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Among the states, New York has the most jolting regional division. New York City, as the state’s southern tip, is often seen as a world unto itself–especially in regard to its housing market. The upstate region has not shared in the fame or fortune of its downstate neighbor, with years of economic hardships that have put a burden on residents and the mortgage professionals serving their needs.
But the upstate situation appears to be on the mend. In this interview with National Mortgage Professional Magazine, Martin Pfeiffenberger, president of Latham, N.Y.-based Maple Tree Funding, and since November 2014, president of NYAMB, The New York Association of Mortgage Professionals, talks about the challenges facing New York’s broker community and his own business operations.
How would you categorize today’s housing market in the state of New York?
It appears that New York City is off the charts. Upstate has made near-turnaround in the last six to 12 months. I’m in the Capital Region and we’re going up in sales–the median housing prices here are also up.
The market is good, not great, but it has been quite steady. Property taxes are definitely a hindrance across the state. Unemployment upstate has definitely been decreasing, but I have not received data to see if wages are increasing.
In your conversations with NYAMB members, what do they define as their priorities?
Their priority is related to getting a clearer picture of what is expected of them, in view of all of the regulations coming out. Often, there are multiple regulators with overlapping regulations, and the picture is not clear.
Because of the restrictions from the Dodd-Frank Act and the tighter standards, the process is more arduous and time consuming for consumers to get a loan. The regulations end up getting so cumbersome for the small business owners and it creates an adverse effect. It is difficult for small mortgage businesses to stay in business in New York.
How does the state’s regulatory regimen compare with the federal regulations?
New York State has been doing, for years, what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has been rolling out. There is a lot of compliance to do, but no guidelines or booklets have been issued by the state’s Department of Financial Services. It has been issue, because there is no help in following the guidelines. You never know what the requirements are until you get audited.
Has this new regulatory environment driven people out of the business in New York State?
I don’t have the exact numbers, but I know that, especially upstate, a lot of smaller brokers are either merging or getting out of the business altogether. The Qualified Mortgage (QM) Rule had a big impact on the upstate broker community.
But with people leaving the business, is their departure being balanced by a new wave of younger people coming in?
That is a very valid concern. We’re seeing fewer and fewer younger people getting in to the industry. In our meetings, everyone is getting a little grayer … there are not a lot of younger faces.
A lot of young people do not want to get into the business because of what they read in the press. It is also hard to get young people into this business because it is a commission-based industry.
How is your company, Maple Tree Funding, holding up in the midst of this situation?
We’re hanging in there. We have 17 employees. We’re working more hours and doing more work to close loans.
And how are things at NYAMB, The New York Association of Mortgage Professionals?
We are an all-volunteer organization. We can always use more people. We have committees that are not full. I don’t understand why some people are not members yet.
Why do you think mortgage professionals in your state should join your association?
We work on behalf of all mortgage originators and brokers in the state of New York. We are working for everyone’s benefit and the betterment of the profession. We are constantly trying to add value and will always fight for the people in our profession.
What do you see as the state of New York’s housing market for 2015?
This is the first time in five years that I think the purchase market will get better. Unemployment is down and the job market is improving. Overall, there is a lot of pent-up demand from people who have not upgraded their living space or bought a home for years. I think that in the late spring and early summer, the market will be strong.
You sound like you are doing a lot of work. What do you for your leisure time?
I spend my leisure time with my family in golf or at Lake George … though my wife would not say that, because I’m often working until midnight!
Phil Hall is managing editor of National Mortgage Professional Magazine. He may be reached by e-mail at [email protected].