Honor code

There was a time when buying a house and getting a loan was pretty cut and dried.

You went to a bank, your loan application went in front of a committee, and weeks later you got your answer. But things have changed, and more people are forgoing banks for other lending sources.

“Five years ago 5 percent of all real estate transactions were done by brokers,” says Gary Habeeb, CEO of United Mortgage Group Inc. “Now 75 percent of all home loans are done by brokers.”

With the rise of mortgage brokers came stories of high commissions and outright fraud. But Habeeb stands by his business ethics and the practices of his brokers. In fact, every United Mortgage loan is seen by four managers before it is finalized.

“In every situation, we are bettering their financial situation, “says Habeeb, as an average refinance can take years off a mortgage and save hundreds of dollars a month.

Aggressive marketing and a savvy customer base have allowed Habeeb to grow his business from $300,000 to more than $3.8 million in three years.

“We create our own business,” says Habeeb. “Ninety percent of our business, the people never thought of using us.”

He stresses the importance of motivating and retaining good employees in a field that is 100 percent commission-based.

“People decide in the first 30 seconds if they are going to buy from you. It’s about trust,” he says.

That’s what makes the hiring the right employees so important.

“There is no question about it, a house is the largest investment of their life. They have to trust the person they are talking to,” he says.

Recently, Ohio passed some of the nation’s most stringent laws regarding mortgage brokers. Later this year, all brokers will have to be licensed, and limits will be placed on fees.

Habeeb welcomes the standards because they keep with the standards United already has in place.

“It is legitimizing the business,” says Habeeb. “Before, you could have come out of jail and been a loan officer.” How to reach: United Mortgage Group Inc., (216) 929-0555