Based in Newmarket, ON, Amina Mohamed exhibits remarkable versatility as both a real estate investor and a residential/commercial mortgage broker. As a broker, she specializes in providing customized financing options for a broad range of consumers.
Tell us about yourself, in light of your recent nomination for the 2017 Investor Forum “Mortgage Broker - Investment Specialist of the Year” award.
I’ve been in the industry for around three and a half years, and I work primarily with real estate investors both in Canada and in the United States. I also assist non-resident investors, who are Canadian citizens and who live and work in Singapore, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai as they cannot purchase where they live as they don’t have residency so they invest in Canada as this is the safest place to put their money and also they can start rebuilding here when and if they decide to move back.
I offer residential, commercial, and private lending to my investor clients.
When I started, I really wanted to set myself apart, and that’s basically why I started venturing into all of these different areas and offering different options to my investment-focused clients.
How did you end up working with investors?
I was an investor before I got involved in the industry as a mortgage broker. I was meeting many people who couldn’t qualify for mortgages or even for rent-to-own. And then somebody said to me, “Hey, you know what? You should look into mortgages.” I had a background in film and television as a production manager/producer working with budgets and analysis, so it just seemed a natural fit. At the beginning, I didn’t really know where I was going, but this ended up being my niche because I was already an investor.
I also strongly believe that the people you work with will have an effect on you. I was fortunate to be trained by Claire Drage [of Mortgage Alliance]. I believe she was instrumental in helping me get to where I am right now, as she trained me on what to be aware of when it comes to investors. Furthermore, if you don’t get good training in this business, you really can’t survive as it’s not about your split but rather what skills and training you can get from that broker.
What are the kinds of investors that you usually encounter?
Basically, people who are looking to purchase single-family, multi-family, commercial properties, U.S. properties... Right now, I’m working with an investor who is looking to purchase in Jamaica, and another one who is looking to invest in Mexico. I am also redirecting my focus to assist investors in both Canada and U.S. who have access to affordable mortgage products in the U.S. It takes more work and diligence to find solutions for them, because obviously Canadian lenders are not going to lend to these people. I like that, as it requires a bit more out-of-the-box thinking to find the appropriate options.
Any difficulty in interacting with your widely varying clientele?
For instance, in the case of non-residents—who are Canadian citizens but are currently working abroad—the challenge for them is that in the countries they work in, they are only allowed to work, not to invest their money. They can’t do anything with that money, so when it’s sitting in the bank earning nothing, their best option is to obviously invest back home, because when they do decide to go back, they will have something to move home to.
For these investors, because they are not in the market every day, they don’t necessarily have the knowledge or the tools on where to invest, so it’s about educating them and providing the information which will help them make the decisions that work best for them—i.e., the lack of supply versus demand and the mortgage qualification rules that can affect their goals to invest in Canada.
When it comes to culture, they’re fundamentally still Canadians, so it’s not really a matter of cultural clash. The breakdown happens in the type of paperwork that is not acceptable, because in some of those countries, they don’t have credit, nor do they file taxes there or at home. Really, the challenge is working with what paperwork these clients can get.
What is your advice to young upstarts who are looking to emulate your path?
I believe it’s important to get involved with a mortgage broker who works in your desired segment. Learn from another broker who is already doing the same thing. When I started in mortgages, I ended up with a broker who wasn’t investor-focused at all. It’s only through learning and constantly meeting new people that you get to know who you want to be like, and Claire was that for me. I was with her for over a year and a half, and I learned everything I needed from her.
Be like a sponge; keep on taking in the best of what’s around you, because things change all the time. Stay on top of industry developments, because investor desires and preferences constantly change. It’s about continuously learning and getting proper coaching, which will help propel you forward.
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