Acceptance Capital Mortgage Corp., a young Spokane Valley-based mortgage company that arranges mostly residential loans, is growing by leaps and bounds through a nationwide rapid expansion strategy.
The 2-year-old company, which already has 70 branches in 27 states, projects its revenues this year will be about $12 million, up from about $1 million last year. Its current loan volume is more than $25 million a month, and its on pace to hit about $300 million in funded mortgages this year, says President and CEO Craig Wilkins.
Wilkins says the company spent most of last year setting up infrastructure and networking with lenders, which serve as a source of capital for the loans that Acceptance Capital makes.
It has been good, Wilkins says. We spent last year getting ready, and now were ready to really kick it off. Our goal is to have 500 loans a month by the end of the year.
Acceptance Capital Mortgage is owned by Wilkins, Mike Hines, Mike Martin, and Jerry and Karen Webb. All five are from the Spokane area. The company employs about 240 people nationwide, including 40 in its corporate headquarters here at 112 N. University.
The companys branches were created by adding smaller mortgage operations, usually independent brokers, to Acceptance Capital, says Martin, the companys chief operating officer. Wilkins says in 2005 the company will open branches that are established and staffed solely by employees that Acceptance Capital will have brought into the industry.
It recently opened branches in New Jersey and Illinois, and hopes to add several more branches this year, Wilkins says.
Its like giving birth to a child, he says. Each one presents its own unique challenges.
Wilkins says the company works with more than 150 lenders across the country, and its grass-roots approach with lenders and customers has been vital to its success. It emphasizes face-to-face sales techniques instead of making deals on the telephone.
Wilkins, Hines, and Martin claim the company is continuing to hire employees while some competitors are eliminating positions. Wilkins says Acceptance Capital isnt overly concerned about interest rates creeping back up or the home-buying bubble bursting.
Boom times are easy; you just ride the wave, says Wilkins. Its what you do to protect yourself from bad times that will sustain you over the long term.
He adds, Everybody is thinking that the market is drying up. Were looking to stay in the business long term. The people that have picked the low-hanging fruit have come and gone. Were trying to build the same type of business as Edward Jones Investments did in the 1980s. Edward Jones had small offices in many locations across the country to cover the market.
Wilkins, who is from Missoula, Mont., spent several years working as a stockbroker in Rio Rancho, N.M., with Edward Jones Investments before returning to graduate school at the University of Montana. Wilkins says he moved to Spokane in 2000 and helped launch Acceptance Capital Mortgage in 2002.
The company believes it has insulated itself from a market downtown with its network of branches and the variety of mortgage products it offers, including several types of adjustable-rate mortgages.
Martin says, We have a number of products that we sell, and about 30 to 40 percent of our loans are ARM.
Those types of ARMs remain popular with people who dont plan to live in a house for more than five years, Wilkins says.
For its headquarter offices, Acceptance Capital Mortgage is leasing about 5,000 square feet of floor space on three floors in a building on University Road, but is searching for a new home.
The company currently is mulling whether it wants to build, buy, or lease a larger space in the Spokane area, and it prefers to stay in Spokane Valley, Wilkins says.
The company has done little marketing of its services so far, choosing to grow by establishing its numerous branches, but plans to do much more marketing before long with an advertising campaign.
We went from three branches to 70 branches by word of mouth and our reputation without spending money on marketing, Wilkins says.
Wilkins, Hines, and Martin say theyre trying to build a strong reputation.
The company says it has a rigorous screening process for new employees, including a background check and fingerprinting.
After I tell some people about the background check, their resumes mysteriously fail to show up, Wilkins says. If somebody here cant keep it straight, there is no nonsense. They are no longer with the company.
Jerry Webb and Hines came up with the idea of starting a national mortgage company, says Hines, the companys chief financial officer. He says they approached Wilkins, who was one of Hines clients, about starting a business. Hines, an Eastern Washington University graduate, worked as an agent in the insurance industry for six years at Country Insurance & Financial Services here.
Martin has worked more than 10 years in the mortgage industry here as a senior manager and salesman for Ameriquest Mortgage Co., Aegis Mortgage Corp., and New Century Financial Corp. He says he originally approached Wilkins about operating a branch, but instead was hired to work in Acceptance Capitals main office and then became a part-owner of the company.
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