After more than two decades in the business, loanDepot Branch Manager Baret Kechian has become the go-to originator for high-end condo deals in Hudson County, N.J. Over the years, he has built up to more than $270 million in annual loan volume by learning that niche from top to bottom.
“I think that’s what’s helped my career – doing something that isn’t easy for everyone,” he says. “Once you become really good at it, you can perfect your process and come up with a really good system for it, you can take off pretty good.”
It takes special expertise to understand the extra level of underwriting condo loans demand. The requirements can be confusing and often vary from loan to loan. Kechian estimates that condos have made up the majority of his business over the past decade, dating back to his move to Hoboken, N.J., where condos dominate the market.
“You have to know the condo regulations like the back of your hand, so it’s almost second nature as opposed to having to check guidelines each time,” Kechian says. “Once you get that kind of confidence, if somebody asks you a question, you become the expert in the area, and don’t have to think about it. It’s natural. You know exactly what to do.”
Kechian and his team are constantly checking guidelines, searching for work arounds and figuring out “every trick of the trade to get a condo approved within the rules.”
Originators who are new to the condo market need to study, learn and deliver consistently until they build trust, Kechian says. He also sticks to the six or seven products he knows well, rather than taking on every type of deal.
“We have a big Fannie and Freddie market here,” Kechian says. “There are jumbo products that we use and a few portfolio products that we know well. It works. That covers basically 80 to 90 percent of the needs of our clients.”
New Jersey’s condo buyers are diverse, including millennials getting their first property and young families looking for three or four-bedroom places. The community also has a large population of workers who are in the United States on work visas or green cards, which presents special considerations for originators.
“We pride ourselves on knowing our guidelines inside and out and having a system in place for when there are questions to answer them quickly,” Kechinan says. “The answers we are getting are coming from the right sources that are going to review the files. We pay attention and we are very detail focused. With the team I’ve put together, I think we offer the client the best of all worlds.”
Looking to the future, Kechian says he expects the condo market to stay lucrative and offer strong potential for new originators.