Andres Munar’s Journey as a LGBTQ+ Mortgage Broker and Entrepreneur
The mortgage industry can be an unforgiving profession, especially when you’re a member of LGBTQ+ community.
There’s a reason some people refer to it as “the old boys club.” Women, ethnic minorities, and LGBTQ+ people often face discrimination, harassment, and bullying from colleagues or bosses. They may also face internalized pressure and insecurities, as Andres Munar did when starting his career.
“I know people who still don’t understand it, who think ‘why is gay pride a big thing? Like, why is it so in my face?’ But they don’t understand what we go through,” Munar said.
Munar is both gay and Hispanic, so he faces the double threat of potential judgment. However, he has learned to climb the ladder and is known as a man with many titles and talents. He’s the co-founder of Co/Lab Lending, a co-host on The CoLab Podcast, and a nationally recognized mortgage broker, entrepreneur, and influencer.
“When you see me on the stage, you’re gonna be like, ‘Oh, I was just bashing that gay man who is now on stage and closing a ton more loans than I am,’” Munar said.
Munar was flying high as a 25-year-old loan officer making good money and working alongside his big-shot boyfriend, a high-performing real estate agent. He joined the industry in 2006 after a career as a waiter. Even when the housing crash happened, his boyfriend was able to keep feeding loans into his pipeline and keep the checks coming. But all good things come to an end sooner or later
It was December of 2009, and Munar was on a family vacation in Florida when he suddenly got a call from his boss: “Hey, um, the company has just been raided by the FBI. We’re closing doors effective immediately. … You’ll wanna go ahead and file for unemployment.”
His employer, Priority Mortgage, was no more. The owner of the company was embezzling money and the FBI caught him. But Munar couldn’t quite comprehend what was happening and why — he was in complete shock. Everything was going great the past few years; how could everything fall apart so quickly?
“Just being so young and naive, you know, I didn’t understand that 2006 and 2007 were really great years,” Munar said. “I just thought that was normal because, you know, I came into the industry at that time.”
Not long after that, Munar was due for another surprise. He and his boyfriend ended their relationship. The breakup was amicable, but Munar did panic about his career and what would happen to him next.
Although Munar says the breakup was the right decision, he was nervous about how he’d be able to make it in this industry without the steady stream of referrals. Deep down he had an urge to be more independent, but that would also mean having to go out on his own and connect with people. Even though he was 25 years old and had been openly gay for years, he was afraid of how people would perceive him — more so people in the industry rather than clients.
Any salesman or business owner will tell you networking is essential to success and to network successfully you must be likable, trustworthy, and authoritative. A lack of confidence won’t do you any favors, and Munar knew that.
“I grew up in a very traditional Hispanic family,” Munar said. “You don’t talk about your problems; you don’t talk about your sexuality. … You just don’t talk about those things.”
Munar and his family immigrated to America from Bogota, Colombia, when he was 4 years old. His father began his career as a horse jockey and became somewhat of a local celebrity.
“He ended up becoming the top jockey for like three or four years in a row,” Munar said. “So growing up I kind of lived the racetrack life.”
“I don’t need to prove who I am. I’m just going to show you that … I know what I’m talking about.”
> Andres Munar, co-founder of Co/Lab Lending, a co-host on The CoLab Podcast
At his Pennsylvania high school, most of the adversity Munar faced was due to his ethnicity. Nearly 90% of the student population was white, and students would often call him anti-Hispanic slurs and tell him to go back to his home country. That was enough to dissuade him from bridging the topic of being gay — why make things more difficult by bringing it up, he thought to himself.
It was an issue that challenged him after the breakup with his Realtor boyfriend who was his main supply of leads.
Munar was mostly worried that real estate agents wouldn’t want to work with him because of his sexual orientation and the fact he is Hispanic.
“I kind of started being like, ‘Are they gonna be OK with the fact that they’re sending their clients to a gay person? Are they going to care that I’m Hispanic?” Munar wondered.
He knew he was more than capable. His work ethic had been developed in the fast-paced restaurant industry at a small eatery situated near Hershey Park. The 16-year-old Munar was running table to table, taking orders, and entertaining guests year-round. The summer season was especially chaotic, which he loved.
As Munar grew older, his entrepreneurial ambition grew bolder, and he had a dream of opening his own restaurant. Lacking the desire to work behind a hot grill, Munar went to the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute in Pittsburgh, for a two-year degree in hotel restaurant management. “I don’t know how to cook, but it taught me how to manage and lead people,” Munar said.
