Radley Brooks got his start in the home mortgage financing business at a seemingly strange time to launch such an endeavor -- amidst the growing national mortgage crisis in 2007.
Brooks, then manager of a national electronics retail store in Denver who wanted to leave behind the holiday retail grind, however, found it a most opportune time.
That's because Brooks was offering a lot of government-backed loans, Farm Home and Department of Veterans Affairs loans for example, which traditional banks weren't providing.
It proved a wise move.
The business that he started with one other employee in the basement of his stepmother's real estate office has now grown to 19 employees housed in a newly remodeled office building in Hutchinson, Kansas, and managing some $60 million a year in financing.
He's looking to hire another four to six employees over the next year, Brooks said.
"Things are going really well," he said.
Last week, his branch of Primary Residential Mortgage Inc., 302 E. 30th Ave., was named the August Small Business of the Month by the Hutchinson / Reno County Chamber of Commerce.
Originally from Hutchinson and a 1995 Haven High graduate, Brooks moved away to Kansas City and was employed by Best Buy. He moved up in the chain, becoming a store manager in Colorado.
"It seemed like in retail there wasn't much family time, especially during the holidays," he said. "When you wanted to be with family was the store's busiest time. In real estate, things slow down during the holiday."
"So, I was looking at a career change and I reached out to my stepmother, Shirley Labien, who owns Coldwell Banker, to ask if there were any opportunities in real estate," Brooks, 41, recalled. "She told me to find someone who could do FHA and VA loans, which there were a lot of government loans for first-time homebuyers she felt the market needed. A lot of banks had started restricting their lending and changing their guidelines."
Today his company offers more than 100 different loan options. They work with customers to identify the best type of loan to meet their specific needs.
"A lot of banks and credit unions have just one or two home mortgage products," he said. "Because we specialize in government loan programs, like FHA, VA and USDA Rural Development, I think it gives us an advantage. We don't do car loans or business loans, but we do residential from single-family up to four-family homes. That's where our niche is. Every applicant we run into has a different story, a different situation, and we try to find the best product that matches their needs."
His original employee, incidentally, Heather Thompson, who worked as a loan processor, has since moved on, but she now works with Brook's wife, Kati, and Kati's mother, Mary Winter, at Farm Bureau Insurance.
A lot of their expansion over the past decade, Brooks said, has been online and into other states.
"As millennials are starting to buy, they're changing home buying ways," he said. "We have people applying online from other states. We do mortgages for Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado, California and Arkansas."
They must be licensed in each state where they operate -- even if it's from an office in Hutchinson, Brooks said. They chose to expand into states that were adjoining, as well as those that offered some of the most opportunity.
"Dallas and Denver are hot spots for housing," Brooks said. "Dallas is a huge hot spot. But instead of going through the process of opening a physical branch, it's easier to hire and train staff to work from a Hutchinson office to do mortgages in those areas. It keeps your costs down, so you can pass on a cheaper interest rate and lower fees on your loan products than say lenders in California, where costs for a building are a lot higher."
They retain and service about 25 percent of the loans that they originate, Brooks said, and sell the rest to investors.
"We're writing just over 50 mortgages a month," he said. "Back when I started we'd do one or two a month."
As his business grew and expanded, he added more offices and at one time had three separate locations in Hutchinson and one in Newton. Brooks then bought and renovated the former Venue location at 302 E. 30th, consolidating all of the offices into the single location back in April.
"Its way more efficient and easier for our customers to find our staff," Brooks said of the consolidation under one roof. "More and more lending institutions are getting to where they'll have production staff at one location, underwriters at a center in California, and closing someplace in Arizona. One thing we can say is we offer everything, from start to finish, right here in Hutchinson. We have our own in-house underwriting, in-house processing and in-house closing."