Rookie SuperStar – Shaul Betesh

Number of Loans

Tina Blakeman, senior vice president

Favorite Book:
“Everything is Illuminated,” By Jonathan Safran Foer

Favorite Quote:
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

After growing up on Long Island in New York, Shaul Betesh decided to stay close to home for college and went to an upstate New York school, Binghamton University. However, when he discovered that it offered little variation from the rest of his school environments while growing up, he decided to venture to the “complete opposite of what I was used to”—Southern California.

Betesh, 24, credits the experience away from his native state for allowing him to “develop into myself,” but says New York is where he belongs. After studying economics and psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Betesh moved back east, and in preparation for law school, began working as a real estate paralegal with his brother.

As a paralegal for a real estate attorney, Betesh worked on many closings with GuardHill Financial, a financing company out of New York, NY. During the refi-boom GuardHill offered Betesh a job as an opener and his career in the mortgage industry had begun.

After gradually taking on different jobs over the course of a year (eventually opening, processing, and closing loans), Betesh was given the opportunity to try originating. Since he had been working on numerous loans for the senior vice president of the company, Tina Blakeman, Betesh had a lot of practice talking to and dealing with customers. “I love talking to people,” he said, and mentioned that as part of the reason he found the chance to originate on his own appealing. The other part—”I’m fairly controlling,” he said, laughing. “For the first six months I was still opening and processing for myself.” Since he started reading rate sheets and guidelines when processing, his loan and product knowledge was well established by the time he began originating.

Working with Blakeman during the beginning of his career made the transition easier for Betesh. He would sit in on loan applications and attend real estate broker functions with her and attributes a lot of his success to her mentorship. “I look young so it made me more comfortable having her with me,” he said. “It was key to have that alignment with her.”

With a rookie year volume of over $50 million on 160 loans, Betesh said he worked about 60 hours a week during his first year and took the ambitious attitude of “I need to know everything” when approaching his originating career. He didn’t take the easy refi-route during 2004, instead generating 75 percent of his business from purchases because he knew that would lead to a more solid business foundation.

A key source of business during 2004 was generated through a partnership he established with the owner of five co-ops in Manhattan. “I knew someone who was having a difficult time getting financing on the buildings due to the high sponsor concentration,” said Betesh. “So I did a lot of research and gathered information for him and helped get the buildings approved. Then once they were, all the people interested in purchasing units were directed to me.”

His most memorable loan, however, was working with a couple on the purchase of a loft in SoHo. Betesh hosted an open house in the loft, complete with a “well-presented” spread of food, and met an artist who was interested in the space. After later meeting with her husband, who was a managing director for an investment firm, the couple worked with Betesh on buying the property. “We became good friends and their business led me to so many other sources,” he said.

“Nothing is more important than understanding people,” said Betesh, “which is why I studied psychology in college—it can be applied to everything in your daily life.” This skill helps particularly in dealing with the diverse set of clients the New York market offers. “I have worked with actors, theatre producers, electricians who work on Broadway sets, investment bankers, and freelance writers, among others. I have enjoyed dealing with so many different types of people.”

In addition to sponsoring open houses for real estate brokers, providing sandwiches and fruit for the daytime and sushi for the evening, Betesh attends most of his borrowers’ closings. He also gives a closing gift card to a home store, such as Crate & Barrel. “I send holiday cards for bigger holidays such as Christmas and Chanukah, and I include Zagat dining guides for my business partners and customers,” he said.

Betesh’s goal for his second year is simple: “More loans.” He plans on focusing more on new construction buildings and “really going after the real estate community.” With the high cost property values in New York City, Betesh will continue to stay in front of his clients, and generate “luxury mortgages” (the company’s specialty) to grow his production. Part of this plan will include a new, full-service Web site he and Blakeman will offer their clients, and distribution of HELOC mailers reminding people of the increasing prime rate.

“It has been one of the greatest experiences in my life,” said Betesh about originating. Outside of work he plays soccer twice a week and spends time going to the theatre, visiting museums, and attending other open houses “to see other apartments that are on the market, as well as potential clients new homes.” As to whether he’ll consider going to law school again later in his life—”I suppose it all depends on where the market goes. I’m very happy with where I am.”

–Gretchen Lees