After graduating in 2005, Munar went back to the restaurant business where he waited tables and bartended, eventually working his way up to third-shift manager. That was until he met his boyfriend, the successful real estate agent.
“He was also 17 years older than me,” Munar said. “He had friends in the business and obviously, back then, 2006 were the good times. Mortgages were crazy and everybody was doing well.”
A New Endeavor
Munar was just 20 years old and his successful 37-year-old boyfriend seemed to have everything figured out. Even his conservative parents, who had struggled to accept his sexual orientation, were impressed with his partner. A housewife and horse jockey, they didn’t have much knowledge about the real estate and mortgage industry, but from the way Munar’s boyfriend dressed and presented himself, this was a “capital B” businessman.
“The first time that I called my boyfriend and he let it go to voicemail, it was like, ‘Hi, my name is so-and-so, top producing agent with this company.’ Like, it sounded so professional, right? I’m like, wow, like, this is so cool and so amazing,” Munar said. “I’m just like this restaurant kid, and here I am with this person who, you know, when we think of real estate agents, we think of these prestigious people.”
In 2006, while Munar continued working in the restaurant business, his boyfriend told him that a friend in the mortgage industry needed an assistant. Munar was excited to begin a real office job at a mortgage company. At that time, he didn’t need a license to take applications, process loans, call clients, and give quotes.
“Back then people were literally picking up the phone book and just calling people from the phone book. So his phone was ringing off the hook,” he said.
It was another busy atmosphere that would keep Munar entertained, with phones ringing, emails flooding his inbox, and the fax machine constantly going off. It reminded Munar of the restaurant industry, but with more potential.
To this day, Munar likes to recruit new professionals from the restaurant industry, because the same skills and work ethic are needed for both jobs.
“As a server or a bartender, they’re very used to coming up to the table and just starting a conversation. It’s easy for them to pick up the phone and have a conversation with a borrower about credit or their application or what other documents they may need,” Munar explained. “So people who thrive in the restaurant industry also thrive in the mortgage industry.”
In 2007, Munar learned the ropes and was able to become a loan officer himself at a company called Priority Mortgage. At that time, nearly all of his clients came from his real estate agent boyfriend. He never had to hustle for referral partners or worry about what people in the industry would think of him. Networking was not necessary and he was bringing in enough business that his colleagues would respect him.
“His core values of loyalty and honesty and all those things was what showed through.”
> Megan Marsh, co-founder and CFO, Keystone Capital Alliance
“Like 95% of the time I was getting clients through my boyfriend, plus maybe like one or two other Realtors every other month sending me business,” Munar said. “My partner at the time was a top producing real estate agent. He was closing a ton of business, and so he was able to feed me three to five loans a month. And that fed me well.”
Focus On Units
An important lesson he learned from his ex-boyfriend was that units drive dollars, and not to focus on the dollar amount of any loan. His main goal was to close as many loans as possible and the money would eventually come. He was also taught to be purchase-focused, which is what many new loan officers are learning now after the 2020 and 2021 housing boom brought in extraordinary volume.
But what he ended up discovering was that none of that mattered because of his superb work ethic and ability to close even the toughest loans. Plus, being a bilingual Hispanic actually helped him form connections with Realtors who had Spanish clients.
That alone was able to carry him through 2010, and in 2011 he started his own branch under True Mortgage, but he was only making $50,000 to $60,000 a year.
“I’m thinking to myself there’s gotta be more to this than just doing a few deals here and there,” Munar said.
That’s when he started planning to open his own mortgage business in Pennsylvania. He began building up a referral network and got his own assistant in 2012, which allowed him to close even more loans. In 2014, Munar mustered up the confidence to ask his boss for a raise. He was paying for an assistant out of his own commission, he brought in 80% of the company’s business, and all of that business he was able to generate himself. But his boss didn’t want to negotiate a better compensation plan, so Munar and his assistant left to start their own company.
On His Own
In 2014, Munar got his mortgage broker license in Pennsylvania, and launched Munar Mortgage LLC. “The business was just fascinating,” Munar said. “So we footed the bill for coaching, which was quite expensive, like $2,500 a month, but that’s when my business started to grow.”
This is about the time when Munar met his future friend and business partner Megan Marsh at a seminar.
“We started realizing like we’re on two sides of the state, so we’re not really competition. We’re also paying for a lot of the same things twice. And we’re really helping each other a lot, so why not just join brokerages? So we turned Munar Mortgage LLC into doing business as Keystone Alliance Mortgage,” Munar said.
