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Real Estate Brokerage

CFPB fines lender $3.5M for mortgage kickback scheme

(BROKERAGE NEWS) The CFPB alleged that the lender had “improper arrangements” with more than 100 real estate brokers.

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bonds and mortgages

CFPB refresher course

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is an executive agency formed in 2011 to protect consumers against “unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices.”

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Just recently, our sister site wrote about the CFPB and how it might be on the chopping block under the new Trump administration. This week, the CFPB announced a huge fine for a major U.S. lender over a kickback scheme. And even better, this fine does not go to the lawyers of consumers.

Prospect Mortgage fined $3.5 million

Prospect Mortgage, based in California, had about 100 branches across the country. It was considered one of the largest independent mortgage lenders in the country. From 2011 through 2016, Prospect payed kickbacks for referrals of mortgage business, which is a violation of the Real Estate Procedures Settlement Act (RESPA).

Prospect used various schemes to disguise the payments, typically calling them marketing, advertising or promotional services.

The CFPB alleged that the lender had “improper arrangements” with more than 100 real estate brokers. Prospect reportedly also required consumers to prequalify with Prospect, even if a consumer prequalified with a different lender.

Holding both sides accountable

Prospect Mortgage was fined $3.5 million and it is prohibited from paying for referrals and entering into agreements to endorse the use of their services. The fine goes into the Civil Penalty Fund, which is administrated under the CFPB to compensate victims who haven’t yet received full compensation for their harm from the defendant.

In addition to fining Prospect Mortgage, the CFPB sent a strong message to brokers who had improper arrangements with the company. CFPB Director Richard Cordray said, “We will hold both sides of these improper arrangements accountable for breaking the law, which skews the real estate market to the disadvantage of consumers and honest businesses.”

Prospect Mortgage acquired by HomeBridge

On February 2, HomeBridge Financial Services announced that the company completed the purchase of “operating assets of Prospect Mortgage, LLC from Prospect Holding Company, LLC.”

The sale originated last year in November, and it creates one of the largest non-bank mortgage lenders in the United States.

#ProspectMortgage

Dawn Brotherton is a staff writer at The Real Daily, and has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. Before earning her degree, she spent over 20 years homeschooling her two daughters, who are now out changing the world. She lives in Oklahoma and loves to golf. She hopes to publish a novel in the future.

Real Estate Brokerage

Why clearly expressing your business culture is so critical

(PROFESSIONALISM) Many of us claim to be cultured individuals, but are we business cultured? Let’s discuss.

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I like to think that I know a thing or two about vocabulary and its application to everyday life. However, I will admit, there have been times where I’ve thrown around a word or a phrase without being 100 percent sure of its meaning.

This typically happens with broad phrases, and we’re all guilty of it. But, what’s cool about language(s) is that it’s virtually limitless, so there’s always room to learn something new.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “okay, Taylor, that’s great and probably not as profound as you think it is. What does this have to do with business?”

Well, one of the phrases I’ve heard people throw around and not actually have it stick is “business culture.” It’s used broadly as a cliche with little meaning behind it, often used incorrectly.

While it’s easy to correctly define such a phrase, it is so general that it is difficult for some to have a true grasp of its meaning. Whenever I’m unclear on something, I go to the smartest person I know for clarity – my father.

My dad, Mike Leddin, is the executive director of a law firm in Chicago. Throughout my life, he’s been my go-to person for advice and explanation, and this was no different when I was seeking the root meaning of business culture.

Since he has a tendency to be more eloquent than I, let’s have him weigh in…

“The business culture within a company is as critically important as the products/services that are produced,” said Mike Leddin. “Creating the right culture, one that fosters teamwork and encourages contributions, thoughts, and ideas at all levels, will be ultimately reflected in the end product/service.”

He added, “The business culture should clearly reflect the social and ethical responsibility of the company, including management’s commitment to act responsible in all ways. Properly communicated Mission and Values Statements both internally and externally, will not only define the goal and objections of the organization, but also the manner in which these be will be sought and achieved.”

What stuck with me most was his conclusion:

“Business culture is not simply a statement or goal, it is the result of the manner in which we act each day.”

This idea of business culture is important for every team member to keep in mind as we walk into work each day. Questions such as: “What am I providing people?” and “Why should they trust me?” should factor into your definition of business culture.

