To say that 2021 was a good year for Matt Thomas, a loan officer at Merrimack County Savings Bank, would be a massive understatement.
Thomas wrote 294 residential refinance, purchase and construction loans worth more than $78 million last year. Pandemic and rock-bottom interest rates set off a frenzy of refinancing that began in 2020 and extend midway through 2021.
And this year isn’t so bad either. There has been a significant falloff in refi demand as interest rates rise, but buyers seeking purchase mortgages and builders looking to put up homes with construction loans are helping pick up some of the slack.
“The last two years of volume have been astronomical, driven primarily by the refinance side,” Thomas said. “Up to that date, we were [originating loans] in the $50 million range and then the pandemic hit. It has been a perfect storm.”
Thomas was the top-producing residential mortgage loan officer at New Hampshire banks last year, according to the annual review of the mortgage data compiled by The Warren Group, publisher of The Registry Review.
The top loan originators and the institutions they represent were ranked according to the institution they were most closely affiliated with in each particular sector – namely credit unions, banks and mortgage companies. The top originators were also ranked statewide and by individual region as well.
Who were New Hampshire’s top loan originators last year? See our rankings to find out where your bank’s LOs landed.
Jay Vogel of Residential Mortgage Services topped the charts statewide as the top originator for a single institution in the mortgage company sector, and in the state overall, with loan volume of nearly $120 million.
That’s up from $67.4 million in 2018, when Vogel was also the state’s top-producing originator for a single institution.
Mary Merrill of CMG Mortgage took first place in the mortgage company category – and statewide as a whole – in the sheer number of loans closed for a single institution, weighing in with 436.
Richard Haney at St. Mary’s Bank topped the field of credit union loan originators, with volume of nearly $44 million, while Stacey Gagnon of Triangle Credit Union, did the most loans, with 230.
New Tech, Personal Touches
The refi boom helped double his loan volume last year, said Haney, who estimates 70 percent of his business last year involved refinancing loans.
St. Mary’s make some smart moves that helped make it possible to process the huge bump in business, expanding the mortgage department and adding to key positions like processing assistants.
“It made it more seamless so we could get to the closing table,” he said.
So far this year, purchase loans – either to buyers seeking mortgages or buildings seeking financing to build a home on behalf of a buyer – now make up 70 percent of his business, with refis back down to about a third.
Haney also plans to ramp up his business networking, reaching out to builders and Realtors and going to various trade association meetings.
“It’s about being seen and being present,” he said.
For his part, Thomas of Merrimack County Savings Bank, credited a stellar team of underwriters, processors and closers, who helped process a huge bump up in refi business during the first half of 2021.
“I have a great backroom staff that does all the work and makes me look good,” he said.
Thomas also credited his bank with investing in new software that helped enabled document sharing on the front end of the origination process and helped keep customers in the loop.
Another lesson learned over three decades in the business is ensuring potential customers remember your name, Thomas said. Not being able to recall a loan officer’s name, in fact, is one of the big reasons would-be clients wind up calling someone else.
“You want them to remember you – that is the only way they will pick up the phone and call you later,” Thomas said.
No Fear for Refi Slump
Looking ahead, Thomas isn’t particularly concerned by the drop off in the refi business, which began to slow in the second half of 2021.
Refi is now down to about a third of overall mortgage loan volume, or about where it was pre-pandemic, he said.
But the home sales and home building markets have remained hot and have helped pick up the slack.
There has also been a shift away from cash buyers and back to traditional mortgage financing, said Adam Gaudet, 2022 president of the New Hampshire Association of Realtors.
The first two years of the pandemic brought a flood of cash buyers from everywhere from New Jersey to California as professionals in various fields realized they could work for anywhere.
But all-cash deals, after rising to as much as 20 percent of the market, have fallen back to the 5 percent range as the surge of out-of-state buyers has abated.
Stepping into the void have been New Hampshire buyers relying on traditional mortgage financing, likely leading to more business for loan officers, he said.
“Lenders are busy and it seems like no one is refinancing,” Gaudet said. “At this point, most of what they are doing is writing new loans.”