The nation’s mortgage industry enjoyed a net gain of more than 1,300 jobs during the second quarter of 2012, according to Mortgage Daily’s Mortgage Employment Index. It was the fourth consecutive quarter of job growth for the industry, and a possible indicator that the nationwide housing market is beginning to recover.
Certain mortgage markets here in California are also reflecting job growth. Mortgage businesses as nearby as Sacramento have reported an increase in hiring during the past year primarily as a result of low interest rates and new regulations requiring additional staff to handle paperwork. The spurt in hiring has not, however, materialized at the same pace in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.
"I do not believe that the nationwide trend is mirrored here, however," said Patty Amador, owner and president of Ambeck Mortgage Associates. "I believe that the economy in California lags behind the national trend and as a result our housing market continues to lag. This especially applies to new home construction, which is a strong leader in the California economy."
With a main office in Modesto and a branch office in Turlock, Ambeck Mortgage can lend anywhere in California, but focuses most of its business in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties.
Despite the area’s slow response to low interest rates and regulatory changes, Amador is optimistic that market conditions will soon change for the better.
"There is no doubt that the real estate market is stabilizing based on the increase we have seen in our business. Factors leading to this stabilization are lower interest rates coupled with lower housing prices. Home buying is affordable for more of the population," she said.
While Ambeck has not added any positions in the past year, the company is in the process of increasing its origination and loan officer staffing. The business expects that an associated increase in support staff will soon follow.
Other area mortgage businesses agree that the coming year will bring new jobs to the industry.
"We did not add staff in 2012, but we are planning to add loan processors and loan originators to our staff in 2013," said Adam Weinert, vice president of Carrollton Mortgage. "Presently we have two processors and five loan originators."
Carrollton Mortgage is also located in Modesto and primarily serves Stanislaus, Tuolumne and San Joaquin counties. The company is also licensed to fund loans throughout California. Because of its small size, Carrollton Mortgage has been able to operate efficiently and profitably throughout the turmoil in the housing market. The company’s size has been an advantage that Weinert said Carrollton takes care in guarding.
"Adding staff adds to overhead costs, however, we are optimistic and as we head into the newyear we will be adding staff, but we will be very cautious to make sure we are only hiring the best in the business," he said.
California Mortgage Associates, headquartered in Modesto, serves customers throughout California, but concentrates on communities from Tracy to the foothills and from Lodi to Turlock.
The business has added one position to its staff of 14 in the past year and is currently recruiting for three new employees.
The company has experienced a sizeable increase in business since the beginning of the year due to programs that allow underwater homeowners to refinance into today’s historically low interest rates. Still, the addition of staff has been limited due to the dynamics of the local market.
"What has been an impediment to larger staff increases is the lack of inventory in the Central Valley," said Chris Harrigfeld, owner and president of California Mortgage Associates. "We anticipate an increase in hiring if more homes become available for purchase. There is optimism in the industry that more homes will be available next year and the purchase money market will see significant increase." Moving into 2013 these area mortgage professionals are hopeful that the housing crisis plaguing the area will begin to ease and the mortgage industry will gain strength.
"I feel that our home values have stabilized and as long as rates stay the same or move up very slowly, I believe the lowest real estate prices are behind us. In fact, supply and demand has shifted to the other extreme where now we are seeing multiple offers on most homes," said Weinert.
"The median home price for the Central Valley has been very stable for the last three years. This is a strong indicator that we have reached the bottom of the real estate market. I am optimistic that we will see property appreciation as early as the first quarter of 2013," he said.
With the expectation that 2013 will be a better year for the mortgage business, the local economy will play a key role in how the industry here compares to the rest of California and the nation.
"It is no secret that the valley has been especially hard hit with the housing crisis. Our unemployment rate continues to hover over the national average and even higher than other parts of the state. Until these things improve in our area, we will continue to lag behind the nationwide standards," said Amador.