Linda Knowlton is vice president and manager at Fort Myers, Fla.-based Mortgage Group Services LLC and president of the Southwest Chapter of the Florida Association of Mortgage Professionals (FAMP). She serves as Membership Committee chairperson for FAMP State and as director of the FAMP Foundation Education Board.
National Mortgage Professional Magazine recently spoke with her about her work with this chapter.
How did you get involved with the Florida Association of Mortgage Professionals Southwest Chapter and what was the path that led you to the leadership role?
I became involved about five to six years ago. I was attending a continuing education course on a local level and the then-current president, Dave Kane, was at the meeting. He indicated the Chapter needed to step up and get more people involved or we would have to close our Southwest Chapter. I wouldn’t say that the chapter was dormant at the time, but it was pretty close. We lost thousands and thousands of brokers across the state and it impacted the Southwest Chapter.
So, we got together with three or four others and started work on rebuilding the chapter. We started with less than 40 members when I took office, and now we are almost to 100.
Why should a mortgage professional in your market get involved with FAMP’s Southwest Chapter?
You do not need to be active at a state level, but you need to be active locally and know what goes on. We, as licensed originators, must support and police our own industry. Communication is the key to any success individually and professionally, and FAMP is striving constantly to communicate to our members. FAMP provides information that we need to use on a daily basis. For example, we have the Office of Financial Regulation speak to our Chapter and discuss regulations, license requirements and audits. We also have had a local attorney discuss contract issues. Other speakers and topics include, tax analysis hosted by a FAMP-supported PMI company; compliance; licensing and regulation topics. Our local and state legislators have also spoken at many of our meetings. It is essential that we know who are local and state legislators are. When we lobby in Tallahassee and in D.C.; we get to know who the players are and who we need to be in front of and they get to know who we are as well.
Our chapter has 12 meetings a year, which include two luncheons and a social each quarterly. We also hosted our first golf tournament, to benefit a local non-profit.
How is your chapter involved in the state and national legislative discussion?
At a state level, each FAMP Chapter goes to Tallahassee—or, as we say, we “Rally in Tally”—each year. At the national level, we encourage members to go to the NAMB Legislative & Regulatory Conference in Washington, D.C. to lobby on Capitol Hill.
What do you see as your most significant accomplishment within the Southwest Chapter?
It would definitely be my involvement in rebuilding the Chapter. We took a chapter that was not active for at least three to five years, and have tripled the membership, but more importantly, we are supporting our industry on a local level with our SW Chapter.
What is the level of synergy between your chapter and NAMB?
We have a very good relationship with NAMB. NAMB Past President John Councilman lives here—and he is very active in our chapter. It is nice to have him here. We provide communication from NAMB to our members on a weekly basis.
In your professional opinion, what can be done to bring more young people into mortgage careers?
We’re trying to obtain new Millennials as members. FAMP’s Chapters are also trying to recruit Millennials from related industries, such as banking and real estate, or right out of college. Do have an answer yet? No. But we are trying to bridge the age gap for the association and the industry.
How would you describe your area’s housing market?
It is very active, from a standpoint of sales values. Certain portions in our market are between $175,000-$300,000, and they are pretty active—we are seeing multiple offers. There are also many first-time homebuyers in this market—I am currently working with four of them, which is very encouraging. We also have a lot of seasonal buyers, and that market is pretty strong. There is a challenge with homes in certain price ranges staying on the market longer than they should. Staying connected with the real estate agents and builders help us with our “local” information and we also have them as FAMP members.