Spokane Journal of Business

Chimney Rock Mortgage strives to keep lending local

Financer hopes to make 200 home loans this year

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-—LeAnn Bjerken
Mike Hogan, loan officer and branch manager for Chimney Rock Mortgage, says the Spokane office handled $30 million in home loans last year. Its parent did $1.6 billion in loans.

Despite potential challenges posed by recent upticks in interest rates, Mike Hogan, loan officer and branch manager for Spokane-based Chimney Rock Mortgage LLC, says he believes there are still opportunities for growth in Spokane’s home lending markets. 

Hogan says the current strength of the national economy coupled with job growth in the Inland Northwest appears to be a driving factor in encouraging buyers, particularly first-time homebuyers, to purchase properties.

“Most first-time homebuyers are a bit nervous, because they understand buying a home is a large purchase with a big commitment,” he says. “But lately, people seem a bit more comfortable with the economy, and we’re seeing more homes selling.”

Mann Mortgage Inc., Chimney Rock’s Kalispell, Mont.-based parent company, last year originated more than $1.6 billion in loans, while Chimney Rock originated about $30 million of Mann Mortgages’ total, Hogan says.

“Our total loan volume (in terms of individual loans) for 2016 was 163, and last year’s total wasn’t much higher at 164,” he says. “But I’d like to see us up that up to 200 by the end of this year.”

In addition to increasing the company’s loan volume, Hogan says he’s also looking to add more loan officers to his staff.

“I don’t see us growing much beyond 10 or 12 total staff, but it’s always a challenge to find good talent,” he says. “I usually start by bringing new people on as marketing representatives so they become familiar with the loan industry, and from there, I work to help them become loan officers.”

Hogan says he’s most concerned about rising interest rates, because if they climb too quickly it could impact potential homebuyer’s purchasing power.

 “The concern is that with interest rates and home prices going up at the same time, we run the risk of buying costs outpacing inflation,” he says. “So the hope is that rates stay low enough that people can still afford to buy.”

The majority of the loans Chimney Rock completes are for first-time homebuyers or people looking to refinance their home.

Hogan says as interest rates increase, the company has seen fewer clients looking to refinance, but as the economy improves he’s hopeful that could change.

Founded in 2006, Chimney Rock occupies 3,200 square feet of office space in the Paulsen Center, at 421 W. Riverside.

“We’ve leased space in this building since the beginning, although we’ve switched office spaces several times,” says Hogan. “Currently we have eight staff, five of whom are loan officers, including myself.”

Chimney Rock is licensed to provide services in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, but keeps the majority of its business local.

“I’d say 95 percent of the business we do is based in Spokane County,” says Hogan. “We really feel strongly that lending services should stay local.”

A Spokane native, Hogan attended Gonzaga University and served as the university’s associate athletic director prior to starting Chimney Rock.

“It can be hard to move up in the world of college athletics,” he says. “I was looking for a change, but I wanted to stay in this area so I searched for an opportunity that would allow me to do that.”

Hogan, who holds a finance degree from Santa Clara University, obtained his mortgage broker license in 2006 and started Chimney Rock with the help of two partners, though neither of them are involved with the business anymore.

He says Chimney Rock started as an independent mortgage brokerage, before becoming a division of mortgage lender Mann Mortgage in 2008. Mann Mortgage provides retail mortgage lending and branching services in 11 states, including Washington.

Mortgage lenders, also known as a direct lenders, are able to make loans directly to individuals. Meanwhile, a mortgage broker can’t lend money directly, but instead obtains a variety of quotes from lenders so their client can compare rates and choose the one that best meets his or her needs.

Hogan says the upheaval of the real estate and lending markets in 2008 played a big part in the company’s decision to join Mann Mortgage.

“At that time, the market was much harder for wholesale brokers, as the number of banks allowing wholesale lending was decreasing and product offerings were also limited,” he says. “In the end, it was clear to me that becoming a mortgage lender would give us the ability to offer government loan products, which would help us stay in business.”

Hogan says the majority of Chimney Rock’s clients are referred to the company by other current or former clients—or through real estate agents and financial advisers.

While the company is still relatively small, Hogan says its relationship with Mann Mortgage has allowed it to do more for its clients.

“Having the backing of a larger company allows us to focus more on being more personable with clients, meeting their needs one on one,” he says. “Being able to meet with clients, Realtors, and other contacts in person helps the whole process move along much more quickly and effectively.”

Hogan says Chimney Rock handles all aspects of residential loans, including fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages for new purchases and refinancing.

The company also originates loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and offers some nonconforming loan options to borrowers who wouldn’t qualify for conventional loans.

Hogan says funding for loans comes through a line of credit via Chimney Rock’s parent company.

“Mann Mortgage funds the loans, which are then sold on the secondary market to larger mortgage investors,” he says. “Our loan officers are paid a set commission based upon a percentage of the loan amount.”

Hogan says his favorite part of being a loan officer is being able to help people buy their dream home. 

“I absolutely love being part of the excitement that comes along with helping people buy a home,” he says. “I’d encourage anyone who’s interested to not be afraid to start with getting advice from a lender.”

Hogan adds, “Some people might be holding off, thinking they won’t qualify or that there aren’t enough options available that would help them to afford a home, but I believe there are always options, and it’s never too late to start the lending process.”

Overall, Hogan says he would encourage all potential homebuyers to get preapproval and start looking into what their financing options might be as soon as possible.

“Homes are still moving really quickly, so it’s best to start looking early,” he says. “Be aware of what programs you might qualify for that could help you with financing.”

“Also, don’t be afraid you won’t qualify,” he adds. “With most loans, qualifying is a question of when, not if, and there are things you can to do to get to that point.”

LeAnn Bjerken
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Reporter LeAnn Bjerken covers health care at the Journal of Business. A Minnesota native and cat lover, she enjoys beachside vacations and writing poetry. LeAnn has worked for the Journal since 2015.

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