On Wednesday, Nov. 11, the Mortgage Leadership Outlook celebrated Veterans Day with a special episode focused on VA and military lending. Series' host Andrew Berman was joined by Rick Bettencourt, area sales manager for Caliber Home Loans; Bryan J. Bergjans, national director of military and VA lending for Caliber Home Loans and special guest, Medal of Honor recipient and retired U.S. Army Capt. Florent Groberg.
This edition of Mortgage Leadership Outlook explored the unique challenges and opportunities that veterans and active service members face in life and when buying a home. The panel also discussed what mortgage originators can do to help veterans and active service members.
Among Groberg's many awards and decorations are the Bronze Star Medal with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal, the U.S. Army Ranger Tab, and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three Bronze Service Stars. He previously appeared on nmpTV's Homeownership Heroes.
Bettencourt has more than 18 years of VA Lending experience. His goal with Caliber has been to increase VA utilization ratios throughout all of New England.
Bergjans is responsible for the expansion of Caliber's support of service members. According to Caliber, he dramatically increased the number of VA loans originated at the company. He also appeared on a previous episode of the Mortgage Leadership Outlook to discuss why VA Lending is a great untapped market.
Highlights from the interview:
• “VA had a record year this year of 1.26 million VA originations for $375 billion in total production. Their best year by nearly 100% and that’s obviously driven by the low rates and refinance activity. But the purchase business has gone up 50% year-over-year,” reported Bettencourt, who said three-quarters of his business is focused on VA lending.
• VA loan limits are now limited by the lender instead of the VA, something Bergjans said was long overdue. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic this year, this news flew under the radar.
• “My first home in 2011 was a VA home loan. I was an active duty out of Fort Carson, Colorado, and I didn’t know what the heck I was getting myself into. The process was not as difficult as I thought it was going to be but I needed to be educated,” said Groberg. “I want to make sure I work with organizations and groups of people that can take the time and educate me on the process and really go through the paperwork. The VA loan was so simple. It was really straightforward, and I had an incredible experience.”
• “It’s important for military personnel like Florent to interview their mortgage professional so they understand, ‘Does this person really have the vast knowledge that’s required?’” said Bettencourt. “The VA loan is a story loan. [If] you don’t know how to put the story together, that serviceman or that servicewoman may not get the loan.”
• “We’re not subject matter experts. We’re practitioners,” said Bergjans. “It’s challenging for consumers like Florent because if they went and tried to educate themselves on the (VA) handbook, they would ram their head into the wall just of boredom.”
• “I think that’s the first thing that that person has got to have, is the true passion to affect positive change within a community that has done so much for us,” said Bettencourt. “If you’re just in it to do the numbers, the math, to make money, to do units, these veterans, they’ll weed right through that.”
• “I think there are opportunities,” said Groberg when asked how loan originators can help veterans. “Bryan and Rick are doing it with the USO, in terms of connecting with … organizations that have a touch on the pulse, and that’s a really good way to connect. Get on base. Have those conversations. Do those seminars. Have those organizations highlight the opportunities and really educate. There should be an opportunity for this to become mandatory for all military to talk about their ability to utilize these services that are out there for them. No one has actually made it a mandatory sort of training or informational session and if it’s not mandatory, at least highly recommended.”
Check out the full Veterans Day special below.
Click here to check out previous episodes of the Mortgage Leadership Outlook. Previous guests include Robert Broeksmit, Josh Friend, Joe Dahleen, Tim Nguyen, Kristy Fercho, Tony Thompson, Mat Ishbia, David Luna, Barry Habib, Rob Chrisman and more.