It’s the season of giving thanks, and for those who have worked in the mortgage and servicing industry throughout the ups and downs seen in the housing market, there are many aspects of the business to be thankful for these days. DS News spoke with several mortgage professionals to discuss their mortgage background, what changes they have seen over the course of their tenure in the industry, and what they love about the work that they do.
For the third installment of this series, DS News sat down with Rick Sharga, Chief Marketing Officer for Ten-X, the parent company of Auction.com.
What is your background as a mortgage professional?
I'm actually an accidental mortgage industry executive. I spent the first 20 years of my career doing marketing for technology companies. That lead me from Pennsylvania to California. I was working for big international technology companies like Toshiba, Fujitsu, and JD Edwards. When the internet came along, I started working with some startups as well. Then the internet bubble burst and the technology marketplace really cratered, I wound up running a little consulting business for a couple of years where I was working mostly with startups and occasionally some companies that had to start over.
One of the companies I started working with was this little startup called RealtyTrac. RealtyTrac was a technology company trying to launch a marketplace for foreclosure properties, which I thought was kind of fascinating. I wound up going to work for the company on what was supposed to be a six-month engagement that lasted for nine years. I happened to be there when the foreclosure crisis hit and RealtyTrac was the only company publishing a national report on foreclosure that had at least a year's worth of history. Honestly, it was the only company willing to talk about what was going on in foreclosures. Most of the other companies, at the time, were from the lending industry and really didn't want to talk much about what was happening with loans.
It was one of those right place, right time moments. I probably wound up being quoted more by the media than anybody else in the country on what was happening in foreclosures. That led to starting to talk about broader real estate and mortgage issues. After my time at RealtyTrac, I was recruited to join a company called Carrington Mortgage Holdings, which was in the origination and servicing business and a real estate brokerage and a title company. I got some more in-depth experience, if you will, on how the mortgage industry works because of the work I was doing there with the originator and the servicing entity.
After being there for a few years I got a call from the founder at Auction.com. They were looking for somebody to come over and help reposition the brand in the real estate industry as the eBay for real estate. That was very intriguing to me because it was sort of the culmination of this weird journey that had taken over my career. It was the intersection of technology and real estate and that was really attractive to me. I believed then and I believe now that the company had a chance to be at the leading edge of this wave of technology change that the real estate mortgage industry so desperately need and jumped at the chance to do that. It's been a really interesting three and a half years since then.
What are the best parts about your position in the industry?
Well, unlike Donald Trump, I actually like talking to the press. I've actually forged some really good relationships over the years with people in the media who cover this space. I've been gratified to be able to help educate a lot of general media reporters and editors on how things actually work in private mortgage business. It's felt like I've been able to actually make a contribution on behalf of the industry and to the media and the people that actually read what the media puts out. I've spent a lot of the early part of my career training corporate executives how to work with the media. I really didn't have to do it myself until I got to RealtyTrac. That's been kind of interesting. I like the people I work with, not just in my company. I've met so many really, really good people in the mortgage and real estate industries in the last 15 years. I consider a lot of them friends, so that's been probably the most enjoyable part of the business.
Where I am right now, the challenge and sometimes and the frustration is being out there at the leading edge of changing the way real estate is transacted and leveraging technology to do that. I believe that ultimately this will have a benefit for everybody involved in the transaction and result in a much better, more seamless, more efficient process for people to buy and sell and finance property. Changing 200 years of entrenched behavior can be difficult. That's one of the reasons it's so much of a challenge.
In looking back five years, what aspects of the industry have changed or shifted?
I've seen a movement toward wider spread use of technology. That's probably not a surprise to anybody. I'm actually a little surprised we haven't seen it adopted even more rapidly, but again, we're dealing with a couple hundred years of established behavior.
There is something that I don’t think is obvious but it's related to that, which is, I think we're beginning to see a trend towards the process in both the mortgage industry and in real estate, being consumer driven. For as long as we've had real estate professionals and mortgage professionals, a lot of process has been driven by those professionals. Licensed professionals who make a lot decisions, make a lot of recommendations, and have largely controlled the process. As the Internet has really started to get a foothold in this industry, consumers are becoming more and more the drivers of what happens, when it happens, and how it happens. I think as we get the next generation of consumers, of home buyers into the market, the Millennials, who have grown up buying and selling and pretty much doing everything else online, we're going to see the pace of consumer demand and consumer driven processes accelerate rapidly.