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After 25 Years, Getting Back To Basics

San Rafael's Pro Mortgage, a family business for 18 years, adapts to the changing times

After 25 Years, Getting Back To Basics
Staff Writer

ProMortgage’s website boasts that it provides “Everything the Big Banks Offer and Everything They Can’t.” It’s a broad statement from a small San Rafael-based company, which just celebrated 25 years in the industry at the tail end of 2022.

But that’s not all: ProMortgage secured the spot as Marin County’s Top Mortgage Brokerage Firm for 2021 and completed $153 million in originations during 2022. An interview with Brenda Cantu, a co-founder, and David Rubinstein proves they’re not losing steam anytime soon.

Q: ProMortgage is celebrating 25 years with a refreshed logo and tagline. What other ways are you keeping your business fresh?

A: Daily, the principles are participating in mortgage industry educational opportunities and utilizing the latest technology to streamline our business. Specific examples are:

•  New product webinars presented by lenders.

•  Housing and economic updates presented by industry leaders.

•  Best marketing practices for social media, videos, and in-person home-buying workshops.

•  Participate in a government affairs committee to best understand state and national legislation affecting the mortgage industry.

•  Active board members for mortgage industry trade associations North Bay California Association of Mortgage Professionals (North Bay CAMP)

•  Fully paperless office utilizing the newest LOS technology (Arive)

•  Keeping in touch with our database through the latest technologies, to ensure they have access to financing answers at their fingertips

•  Attending industry events organized by NAMB or AIME

We stay in the know [about] what is happening in the industry all the time. We have weekly meetings with our loan originators to make sure they are aware of all the products available in the market.


Brenda Cantu, ProMortgage, co-founder

Q: How did you weather the 2022 market?

A: Back to basics! We embraced our roles as educators for the real estate community. We made presentations to Realtors about the evolving mortgage product environment. We gave presentations to consumers about buying their first home in this challenging market. When interest rates began to rapidly increase, the products that worked best for most homebuyers in 2020 and 2021 were no longer the best fit in 2022. We educated our Realtor partners about the products that were leading to successful outcomes for homebuyers and homeowners. Our expertise with Non-QM loan products helped get deals closed in a challenging market.

A lot of our resilience in this market can be attributed to being a true mortgage broker. Borrowers often pay fewer costs, experience more transparency in the process and work with someone local in their community when they hire a mortgage broker.


Q: You held the title of Marin County’s top Mortgage Brokerage Firm in 2021. How are you staying on top?

A: Our loan agents are doing the hard work of growing their referral network by getting out in the field to meet with Realtors, making presentations in real estate offices about new mortgage products, conducting seminars for first-time homebuyers, and visiting open houses among other activities. We are passionate about helping our clients build wealth through real estate acquisition. We want to help everyone we can achieve this goal. Our knowledge and experience are invaluable to a client just getting started in the homebuying process.

We introduced products aimed at increasing homeownership through down payment assistance from the state, more lenient underwriting guidelines, and alternative ways to verify a borrower’s ability to repay their mortgage. More options for financing result in happier homebuyers.


Q: Since family is a big part of ProMortgage, what are some challenges that come with working alongside relatives?

A: We have never really experienced any challenges in this regard. We take a lot of pride in helping family members start and grow their careers at ProMortgage. We all share the same goal of achieving the best outcome for our clients and our business. Our shared vision is to be great at what we do and help our loan agents take their practice to the next level.

The family dynamic provides plenty of advantages in our business. There is built-in trust with interests aligned. We are all working toward a common goal and making sure we protect the business and continue to help our community. We can rely on each other unequivocally.

The family environment permeates the company. We are active in each other’s lives outside of work, celebrating birthdays and milestones, [and] relying on each other for advice and support.


Q: Also, on the subject of working with relatives, how do you separate work from family?

A: We try not to discuss business out of the office as much as possible, but this is sometimes hard to do. If someone is working on a special project or has a new idea they want to discuss, it is not unusual to talk after hours or on the weekends about the business. We don’t consider this a burden as it is always all about making the business better.


Q: What have been some of the biggest changes over the past 25 years in the California mortgage market?

A: We have seen product guidelines expand to unsustainable risk-taking through sub-prime lending preceding the great recession; then contract so dramatically that it was near impossible to get a mortgage during the great recession. What we learned is that change is inevitable and that we can’t rely on any current market to grow a sound business. We have learned to stay nimble, diversified, and forward-looking to survive the ever-changing mortgage market given prevailing economic conditions.


Q: What are some of the unique challenges of the California market? How do you overcome them?

A: The increase in property values since the Great Recession recovery and through COVID has created negative externalities for families trying to buy homes.  We stay current on federal, state, and local programs designed to help: first-time homebuyers, certain household income levels, and certain census tracks to buy a home. Knowing what programs are out here and guiding our clients to the programs that may benefit them is how we meet the unique challenges of the California real estate market.

Another challenge unique to California is the short time frame of our purchase contracts. In other parts of the country, 30-45 days to close a transaction is common. In California, especially the Bay Area, most contracts are prepared with a closing time frame [of] less than 30 days, often as short as 21 days. We have partnered with various funding sources that ensure quick and smooth closings, fully underwriting borrowers prior to identifying a property, and making sure we are available to work late nights, weekends, and holidays.

We are a creative bunch and work together, as a company, to find solutions for our mutual clients. We treat the Mortgage business as a team sport, relying on the strengths of all team members to create the best experience for our clients.


Q: Would you recommend others working with family members to start businesses?

A: Yes! Absolutely! We love sharing what we know with the next generation and seeing them use that knowledge to craft [a] practice and thrive! Mutual respect and trust are paramount to working with family. We cover for each other and are understanding when personal situations come up. We each can focus on our strengths and trust the rest of the team will carry their fair share.


Q: Is there something about the mortgage business that makes it a better environment for working with family members?

A: Our clients frequently refer their grown children to ProMortgage when they want to buy a home. In the same way, loan agents can pass on their book of business to the next generation. There is a level of consistency that gives our clients comfort when they have been ProMortgage customers, and we know them from generation to generation.

This article was originally published in the California Broker April 2023 issue.
About the author
Staff Writer
Sarah Wolak is a staff writer at NMP.
Published on
Apr 13, 2023
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