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Keller Mortgage told a number of employees who work in operations that they were out of a job this week — the third round of layoffs at Keller Williams’ lending arm in the last year — even as the company seeks to add new loan officers.
“In light of macroeconomic market conditions, on Monday of this week we further restructured the mortgage operations group within our Keller Mortgage business,” Keller Williams spokesperson Darryl Frost told Inman in an email. “We remain committed to assisting our impacted employees and to growing our mortgage offerings over the long term.”
Keller Mortgage Operations Manager Aaron Mintz posted on LinkedIn Wednesday that about 60 employees lost their jobs.
A person with knowledge of the layoffs’ specifics would not say exactly how many employees were affected but said no loan officers, sales or sales support positions were eliminated. Employees who were laid off were offered severance pay and will receive health benefits through the end of October, the person said.
Automating the processing of mortgage applications, underwriting, approvals and closings has become a priority for mortgage lenders who are looking for ways to stay competitive and cut costs after an abrupt rise in mortgage rates put an end to the refinancing boom.
After nearly doubling the company’s payroll from 530 in June 2020 to 1,000 employees in May 2021, Keller Mortgage did an about-face last October, laying off 150 recent recruits who held “junior roles.”
In May, more than a dozen Keller Mortgage employees posted notices on LinkedIn that they’d been laid off, with some describing the second round of job cuts as “huge.”
While a number of mortgage lenders have been forced to downsize as rising mortgage rates drastically curtail refinancings, most of Keller Mortgage’s business is providing purchase mortgages to homebuyers represented by Keller Williams agents.
Some lenders like United Wholesale Mortgage see an opportunity to grow market share by outcompeting rivals to win business from homebuyers.
After opening a dozen offices this year, real estate franchising giant RE/MAX’s mortgage subsidiary, Motto Mortgage, now boasts more than 200 locations and was recently named to a list of top “recession-proof” franchise opportunities.
In July, Keller Mortgage moved to grow its business by making a popular lead conversion tool, Mortgage Coach, available to loan officers enterprise-wide.
Keller Mortgage is advertising seven positions online including openings for an area sales manager, an “elite loan officer” with two or more years of experience, a senior loan officer and four local loan officers.
One former Keller Mortgage employee who was laid off this year told Inman that during the pandemic, the company began recruiting managers from outside the company and opened a wholesale lending division. At that point, the culture at Keller Mortgage changed from that of “a small company, almost like a family-run atmosphere” to being “very corporate,” the former employee said.
The former employee, who asked not to be named because they are currently looking for work, said that Keller Mortgage’s purchase loan business “was down, but had not dried up” when their job was eliminated. The former employee said that it appeared that layoffs at the company were driven at least in part by new managers “wanting to replace old people and bring in their own,” and that “many top producers have gone to other companies.”
According to the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry, Keller Mortgage sponsors 136 mortgage loan originators working out of 46 branch locations.
There’s also been turmoil in the management ranks at Keller Mortgage’s parent company, KWx. Carl Liebert — hired in October 2020 as CEO as part of a leadership shakeup in which Keller Williams’ co-founder Gary Keller stepped away from the chief executive job — parted ways with the company in June. Former Walmart executive Tony Rogers departed the same month, after serving just three months as chief growth officer
In reporting second-quarter results, Keller Williams said its agents closed 328,100 transactions, a 10.7 percent drop from a year ago, but that sales volume was up 1 percent over that time to $146.8 billion.
Two weeks later, the Texas-based franchisor said it was laying off 23 people from “a range of departments” just days before its annual “Mega Camp” training conference.