Technology is an important part of the Greek tradition, and the ancient Greeks made many valuable contributions to the world in the form of architectural, medical and mathematic advancements, among other achievements. Inspired by his Greek roots, Nick Stamos saw a problem in the mortgage industry and decided to solve it with Sindeo, which, in his ancestors’ language, means “to connect.”
After buying his first home in 2010, Stamos found the process of applying for a mortgage loan long and complicated — and marked by a few expensive surprises during the process. After leaving his mobile data startup in 2013, he recalled his homebuying experience and seized the opportunity to use technology to fix what he considered to be a broken, antiquated and inefficient business model, and founded Sindeo (pronounced “sin-dee-oh”).
“As a numbers-driven guy, Nick believed the process didn’t need to be that complicated,” said Ginger Wilcox, Sindeo’s chief industry officer. “He decided to leverage technology to reduce those inefficiencies.”
Wilcox, who worked on the real estate side of things prior to joining the Sindeo team — having spent four years at Trulia overseeing marketing and communications for the company’s industry services division — agreed that in her work with real estate professionals, she often heard about the challenges they experienced in the home finance process.
“Sindeo piqued my interest because this is one area in real estate that hasn’t changed dramatically from a technology perspective,” she said. “Because of the legacy systems that many loan officers use, it’s difficult for them to be nimble and make the process more efficient. Our first focus was to build platforms for mortgage advisers to use to process loans more quickly.”
Wilcox noted that Sindeo is not an online mortgage company, as some have mistakenly assumed, but a lender-paid mortgage originator. The company offers back-end technology that helps lenders process loans more efficiently and improves communication between homebuyers and real estate agents.
The company works with 42 different lenders that together offer more than 1,000 different loan programs. These loan products vary greatly, from jumbo loans to programs for buyers who may need niche loans or down payment assistance.
But another major focus for the San Francisco-based company is on providing more transparency for consumers and “demystifying” the mortgage process for those who are planning to purchase a home or refinance an existing loan, Wilcox said.
“We wanted to create a trusted marketplace where people can plan, shop, qualify for and close their loan, and get expert, unbiased service along the way,” she said. “We give them access to every part of the process so they know exactly where they are in the process at any point in time, and have the ability to make better, more informed decisions.”
Sindeo touts a four-step process to help potential buyers find a mortgage and lender. The first phase may occur 18 months to two years before buyers are ready to purchase, and Sindeo’s mortgage advisers help them plan for the home financing experience with all of the educational tools they need to understand the process.
Next, Sindeo helps consumers identify the lenders that fit their personal circumstances to match them with not only the right lender, but also the right loan program. Once the buyers apply and qualify for a loan, Sindeo helps to process the loan for the lender.
“Unlike banks and mortgage companies who spend a majority of their time servicing clients rather than hunting for business, we focus on putting people into the right loan at the right time,” Wilcox said.
In return for processing loan applications, lenders pay Sindeo a percentage of the value of the loan. The company makes up to 1.25 percent of the value of the loan, but the fee may be lower depending on the lender or loan program.
This fee is disclosed on the Good Faith Estimate so borrowers know exactly what Sindeo is getting paid and how the payment affects their loan.
Unlike most mortgage brokers and loan officers who receive a percentage of the total loan amount from banks, incentivizing them to give better service to customers with bigger loans, Sindeo’s mortgage advisers receive a salary, benefits and a flat fee for each loan they close, as well as quarterly bonuses of 6 to 10 percent of their salaries that are awarded based on the results of consumer satisfaction surveys.
“Our mortgage advisers are never paid based on the terms of the transaction,” Wilcox said. “We want to provide guided, unbiased experience for our end consumers.”
Sindeo is currently licensed in California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, D.C., and is continuing the process of getting licensed in other major metropolitan areas across the country.
“With our focus on technology and transparency, we’re looking at the next generation of homebuyers, and they tend to be centered in major metropolitan areas,” Wilcox said. “Millennial buyers especially are looking for services to be delivered using tools that are focused. “
Six months into its operations, Sindeo has 55 employees and is already eyeing expansion into Redwood Shores, California, and outside of the Bay Area.
“We believe the mortgage industry is ready for change, and only a new company with no legacy systems with a new approach can do that. It’s time for technology to be brought out to reduce the complexity of the mortgage process. It’s a fun challenge,” Wilcox said.