work or meetings where we’re getting together to talk about the paperwork or the process.
So I think all of that availability, being really available to my clients is important to me and I think they know that and respect that. So that helps a lot in kind of the process and holding the hands of this mysterious thing that they’re going through.
Eric Souza: Right. What kind of challenges have you faced being a woman in the mortgage industry? And also being a young woman in the mortgage industry?
Maggie Richter: Yeah, I’d say the industry overall is very male dominant and I think the average age is into the 40s and 50s. So being younger in and of itself is pretty unique. And then being a woman. So I feel like there’s not a lot of women in the industry. I haven’t worked with a lot of women in the industry and really interested in meeting other women, even if they work for other companies. Just to connect on ways of … kind of that comradery that you get from that. So in terms of challenges, like I’ve struggled to find like who’s a really good mentor? Somebody I really want to be like in the industry. Like who’s a woman who I want to emulate or emulate her business. I’ve had trouble locating or identifying who that person is. Whereas I think there are a lot more men in the business who have either made bigger names or just are well known or easy to find just even within my own company.
Eric Souza: What are some goals that you have in your career? What’s the next step for you?
Maggie Richter: Yeah, that’s a fun question. So this year, my goal is to help 100 families. So that’s been really fun to shift from thinking about numbers, our business can be very dollar volume based. To really think about what matters to me is helping families. So shifting it to families has been really fun. This next week, I’ll hit 52 families for the year.
Eric Souza: Terrific.
Maggie Richter: So that’s a goal to get to that 100 families, whether it’s this year or into next year.
Eric Souza: 52 closed loans this year?
Maggie Richter: Yeah.
Eric Souza: Congratulations.
Maggie Richter: Thank you.
Eric Souza: That’s terrific.
Maggie Richter: Yeah. Yeah. So that’s been fun. And see it as families. You know, 52 families, most of those I’d say are purchases, about probably 4 refinances. So that’s not a big part of my business or really anyone’s business right now.
Eric Souza: Yeah. And in Seattle, you have larger loan amounts too. So that must present it’s own set of challenges.
Maggie Richter: Yeah. I’d say it’s a balance, right. We certainly do jumbo loans so a jumbo loan right now in King county is a loan over 667,000 so those have much more niched guidelines and kind of pieces to put together of the puzzle. Which is fun but yes, can be more challenging. But generally I’d say loans of all different sizes, ultimately we’re doing a loan. You know, so the paperwork is the same. We’re getting an appraisal. We’re getting title. We’re doing all the same steps for the most part, whether you were doing FHA, 3.5% down on a condo at 300,000 or you’re buying a million dollar property and putting 50% down. Similar work is being done. So the distinction between maybe the types or size of loan isn’t as big as you think.
Eric Souza: That makes sense.
Maggie Richter: Yeah.
Eric Souza: What do you do outside of work?
Maggie Richter: Outside of work my husband and I ski a lot. So we volunteer with a ski program called Outdoors For All. They’re an adaptive ski program so they help people with disabilities get to the outdoors and we work with their ski program in the winter. And did some rock climbing with them this summer as well. So skiing and rock climbing and kind of hiking, those are kind of our loves. So being outside but I’d say especially the winter is a time we really enjoy. And then being with friends and family. I have many siblings, and nephews and things like that. So, yeah.
Eric Souza: Fantastic. So what’s the difference between working directly with you at RPM as opposed to having a home buyer go and speak with a mortgage broker?
Maggie Richter: Here at RPM mortgage, we’re a direct lender. So what we’re doing is, I kind of call it the Expedia of lending. So when I’m looking for maybe a product for you, no matter what type of loan you’re doing, when I pull up different pricing or options for you we’ve got 15, 20, maybe 25 different investors who are interested. And what’s nice about that is it’s creating some sort of internal competition amongst our investors. But it’s also giving us more niche options. So maybe you had a foreclosure recently. Or maybe your credit isn’t as good and this investor says, “Hey, we don’t mind low credit. We’ll price a little bit better for lower credit.” Or this investor says, “Oh, we really like high credit but it’s okay that you put a low down payment.” So those kind of start to balance out. The other big thing is because we’re a direct lender, we’re taking care of the entire process. So when you’re talking with me, we’re taking care of underwriting, doc drawing, funding, all of that’s happening here. And then afterwards, we might sell that servicing of the loan later on. A broker generally is more like a middle person. So they’re going out, they’re looking for those rates. They’re shopping those rates for you but they’re usually sending your loan there for underwriting, and doc drawing, and funding. So somebody else is handling that.
So RPM mortgage is handling all of those pieces which gives us a lot more control of the process. So we can usually close faster. It also has opened up our opportunities that we feel like is important to have a lot of credit options for people who might not fit into the normal box. Who might be self employed, or newly self employed, or trying to buy before they sell. Some of those things that maybe don’t fit in some of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac’s classic boxes. So that’s been really important to RPM as a company to have those options and that kind of distinguishes us, I think, in the market to being that local lender who’s thinking about, what do people need here. It’s really common in Seattle. People want to buy if they’re maybe moving up to their next home. Selling first is even more stressful now. Where are you going to live in the meantime, especially where our market’s been competitive. So having products where we’re able to bridge some of those, that time period has really helped serve our clients and distinguishes us maybe some brokers and other banks.
Eric Souza: Well Maggie Richter, thank you for taking the time to speak with Mortgage Media and best of luck hitting that 100.
Maggie Richter: Thank you.