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By Gabriella Cruz-Martínez
August 13, 2020
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Nearly 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits over the past four months as the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend the U.S. labor market. However, some job sectors have benefited from the ramifications of the pandemic and are actively hiring.

Data from LinkedIn shows a dramatic 123% increase in job openings for mortgage loan officers from March to June. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 167,810 loan interviewers and clerks and 258,630 loan officers employed in 2019, amounting to over 425,000 positions. On LinkedIn, there are currently more than 350,000 companies with an open position under the title “loan” or “mortgage.”

LinkedIn reported that June saw a 112% increase over April in finance-related roles. Job postings include full-time, part-time, contractor, and temporary jobs. Nevertheless, over 95% of job postings for loan officers between March and June were full-time positions.

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Why the mortgage industry is hiring

Industry experts say that the spike in job postings is due to record low interest rates, which are driving a surge in applications for purchase and refinance loans. In turn, mortgage lenders need to expand mortgage banking, operations, and customer service teams to meet demand. Earlier this spring, mortgage lenders were struggling to keep up with the increase in refinancing demand. As a result, companies like JP Morgan Chase raised requirements to qualify for a mortgage, while others stopped accepting applications overnight.

“Interest rates have really influenced our hiring practices, and there are huge growth opportunities on the operations side right now,” said Van Richardson, chief executive officer at FILO Mortgage, a Pennsylvania-based mortgage company that launched in January.

Big players such as Quicken Loans, one of the largest originators of home mortgages in the U.S., have hired more than 1,500 people since the coronavirus pandemic began. According to reports, the company plans to hire an additional 1,500 over the next two months, including over 600 interns.

Similarly, California-based loanDepot announced plans to hire 3,000 new employees by the end of this year. The company hosted a virtual job fair on LinkedIn in the spring, and nearly 500 applicants attended the event.

So you want to be a loan officer?

If you’re interested in career opportunities in the mortgage lending industry, loan officers are in high demand.

Loan officers are the point of contact between the financial institution and the borrower through the application process. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a loan officer is $63,270 per year. However, compensation can vary depending on your level of experience, state of residence, employer, and whether or not you get a commission originating a loan.

When hiring for this position, most companies look for candidates that have a bachelor’s degree, ideally in finance, business, or economics. For high school graduates, companies like to see at least two years of experience in the field. “There are talented people from other walks of life that can transition to this field well,” said Richardson.

That being said, it’s not a walk in the park. Those interested in becoming mortgage loan officers must first be licensed as mortgage loan originators through the NMLS. While most companies fund the cost of attendance, licenses can be anywhere from $300 to $900 and are renewed on an annual basis. In some cases, training can extend for up to 4 months. “Some states have some rigorous, not only pre-education requirements but also post-education,” adds Richardson. “This role is an investment of time, and you have to prepare for continuing education every single year.”

“Be prepared for a steep learning curve. Nothing we do in the mortgage business is rocket science, but there is a ton of detail to absorb,” said Josh Lewis, owner and broker at Buy Wise Mortgage. “Ninety-nine percent of the issues that lead to declined loans or late closings can be traced back to a missed detail earlier in the process.”

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Tips for Aspiring Loan Officers

Save contacts and money

According to industry experts, loan officers must have excellent communication skills and the ability to build relationships with clients. Acting as a liaison between applicants and the financial institution is part of the job, but establishing long-standing relationships with clients can help your career grow in the long run.

“This can be a feast or famine business. When times are good, you need to save up for a rainy day, both literally and business-wise. Don’t spend every dollar you make and build up cash reserves,” said Lewis. “Do the same thing with your reputation and your relationships. The people that made it through the last downturn did so because of the volume of people that knew, liked, and trusted them.”

Understand the pros and cons

From helping a couple achieve their dream of homeownership, to assisting a recent graduate in finding the best loan option to purchase their first car — successful loan officers are detail-oriented individuals who can help people from every income level and background achieve their financial goals. While fulfilling, keep in mind that this can be a demanding job.

“There is a ton of stress in the field. You’re never really off the clock,” said Lewis. “Things can and will go wrong, and you need to be available to get the train back on the tracks. If you want a 9 to 5, look elsewhere.”

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