When my husband and I bought our first home a little over ten years ago, I could not help but feel relieved that I had a partner to help me maneuver through the home-buying process. Yet there are many women homebuyers going it solo – and the statistics show that this demographic is on the rise. How can a woman in this situation feel comfortable and confident with her mortgage and financial decisions when you feel like no one understands your needs?
Enter Mortgages For Women and business partners Marcy Berg and Danny Kellman. Together, they operate the only financial wellness company in Canada dedicated to women that provides products and services to help women becoming financially independent. With a wide range of services and a diverse team of experts, they are licensed to offer mortgages, insurance and investment. Mortgages For Women is the only mortgage broker in Canada that offers loyalty programs such as Air Miles and HBC rewards and they provide services in French, English, Spanish and Haitian Creole.
In our interview, Marcy shares with us her company’s philsophy and unique business approach and why “Prince Charming is not a mortgage strategy”.
What kind of trends are we seeing with regards to women and home-buying in Canada?
The trend is statistical – The number of single women entering the Real Estate Market is growing year over year.
There are many people that say “buying a home is the biggest investment”. What are you thoughts on this?
Yes people “say” that but I think people need to get “real” about real estate.
- It becomes an investment because you buy and hold to make a profit,
- It is an expensive investment (i.e. buying a house for 100K and reselling it for 250K, you did not make 150K profit as you have to subtract the cost of carrying that investment such as interest on the mortgage, taxes, repairs, etc)
- It is really a forced savings plan as you are building equity and you are counting on the increase in the market value.
- You are leveraging 3 times your salary to make a profit
- As a woman, you do not really see it as an investment when we live in it, but a lifestyle which makes us look independent and of course there is a need to be prudent about the market you are buying into. You also have to consider the length of time you plan to stay in your property. If there are any gains to be made in the short term then you are counting on market increase in value.
- The lure of the “NonSense” stores have us spending money on the Spring, Fall, Autumn, and Winter looks for our living spaces which eat into their profit, not everybody makes money in real estate. That is why we make budget, provide insurance and look at this transactions with an investor eye.
Tell us about your “a-ha moment”. What were you noticing in the mortgage industry that made you think you needed to start something specifically for women?
I was working in the bank and I always had a bent for statistics. I was tracking my own transactions and I saw the trend growing. A few years later I started tracking the statistics from CMHC research and I started to realize that this was more than a trend.
I started to focus on the single woman climate and had to throw out the bank’s method of delivering their service. Everything became “sales” and methods for dealing with clients was getting pitchy. I use think I would be offended if anyone spoke to me like that. The banks have good mortgage product. It seemed pointless to try and package it with a “sale”. I quite after a power selling convention thinking there must be a better way to do business. I believe that the client is more important to me than making the bank richer with selling scripts. That’s when I really got serious about my research.
I love your tagline, “Because Prince Charming is NOT a mortgage strategy”. Tell us a little more about this.
I grew up with a belief system that your worth was measure by the type of man you could “bag”. The better your catch the nicer your house. Laughable I know but that was true. Mortgage decisions were based on the “man’s” ability to pay. I heard tons of stories during my research from women who were denied access to credit for all kinds of reasons related to “no man”. Women suffered through a lot of turmoil in order to keep a roof over their family’s heads. I listened to some very sad stuff. The tag line was born out of the stories I heard during my research. I had other tag lines in mind but again the research showed the women in my target liked it. I think financially well women make better partners and moms.
What can a woman expect in an appointment with you?
A woman can expect that the interview will be about her financial situation and her financial well-being. How can she get stronger from where she is today? She will expect an analysis of her current situation and that we will provide options in order for her to make an informed decision. We will not tell her what to do, we will lay out the options and offer advice. It is a collaborative relationship that we develop with our clients that makes us the mortgage broker of choice for women.
What energizes you about the work you do?
The results! Being able to empower women to follow their dreams and change their lives. Everyone can move forward from where they are right now. No matter what your situation you can improve it.
What is the one, most important piece of advice you would give to a woman considering purchasing a home on her own?
Planning: Make sure the plan is not about today, but about what it will look like down the road. And of course all good plans go sideways from time to time so you really need the confidence that if something happens how will it be okay?
Liar’s Poker – by Michael Lewis. Published in 1989 and I read it the year it came out. It was witty but at the same time it threw open the light switch for me. I was working in the banking system and it validated how I was feeling. I had forgotten about it and then a girlfriend reminded me about it when I started Mortgages For Women in 2007 so I re-read it. Everything that book predicted was suddenly coming true.
A Woman of Independent Means: A woman’s guide to full financial security by Gail E Vaz-Oxlade – Gail’s book from 1999 was another life changing book for me. I would not only recommend her latest book but in fact I would give it to you when you get a mortgage from me. I really believe in this woman.
Website: For Real Estate and Real Estate financing Marcy recommends www.cmhc.ca
HomeGirl – The Single Woman’s Guide to Buying Real Estate in Canada by Brenda Bouw – Danny is so passionate about this book that she gives away with mortgage approvals.
101 Streetsmart Condo Buying Tips for Canadians by Douglas Gray – Buying a condo is not as straight forward as you might think. This book is a must read “heads up” for anyone thinking of buying a condo.
Real Estate Investing in Canada by Don Campbell – If investing in Real was easy we would all be doing it. It’s a great way to create cash flow and this book is a comprehensive guide to deal with financial and emotional costs of this type of investment.
Website: Danny recommends www.mortgages4women.ca