Keystone Alliance Mortgage also serves Spanish-speaking clients, including those who reside in Puerto Rico.
Even his sexual orientation as a gay man has allowed LGBTQ+ clients to gravitate toward him. Munar shared that recently he pre-approved a lesbian couple for a mortgage and they’ll be going on to work with a lesbian Realtor. This leads him to tell his marketing team that they need to advertise as a LGBTQ+ friendly company, in order to make those in the community feel more comfortable working with his team.
“I believe that things are different in this day and age,” Munar said. “It’s okay to talk about those things as long as you’re surrounding yourself with the right people who support you, and love you, and trust you and want good for you. Now I do business with people who see me as a mortgage broker and not a gay Hispanic man.”
When Munar and Megan Marsh first met at the Marketing Animals Coaching event, she was pregnant with her third baby and was running 10 different businesses at the same time, so showing up late was sometimes an unavoidable consequence. To avoid attention she quietly slipped into the back of the room but quickly noticed a man, Munar, sitting in the front row avidly participating by raising his hand, asking questions, and being very vocal throughout the entire session.
“I just was like, ‘Who is this guy?’” Marsh said. “He came and sought me out on a break and introduced himself. He’s like, ‘Hey, we’re both from Pennsylvania, we’re both brokers,’ and he is very social. Andre’s the high eye. He’s like, ‘We should stay in touch.’”
When they returned back home to Pennsylvania after the event, a friendship eventually emerged between them. Since both of them had an abundance mindset, they were comfortable asking and providing advice to one another.
Later, Marsh discovered her business partner at the time was stealing money from the company, which devastated her. Munar then offered to sponsor her license until she could open up her own company. So Marsh essentially formed a business under Munar’s company and after a few months, Munar proposed that they merge their companies together and form a partnership. That ended up being a very successful partnership and business skyrocketed.
“I don’t have to flaunt it that I’m this gay man who owns a mortgage company and can produce a lot of loans. My work ethic will speak for itself.”
> Andres Munar
Prior to their partnership Marsh estimates her business was closing $20 million a year while Munar was closing about $18 million, so after combining their companies, they were closing about $40 million in loans.
“His (Munar’s) experiences growing up and being picked on and being ostracized, he was always the one that stood up for me,” Marsh said. “And his core values of loyalty and honesty and all those things was what showed through when we would hit difficult times or somebody who was trying to tear me or someone on the team apart. The two of us just make a powerhouse together.”
It’d be fair to say that society in the US has made significant progress in the acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, but it can’t be said without acknowledging the fact that it’s still an area of high controversy. Recent events, such as the Dylan Mulvaney controversy demonstrate this, when Bud Light decided to feature the transgender influencer on one of its beer cans, causing backlash among some consumers and leading them to boycott the company. There’s also plenty of people who claim there is too much support for the gay community, and gay pride is being “thrown in my face.”
“I’m after you treating me as a person, as a human, as Andre, not as that gay guy,” Munar said.
In the finance industries it can be especially tough for openly gay individuals.
“I absolutely see, you know, it’s a boys club and our business tends to have a little bit of older people. … We’re talking like 50-, 60-year-old executives who still maybe think a specific way and who still think that it’s an all-boys club. Then there’s the other 50% of it where I think it goes back to surrounding yourself with the right people.”
The good thing is there are plenty of people who don’t fit in the boys club mold for one reason or another, and they’re able to support each other. The National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) is a mission-driven organization that is part advocacy and part business. Essentially, it’s a referral network for Realtors and mortgage professionals, so no one needs to feel shunned or unable to get business because of their sexual orientation or identity.
“Look forward and work with people who want to work with you,” said Jeff Berger, founder of NAGLREP. “The LGBTQ community and its allies very much want to work with LGBTQ and allied professionals.”
But the pool of borrowers and referral partners is much larger.
“I don’t have to flaunt it that I’m this gay man who owns a mortgage company and can produce a lot of loans. My work ethic will speak for itself,” Munar said. “I don’t need to prove who I am. I’m just going to show you that … I know what I’m talking about.”
There are also LGBTQ+ homebuyers who struggle with mortgage approval bias, according to a study conducted by the UCLA Williams Institute School of Law. And, surely, these homebuyers would appreciate a LGBTQ+ ally or member of the community to assist them in their quest for a mortgage. Study co-author Luis Vasquez, a Scholar of Law at the Williams Institute, came on the Gated Communities podcast to discuss the challenges LGBTQ+ people face when trying to buy a home and how originators can help.