A company is only as strong as its morals and values. Make sure yours has one that you believe in, lest you be just another brokerage in a sea of competitors that don’t lack clarity.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Why real estate brokerages are not startups

(REAL ESTATE) Brokerages are popping up nationwide that are sleek and modern, and also misinformed as they call themselves startups. Let’s talk about the technical definition.

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Businesses that are just starting out often refer to themselves as startups (which is inappropriate given that startups are funded differently, scale differently, and have completely different KPIs). Take real estate brokerages, for example. An increasing number call themselves startups, but when you look at the definition of a startup, can you really call yourself one?

Small businesses and startups have very different definitions (and there’s no shame in being a small business or an “innovative brokerage”). Let’s discuss.

1. Startups have a different goal altogether.

Typically, startups are about growth. They’re designed from day one to scale extremely quickly. Small businesses are often limited by a target market or geographic location. There’s nothing wrong with that, but they aren’t scalable the same way an international software brand is. Think about scaling in terms of a beauty salon versus MatchCo, an app that uses technology to create a foundation just for you. A franchise does not a startup make.

2. Startups generally seek outside funding to accelerate growth.

Startup founders often give up equity shares to generate funds before becoming profitable. Small businesses are typically self-funded, bootstrapped into profitability, and owned by one or a select few. A small business venture is typically less risky than a startup, too. The idea behind a small business venture is profit, and you want the business to last. Startups are structured to be sold or acquired once it hits critical mass – a “startup” is temporary.

3. Startups disrupt the industry.

Think about these companies – AirBnB, Google, Dropbox, Facebook, even Apple, a long time ago. In their early days, they were startups. It was risky to invest in these companies as they were trying something new (not iterating on something like the real estate practice which is one of the oldest professions in America), but they have outshone their competitors. They disrupted the marketplace. That’s what a startup does. And it doesn’t always work. Sonitus Medical attempted to disrupt the hearing aid market. They raised almost $90 million in funding before the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services decided the product wouldn’t be covered. The company held an auction and closed its doors. Brokerages have experimented with paying salaries, going paperless, or having all agents working remotely – these are all fabulous innovations and iterations, not disruptions.

The takeaway

We’ve been on the forefront for over a decade of ushering in the era of indie brokerages, paperless real estate brands, and counter-culture companies, but brokerages are simply not startups, and this is not up for debate. Iteration is not innovation.

Don’t call yourself something you’re not – be an “innovative broker” and rock it, because you’re not a temporary company seeking to scale so rapidly that you’re acquired for your indisputable disruption.

And finally, don’t fall for real estate brokerages pitching themselves as “startups” when they’re misinformed and really mean they’re simply, and beautifully “modern.”

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Real Estate Brokerage

Why you must suddenly improve your behavior during showings

(TECHNOLOGY) No longer just for secret lair owners, doorbell cams are on the rise. Make sure you’re on your best behavior when showing a property or your clients will know.

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Everyone is watching you all the time, and no, this isn’t paranoia speaking. Many homes now have security measures in place beyond a basic alarm.

As a real estate agent or broker, when you’re showing a property, keep in mind the age old adage: if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything.

More homeowners are installing security cameras, which can broadcast audio and video directly to their smartphones. So even if your client is at work, they can see and hear everything you’re doing if they want to tune in to their camera stream.

Although most listing clients get feedback from tours, they could theoretically check the quality of salesmanship before you even enter the front door during showings.

Ring.com, for example, offers real time info with video doorbells, floodlight cams, and security cameras. All their products broadcast HD video directly to an app available for Android and Apple customers.

Users are alerted any time someone comes in range of the security camera or approaches the door. With two-way audio, homeowners can answer the door remotely through the app.

Amazon recently purchased Ring for a cool billion dollars, so expect to see ownership on the rise. Thanks to some heavy investing on Amazon’s part back in December 2017, Ring products are already integrated as an Alexa skill, so users can interact with Ring security products through their Echo devices.

Google-owned Nest cams pick up motion as well, and even simple indoor motion cams will alert owners of someone’s presence. With the power of wifi and a security camera, homeowners can track your activity on showings.

Avoid the classic theater nightmare scenario where an actor gets caught trash talking backstage because oops, their microphone was on an the entire audience heard everything.

You don’t want to put yourself or company in a compromising situation because something that should have been said in confidence got captured on a doorbell cam outside, or a security cam inside.

Of course, you are already on your most professional behavior when you’re showing a home, cameras or not, but keep in mind that it’s now even easier for clients to monitor their home’s interior and exterior activities.

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