A PDQ Q&A
A quick conversation with our President Adam Korbin and our Mortgage Underwriter, Chris Delisle.
Most of the questions we get are, "can we have some money, really fast?" and most of our answers are “yes”. But this is a chance for you to hear a bit about who we are, our history and our philosophy as a company.
10 questions for Adam Korbin
You have been President of InstaFund for 16 years. How did you get your start in the mortgage business?
Actually 2018 marks my 25th year at InstaFund. I started out in the marketing department at InstaFund in 1989 and then went off to pursue a career in journalism. After 6 years in journalism and public service I returned to InstaFund in 1994 to grow the Mortgage Investment Corporation side of our business.
Are there things in journalism that carry over in business?
Obviously news reporters like a good story and mortgage applications are often very interesting. That’s the human side of our business. Sometimes there’s missing information in a mortgage application and it’s our job to ask the right questions in order to best help our borrowers.
My journalism career was at a time long before the internet and social media. I like to think our office is organized like an old-school newsroom where news stories were vetted by an editorial board prior to publication. At InstaFund our deals are presented to our lending committee for approval before they get committed.
What changes have you seen in the mortgage business in the past 25 years?
The biggest change has been industry-wide. The number of Canadian homeowners who no-longer qualify for conventional financing has changed the entire mortgage industry. So many people are self-employed, or simply don’t qualify under the new mortgage rules. That’s brought a lot of new MIC lenders enter the market. Private lending is now part of mainstream business.
How does InstaFund differentiate itself in this new market?
I’d like to think that our track record speaks for itself. InstaFund’s founder Ed Korbin started the company in the middle of the great recession of 1982. There was chaos in real estate at the time, and he saw an opportunity to lend when most banks were retreating from the market. In a sense he was one of the pioneers in syndicated mortgage lending.
Since then we have followed Ed’s 3 guiding principles.
- Conservative lending practices,
- Fastidious mortgage management and
- Fast service for brokers and borrowers.
It’s that consistency over time that keeps our customers coming back. We’re different from many of our competitors because we offer some of the lowest rates and fees amongst private lenders. And, of course our name speaks for itself.
The name InstaFund certainly implies speed. But what does that mean in real-world terms?
In the real world many of our clients come to us after applying at their own bank or other institutions. Often they have had to spend weeks going back and forth in red tape. A lot of energy goes into trying to satisfy restrictive lending requirements. After all of that time and effort they are declined.
At InstaFund our credit decisions are made locally. When we receive an application we quote quickly and send our offer to finance with our underwriting. It’s transparent for the borrower and saves a lot of time. Our lending committee meets nearly every day so commitments are fast and fundings on time.
Has the post-recession economy changed your business?
The two biggest changes have occurred in the quality of lending we are doing and client retention. New bank regulations have moved much of the more conservative private lenders into the mainstream, and this is where InstaFund is headed in the future.
What does this mean for the brokers that send you mortgage applications?
For many years brokers worked to qualify their clients for institutional lenders. For the most part this meant calculating the debt service and credit parameters for each lender and finding the right fit. Now many borrowers are self employed or simply don’t fit into the debt service model. Brokers are learning that private lenders rely on equity to qualify a borrower. Brokers who can prepare their clients for private lending and understand how to package a loan application will prosper in this new environment.
For most of your career the real estate market has been very strong in the Lower Mainland. What makes this market so buoyant?
I believe the real estate market is the best reflection of the economy in any geographic area. For Vancouver and the Lower mainland we benefit from some of the best weather in Canada, access to trade across the border and through our ports and a generally favourable business climate.
Also our stable financial institutions, rule of law, freedom of the press and high living standards contribute to the demand for housing and commercial property investment. Our strong democracy gives us the freedom to prosper as individuals and as a community.
The challenge for BC and for the rest of Canada is to continue to invest prudently in those areas that make us unique in the world.
What do you like best about your job?
I like the relationship side of business. We have some terrific repeat customers and I really like that we are making a difference in their lives. And we have great associates: brokers, lawyers, appraisers and our own bankers that make the work day fun and productive. Most of our staff have been with us for a long time and, though this might sound cliché, they are like a second family to me.
Our location downtown is a real bonus too. In the summer I ride my bike to work and it’s a real joy to avoid traffic. Vancouver is such a great city to live in. I have travelled a lot and I’m always happy to return back to Vancouver.
Any advice for brokers and investors?
Albert Einstein isn’t known for his business acumen but he did have one bit of common sense that I’ve always followed: “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it ... he who doesn't ... pays it.”
10 questions for Chris Delisle
Did you imagine growing up that you’d end up working in the mortgage business?
I was born on a US Airforce Base in Indiana but grew up in the Bay area of California. After graduating with a theatre degree, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. I got my first role in a commercial at age 19 and used that money to buy my first house in L.A. I remember researching mortgages at the time and ended up teaching my own mortgage broker a thing or two. Years later, I bought a small restaurant on Ventura Boulevard and was able to run the restaurant and continue to act. The combination was perfect in my 20s. If someone had told me my future would bring me to the mortgage business in Vancouver I wouldn’t have been surprised.
An actor? Have we seen you in anything?
Ha! Well, that depends on how much television you watch. I was in too many commercials to count. It was a Dr. Pepper commercial that paid for my first house. I also had a recurring role on Days of Our Lives and another soap opera called Passions. I have done quite a few Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movies. I would say my biggest break was a guest starring role on Will & Grace.
Do you think your experience in acting and restaurants lends itself to the mortgage business?
I do. Absolutely. Owning a restaurant for over 3 years was hard but rewarding work. Both businesses are all about customer service. Good organization and excellent communication skills are also key.
What brought you to Vancouver?
I met my wife in L.A. She’s originally from Vancouver and was in L.A. working in film. After our first child was born, we decided that Vancouver would be a better place to raise her. We’ve been in Vancouver for 14 years and I don’t regret the choice; but I do miss is the So Cal winter weather. Otherwise, Vancouver is the perfect place to live.
Weather aside, what are the big differences you notice between L.A. and Vancouver?
Vancouver is growing faster than L.A. Every time we go back to visit, we say the same thing about how little has changed since the last time we were there. Our second home in L.A. was a charming 1930s Spanish bungalow. It was the envy of many of our friends. When a relative from Vancouver came to visit, they called our house a tear- down. Having lived in the Vancouver market, I now understand where the sentiment was coming from.
Also, I like to ride my bike to work. Public transit and cycling aren’t common in L.A. I don’t miss the traffic. Vancouver is a very accessible city, either by bike, walking or public transit. It’s easy to understand why Vancouver is growing so much.
How about differences in business?
I think people work differently here, there’s much more balance between work, family and recreation in Vancouver.
What is your favourite part about working at Instafund?
I think I have the best job! At InstaFund I get to interact with brokers. Working with a broker from the quote to the commitment to funding can be quite exciting.
Seeing new loan applications everyday keeps things interesting too. People borrow money for so many different reasons, it’s really fascinating.
What is the strangest request you’ve seen?
We had a client a few years ago borrow a 2nd mortgage for $1 million dollars on their Vancouver penthouse apartment to buy an Ostrich farm in Australia. That’s a huge lifestyle change!!!
If there was one piece of advice you would give to a broker what would it be?
Well, InstaFund is an equity lender so when we review any application the first thing we look for is net-worth. So I would make sure you gather as much information and detail about your clients net-worth and make a really clear net-worth statement for the underwriting department.
OK, last question: What’s your favourite business movie?
This isn’t a movie but…my favorite thing to watch about “business” was Breaking Bad. I’ll leave it at that.