Top Producer Reaps Benefit of High-End Market


A Beverly Hills, Calif., mortgage originator capitalized on his relationships with real estate brokers who sell high-end properties to finish 2013 as the nation’s top producer by dollar volume.

Mark Cohen, the owner and founder of Cohen Financial Group in Beverly Hills, Calif., has this title for the second consecutive year. He originated $604 million in loans last year, almost $268 million more than runner-up Brian Scott Cohen of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage’s Brooklyn, N.Y. office, who did $336 million. Joe Caltabiano of Guaranteed Rate, Chicago, was third on Origination News’ list of top producers with volume of $229 million.

Mark Cohen is fourth on the list by number of loans originated, behind Ryan Kelley of New Castle Home Loans, in St. Louis, who did 821; Brian Scott Cohen’s 720; and Roland Benson of imortgage, in Roseville, Calif., who did 717.

Taking advantage of the referral relationships built up over 29 years in the business allowed Mark Cohen to have a successful year in 2013.

“I’ve always prided myself on at least getting half of my business from [home] sales,” he says. And his market includes a lot of properties which need jumbo financing.

An advantage he has in the market is a partnership with the Bank of California, which allows him access to jumbo portfolio products that other originators do not have.

Compared with his 2012 production, Cohen’s dollar volume increased but the number of loans originated declined slightly.

Still Cohen’s business thrived even as he has to compete with the large commercial banks which have been buying jumbo loans for their own portfolios.

If anything, because the banks have been rejecting high numbers of loans, Cohen has been able to step in and “come to the rescue.

“That is why my sales volume is so high, because they know I get things done.”

A lot of what he does is niche products, where the borrower is self-employed. A proprietary product he is able to offer requires only one year of tax returns. He does “a lot of common sense jumbo lending.”

The product requires a minimum credit score of 720, the borrower has to have a year’s worth of reserves in the bank and most importantly, the borrower is vetted for compliance with the ability-to-repay rule. “We look at 12 months of bank statements to determine cash flow,” and that is the key factor in underwriting these loans, he explains.

The Bank of California likes these loans because of their higher yields.

So far in 2014, the southern California market is strong, with a lot of foreign nationals purchasing properties in the area, Cohen says, adding these borrowers are not being targeted by the big banks.

“It is very specialized lending. I have done more foreign national loans in the past 16 months than I’ve done in the previous 16 years,” Cohen says.

And of course, the more affluent homebuyers who live in the area and who are part of his customer base have been active as well. Plus, home equity lending is making a comeback.

There is a big void in the market right now for construction financing and Cohen Financial, which is both a mortgage bank and a mortgage brokerage, is looking to capitalize on that and will soon have a new product available.

“I think the interest rate market stays steady for the foreseeable future, demand for housing is strong and I think the economy is stronger than people attribute it to be,” he says.

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