Meet The Expert: Mortgage Broker Jo Attard and Co
Finding the perfect property is just one part of the puzzle.
You also have to finance it. The mortgage you take out to buy your home will most likely be the biggest debt that you’ll ever take on in your lifetime! Yet, many of us stumble into our mortgages not knowing an awful lot and continue to service them, without a great deal of thought. That’s where mortgage brokers come in.
A mortgage broker works as an intermediary between the lender and the borrower. They’ll deal with the process of finding the best deal, the paperwork and securing of the loan. Interestingly, mortgage brokers account for around half of home loans taken out in Australia.
But how do you know if you’re dealing with a shark? I asked Joanne Attard, a mortgage broker who is an absolute superstar when it comes to insider knowledge, the best deals and rates, as well as being on top of the government subsidies open to home buyers. It has been nearly 20 years since Joanne Attard started JoAttard and Co, so her mortgage and financial knowledge is second to none.
Thanks for agreeing to this chat, Joanne. First off, how did you become a mortgage broker?
I started my career at Westpac as a teller and worked my way up to become a business banking manager. One of my clients at Westpac introduced me to a gentleman from Sydney, who had wanted to set up a mortgage broking business in Melbourne. It was a very new business in 2001. In those days, it was just the Big Four banks and Aussie Home Loans. I had always wanted to have my own business but I was unsure of the direction. Mortgage broking piqued my interest, so I set up my own company. The rest is history!
What kind of training do you need to become a mortgage broker?
When I first started you didn’t need any qualifications, and because of this there were a lot of cowboys in the industry. Thankfully, they’ve now been flushed out. The standards are far higher than what they used to be when I first started. Today there is a focus on education and brokers have to undertake a Certificate 4 in Finance and Mortgage Broking.
What do you think gave your business longevity and a competitive edge?
If you’re good at relationships and good at knowing how to put a deal together, you’ve got a client for life. I’m working with a client at the moment, and I’d worked with his grandmother back in the day. My business comes via word of mouth. We don’t advertise or pay referral commissions to real estate agents. Our job is to know our clients intimately. We know their businesses, their expenses as well as their expectations.
Just researching the market?
So, why do people need a mortgage broker?
A mortgage broker will take the anxiety, stress and time out of getting a mortgage. For example, first-time buyers can be naïve when it comes to the processes with real estate agents and banks. We also look at their incoming and outgoing income to make sure they don’t spend more than they should, so it doesn’t impact their capacity to repay their mortgage. For us, we are all about the ongoing relationship and cementing that. We call our clients every year to see how they’re going and if we can explore some better rates with their current bank. I’ve always been passionate about strategy and structure, advising the client not only about today, but what their future looks like.
What do you love about your job?
The reward of getting a client into their home and them saying, ‘we couldn’t have done it without you’! It’s the best reward. I have clients who’ve been with us for years, and we’ve ended up friends. I’ve gone to birthdays, baptisms and weddings. I watched clients pay off their mortgages and others who have invested in numerous properties with our help.
Is there one question that you always get asked?
Clients always ask how we make our money! The answer is the banks and building societies pay us a fee. The thinking is that rather than banks having to pay a staff member with wages and overheads, they pay mortgage brokers a commission. However, mortgage brokers now use an aggregator, which is a licensee company. It doesn’t matter which bank we deal with, we’re paid the same rate across the board. Also, regulations from APRA (The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority) means we are required to explain why we decided to recommend a particular product, which is good for the market and the consumer, as well.
Has the COVID-19 changed the way the mortgage broking industry operates?
There are now a new set of questions we need to ask. If there is a possibility that a client’s job is at risk, they need to let us know. Otherwise during the settlement process the bank has the right to withdraw their loan, which leads to the buyer being put in a tight spot.
Is there any advice you can give buyers in the current climate?
Take your time, do your homework, find an experienced broker, so you can get approval for your loan before purchase. If you’re not getting approval, make sure you sign the ‘subject to finance’ clause on a contract. Otherwise, you could lose your deposit or be potentially sued. Having a mortgage broker can save people a lot of heartache.
I can vouch for your great advice and high service levels, Joanne, as I’ve personally used your mortgage broking services.
Thank you and the feeling is entirely mutual, Robyn. When you called to say you wanted to feature me on your blog, I thought you were calling about a referral I made to one of my clients, who was hoping to make a sea change to the Surf Coast. I’d had told her ‘you’ve got to go to speak to Robyn, she’s the best. She’s so professional, warm and gives the best advice!’
We’re a mutual appreciation society! Thanks for the great chat Jo! You can find out more about JoAttard and Co at their website.