Brian Minkow, HomeBridge Financial Services: California’s housing market is highly competitive

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Ask a Lender
April 9, 2018

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Brian Minkow, mortgage loan officer, HomeBridge Financial Services

Brian Minkow is a mortgage loan officer and divisional vice president for HomeBridge Financial Services in Westlake Village, California. He was ranked No. 1 in California in Ask a Lender’s Best Mortgage Lenders 2018 rankings, based on his 760 loans closed in 2017. Minkow originated more than $325 million in home loans in 2017, making his average loan size for the year $428,028.

Brian Minkow of HomeBridge Financial Services helps guide homebuyers and homeowners in Westlake Village, California — about 40 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles — through the home loan process. As the No. 1 ranked lender in California in Ask a Lender’s Best Mortgage Lenders 2018 rankings, Minkow has his finger on the pulse of the California and Los Angeles housing markets.

We asked Minkow to share his expertise on the housing markets and lending culture in California and the greater Los Angeles area. He also provides some insight into how to navigate the home loan process in California and talks about the reasons behind his successful two-decade career in the mortgage business.

What does the housing market look like in California this year?

The housing market in California is insane. The values are going up again. Every house that is priced right, they’re getting 10, 12, 14 offers. The loan officers who do the job upfront, that have the [loan-submission] file and are well-known in the industry … when there are 10, 12 offers on a property and the listing agent recognizes who you are, they know what to do. Your offer is going to stand out because they know that you (the loan officer) are not going to let them down.

What do the markets look like in Westlake Village and the greater Los Angeles area this year?

Most of my [loan] volume comes from the San Fernando Valley — Oxnard, Camarillo, Thousand Oaks. A lot of people look at my volume and think, ‘Oh, he’s in California. He does million-dollar loans.’ Not at all. My average loan amount is [$428,000].

In California, there are some individuals who do a lot fewer loans. And what they do is, they hone in on the huge loans. I am more into dealing with the hardworking American, the blue-collar people, that kind of stuff, because that’s what makes this job so special: You’re putting people into homes and you’re doing the American dream. That’s a huge thing in my eyes.

What are the hot neighborhoods in the greater Los Angeles area?

All the areas from, I’d say, Santa Barbara down to almost San Diego. All areas in California right now are absolutely insane. The San Fernando Valley, the outlying areas, call it L.A. as a city, Ventura County. There’s really not one area that’s not going up right now.

What is the hot mortgage product in your market?

Right now, there’s a lot of first-time homebuyers. There’s a lot of FHA (Federal Housing Administration) products. There’s a lot of conventional products. I would absolutely say that HomeBridge is always the frontrunner with certain brand-new types of products to help the consumer, to help the homebuyer. The low down payment, the flexible guidelines, things like that [make FHA loans attractive].

What advice do you have for prospective buyers in your home state?

I would tell them to go get approved (for a mortgage) first. Go figure out exactly the maximum (amount) you can afford and then start to house hunt. Because what happens is, a lot of homebuyers go out with their Realtor and they go find a $600,000 house. And then they realize, ‘Oh, I can’t afford that. I can only afford $500,000.’ Well, when you’re going to see a $500,000 house, compared to a $600,000 house, it doesn’t look the same. So, I would strongly recommend getting approved upfront and then go house hunting.

How did you get started in the mortgage business and why are you successful?

I started in the mortgage business about 21 years ago. I got in the industry and I was not knowledgeable at all. I knew nothing. I worked for a company called Washington Mutual and I was there my entire life, until they shut down. Then, I went to Prospect Mortgage and Prospect was around for about eight years before they got worked into HomeBridge. So, I’ve really only worked for a couple mortgage organizations in my entire life. I’ve been No. 1 at every organization. I was No. 1 at Washington Mutual one year after I started in the industry and I was never not No. 1 at WaMu, Prospect or HomeBridge.

I would just say that what really stands out is, I realize that when you’re getting a mortgage, it’s a very stressful thing. And I want to make sure that it goes as smooth as possible. I also tell the clients what I do: I follow through, always return their calls, always return their e-mails. And I just make sure that whether it goes good or whether there’s a hiccup in the transaction, they’re always in the know. They always know what’s going on.

And I think, what I do, unlike most other loan officers in this industry, my staff expend a lot of time upfront making sure that we review all the hurdles, all the challenges, all the things that the underwriter is going to come up with, and make sure that is in the file upfront. A lot of loan officers in this industry just kind of gather stuff, throw it against the wall and hope that it works. I don’t do that. I make sure that I do a lot more work upfront so that, during the process, it goes a lot smoother.

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