Michael Pop, managing director of Los Angeles-based Basis Investment Group, currently leads his firm’s multifamily loan production team with an able hand honed by more than 12 years of industry experience.

Pop said that the somewhat roundabout way he entered the mortgage space actually provided him with the exact components he needed for long-term success.

“I actually got into the mortgage industry in quite an unexpected way. I worked at a distressed debt fund that focused on acquiring commercial real estate assets across the country,” Pop told MPA. “At that fund, I was exposed to many different asset types as well as the analysis that went into buying pools of mortgages and their corresponding workout strategies. When the market started to improve in the around 2014, the fund was moving into the loan origination space and was selected for the pilot program for the Freddie Mac small balance program.”

This diverse set of experiences influenced Pop’s approach to his business in the years to come.

“Since that time, I have become an agency specialist, having closed more than $500 million in agency multifamily loans,” Pop said. “My specialty is multifamily. Knowledge and customer service are the most critical areas of being a top mortgage originator and because I strongly believe that consistent education serves as the backbone of knowledge, I strive to learn something new every day.”

Pop said that building these strong fundamentals was a challenge in itself, considering the turbulent years immediately after the Great Financial Crisis.

“Back when I got started in the Freddie Mac small balance program, it was just a small pilot program with only four seller/servicers participating. In the early days of any program, there are a lot of changes happening quite frequently and navigating clients through the ever-evolving nature of a new program is challenging,” Pop said. “In the beginning, Freddie was working with a relatively small number for the industry – only doing a few hundred million in production – but now it has grown into a $5 billion plus business that has gone through all of its growing pains, and has since staffed up tremendously. Communication and constant training were critical in the beginning days of the program.”

“As a producer, it is our business to know everything about the product that we are working on, which includes developing relationships across the board from internal staff, to appraisers and engineers, to law firms. All of those relationships are critical in helping provide your client the best experience possible and to navigate a changing landscape.”

Pop persisted through all of this and built for his organization a reputation for reliability in the multifamily space – and with it came invaluable knowledge of the industry’s workings.

“Understanding the trends of the market, including data on vacancy trends, collections, potential new markets, underwriting criteria, and analysis are key to being successful in our industry,” he said.

And despite the crucial part that knowledge plays in the industry, Pop said that the human element is still more important.

“Knowledge and education are not enough on their own merits – you have to be able to communicate that expertise in the best, most succinct, and most helpful manner possible,” Pop said. “Like many industries, the mortgage origination field is a relationship business where customer service is vital. The loan process can take anywhere from 45 to 60 days, and it is our job to be the client’s expert and advisor during that timeframe.”

“But our job is not done once the loan closes; that is just the start of the relationship. The next level of being the advisor when clients are looking at new deals and markets… is what builds lifelong clients.”