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Real estate franchise giant RE/MAX’s mortgage subsidiary Motto Mortgage says 2022 was its best year ever for new office openings, even as franchise sales slowed in the second half of the year.
Motto Mortgage’s double-digit growth in open offices was a bright spot for parent company RE/MAX Holdings, which reported a $2.6 million fourth-quarter net loss Thursday as revenue fell 8.9 percent from a year ago to $81.3 million as rising mortgage rates dented home sales.
“We sold 40 franchises last year — a very respectable number in today’s business climate — but still off the 60 to 70 units sales pace we experienced the past few years,” Motto Mortgage CEO Ward Morrison said on a call with investment analysts. “The news regarding our model office openings is better as 2022 was our best year ever in terms of the number of offices opened.”
Motto Mortgage franchise office growth
Source: RE/MAX earnings reports
Motto Mortgage opened 61 new offices in 2022, besting the 60 openings achieved in 2021. After subtracting offices that closed or left the franchise, the net total number of open Motto Mortgage franchises grew by 44, up 23.5 percent from a year ago to 231 (that figure includes only “bricks and mortar” offices with full franchise agreements with Motto Franchising LLC and excludes virtual or “branchise” offices).
Morrison said two marketing events for potential Motto franchisees in January, “were among the best attended we’ve had in recent memory and long term we believe our prospects remain as bright as ever.”
Rising mortgage rates have been tough on mortgage lenders, who enjoyed a boom in refinancing when mortgage rates hit historic lows during the pandemic.
“We’ve seen a tight correlation between the rise in interest rates and the slowdown in our franchise sales since Q2 of last year,” Morrison said, adding that “Motto sales have continued, but at a slower pace.”
Franchise business model
Motto Mortgage doesn’t make loans itself but is a technology, compliance, training and marketing solution for mortgage brokers who work with multiple lenders. The company’s “mortgage brokerage-in-a-box” is available to RE/MAX affiliates or any real estate broker or entrepreneur. RE/MAX also provides mortgage loan processing services to mortgage brokers through another subsidiary, wemlo.
Each Motto Mortgage office that has been open for more than one year brings in roughly the same amount of annual revenue for RE/MAX Holdings as a 20-agent RE/MAX office in a company-owned region, Morrison said — “It is a meaningful sum.”
“This is why we continue to invest in our mortgage business by ramping up our model franchise sales and wemlo sales teams, and we aim to be at full capacity by the end of Q2,” Morrison said. “We believe this sets us up to return to our normal sales cadence within a matter of months and positions of the capital capitalize on the demand we expect to see as inflation retreats and mortgage rates stabilize.”
RE/MAX rival Keller Williams’ lending arm, Keller Mortgage, employs retail loan officers who don’t have access to loans from multiple lenders and has struggled as mortgage rates went up. After nearly doubling the company’s payroll, Keller Mortgage began reversing course in late 2021, laying off 150 recent recruits who held “junior roles.”
Keller Mortgage implemented a third round of layoffs in October and parted ways with CEO Dave Smith — hired in 2021 to spearhead the company’s growth — the following month. According to the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System, Keller Mortgage sponsors 110 loan officers working out of 42 branch offices.
Mortgage brokers on the rise
The deep connections many mortgage brokers have to local real estate agents and homebuyers — and the ability to source loans from multiple lenders — can provide an advantage as lenders pivot from refinancing existing loans to financing home purchases.
United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM), which works exclusively with mortgage brokers, launched an aggressive pricing strategy in June to build market share and overtook Rocket Mortgage during the third quarter as the nation’s biggest provider of home loans.
UWM’s record $27.7 billion in third quarter purchase loan originations exceeded Rocket Mortgage’s total loan production, which fell 73 percent to $23.7 billion. UWM CEO Mat Ishbia said in November that thousands of retail loan officers have become mortgage brokers as part of the industry shift.
“Ancillary services like mortgage provide real estate entrepreneurs with attractive opportunities to diversify their revenue and earnings, something that is very important during shifting market conditions,” Morrison said. “Over 70 percent of Motto sales have been to real estate professionals who are close to the real estate transactions, mainly purchase originations, and that proximity is the key to success for many of our franchisees.”
Franchise Business Review in September named Motto Mortgage a Top Recession-Proof Franchise based on an assessment of its potential to outperform competitors during challenging economic times. Another publication Black Enterprise cited Franchise Business Review data in naming Motto Mortgage to a list of the Top 25 Franchises for Black Entrepreneurs.
Morrison noted the addition of longtime RE/MAX executive Adam Sartin to Motto Mortgage’s executive team. Sartin, who previously served as a RE/MAX area vice president, joined Motto Mortgage this month as vice president of franchise growth and development.
New Motto Mortgage franchises announced in 2022 include:
- Motto Mortgage Sunrise, Fair Lawn, New Jersey
- Motto Mortgage Coastal Pros, North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
- Motto Mortgage Optimum, Parachute, Colorado
- Motto Mortgage Ascent, Strongsville, Ohio
- Motto Mortgage Expert Solutions, Philadelphia
- Motto Mortgage Future, San Ramon, California
- Motto Mortgage Titanium, St. Augustine, Florida
- Motto Mortgage North Group, Sarasota, Florida
- Motto Mortgage Action, Greenwood, South Carolina
- Motto Mortgage Top Tier, Omaha, Nebraska
- Motto Mortgage Affiliated, Libertyville, Illinois
- Motto Mortgage Paradise Group, Bonita Springs, Florida
- Motto Mortgage Best Life, Ada, Oklahoma
- Motto Mortgage Valor, Wheeling, West Virginia
- Motto Mortgage Premier Services, Charlottesville, Virginia