Hot List 2021

CMP recognizes 53 mortgage professionals who survived the twists and turns of 2020, turning difficult situations into extraordinary opportunities

A roller coaster of a year, 2020 started out calm, and most experts were predicting a stable market throughout the year. But by the end of February, COVID-19 had arrived in Canada, and every-thing seemed to go off the rails.

In March and April, lockdowns left Canadians scrambling to prepare for the worst. With many out of work and struggling to make ends meet, mortgage deferrals were granted, the Bank of Canada dropped its key lending rate to 0.25%, and corporations implemented remote work policies. By summer, things had shifted yet again.

“Record low interest rates and a large demand of relocations due to the ability/requirements to work from home created a red-hot housing market,” says Trevor Hansen, CEO of Vancouver-based Xeva Mortgage and a member of CMP’s 2021 Hot List. “I don’t think many industry experts would have predicted 2020 as one of the strongest-performing years while a global pandemic continued to alter daily life.”

In the GTA, things were going gangbusters by December. Properties were averaging around 26 days on the market and 30 to 40 offers per sale, with a 13.6% year-over-year boost in the average home price, according to Toronto-based real estate broker and coach Simeon Papailias.

“The last 12 months have been filled with ups and downs,” says Hot List member Lindsay Jurek, vice-president of national sales at Paradigm Quest. “One of the highest points was to see our company roll out a 100% work-from-home plan within days of the lockdown, ensuring the safety, health and well-being of our employees across the country. We were able to do this quickly as a result of our investment in technology and embracing a work-from-home program already as an important part of our company culture.”

Jurek was far from the only one getting by with a little help from technology. Fellow 2021 Hot List member Bekim Merdita, vice-president of sales and business development at Edison Financial in Windsor, Ontario, says his tech-centric brokerage was able to pivot easily to a virtual environment.

“Most brokers operate a face-to-face model; however, Edison Financial operates as a centralized call centre with features such as e-signing, secure uploads and virtual closings – so we were well prepared for the current market,” Merdita says.

During the pandemic, he noticed that many brokers were able to bolster their technology game to the point where procedural upgrades that typically would have taken years were done in weeks or months. And with traditional face-to-face interaction prohibited, Merdita saw online etiquette taking on a new importance. “I refer to this as ‘word of mouse,’ which consists of what people see when they search on Google or social media platforms,” he says.

Hansen says banks, mortgage companies, lawyers and appraisers were likewise scram-bling to find new ways to do business, while brokers were educating themselves on new programs as mortgage deferrals and tax initiatives, as well as ways to streamline the customer experience.

“We did this by making sure our clients were well informed by utilizing proven scripts, templates and informational videos,” Hansen says. “We quickly learned and utilized technology to ensure all clients received a consistent and extraordinary experience.”

“In an unprecedented year of change, uncertainty and fear, it has been incredible to see our industry demonstrate strength and come together,” Jurek adds. “We have found new solutions, released new products, and have offered comfort and assistance to thou-sands of Canadian homeowners. Tears have been shed hearing thousands of homeowners share their stories and challenges to hold onto their homes and keep their families safe. Through all of this, we have also been able to celebrate a record-breaking year for volume and growth.”

In with the new

So what’s in store for brokers in 2021? The industry has adapted to COVID-19 mandates, and a vaccine is on the way to at-risk demographics. In an analysis of major banks and real estate corporations’ 2021 outlooks, predicted that the national average home price could rise by another 10% and that sales will slow – although likely due to dwindling demand rather than a lack of inventory. Analysts at Moody’s have predicted that migration into the suburbs and exurbs is likely to continue in 2021, driven by a lack of supply in the GTA and the corporate sector’s ongoing flexibility regarding remote work situations.

Zoocasa CEO Lauren Haw’s forecast is that Canada will return to a more trad-itional real estate cycle in 2021 – with the best markets in the spring and fall – now that COVID-19 has been fully accounted for in the market. Haw also expects that the Prairies could be in for a market boost once the economy and immigration fully recover from the effects of COVID-19.

As for brokers on the ground, Merdita says he expects more of the same in 2021 but adds that he’s not one for predictions – especially given how things turned out in 2020.

“I can say with confidence, however, that those with a focus on technology and creative client outreach will thrive,” he says. “Quality client service and hitting the phones still works as well as it ever did, so I’m as bullish on doing the right thing and hustle as I’ve ever been. Also, rates are expected to remain low, so that opportunity for consumers to improve on their financial situations via refinances and renewals is something that excites us in 2021.”

Hansen, meanwhile, expects demand to stay strong, especially in the first half of 2021, but that it will eventually ease. He believes interest rates are likely to stay where they are or increase slightly.

“With a continued increase in house prices, a shortage in home inventory and the potential for slightly higher interest rates, I think things will slow down marginally in 2021 due to affordability challenges, especially for the first-time homebuyers,” he says.

To continue to flourish in the current market, Hansen adds, brokers need to stay in contact with clients and referral sources without actually being there in person.

“Technology and reviewing and revising their client experience program will help secure an exceptional interaction throughout the mortgage transaction,” he says. “Mortgage professionals will also find success by ensuring they work their database, looking for opportunities to save their clients money with early renewals, refinances and investment opportunities.”

The industry’s best

That kind of perseverance and innovation was certainly on display in the Canadian mortgage industry in 2020 – and nowhere more so than in the 53 mortgage professionals selected for CMP’s 2021 Hot List. The men and women listed at left all managed to lead by example and make the best of out of the chaos of 2020. Whether launching their own businesses or starting a new charity, mentoring new employees or recruiting new personnel, these 53 individuals all pushed themselves to greater heights over the past 12 months – and they’re well positioned for even more success in 2021.


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