“There is so much opportunity in real estate. Providing you have a steady income and decent credit, its possible to buy something of substantial value with very little down. Why wouldn’t you do that? Mortgages are such a powerful wealth building tool. History shows that the value of property will continue on an upward trajectory over the long-term – start building your equity as soon as you can,” says Local Mortgage Broker & I Like Her Style Vancouver partner, Irene Strong. With a wealth of knowledge to share about the industry, we had to sit down with Irene and ask more before getting our hands on her new book.
- #SHEOWNSIT has been your hashtag for your ad in the ILHSV Magazine – explain the meaning behind it? I want women to know that there is power in owning their home. No mater your circumstances – single, married, with kids – homeownership is the foundation that can help you build a solid financial future. Get in now and own.
- When did you personally get into the Real Estate market? Had you been saving and planning for a while? No, not at all actually. I was just 6-months out of university with large student loans. I was living in my brother’s one bed-room condo with my sister to share costs. He was looking to get rid of the burden and I seized the opportunity. I decided to sell my car so I could afford to get the mortgage.
- Was there a moment you can remember that you doubted why you invested into a mortgage? If so, what helped you get out of that feeling of regret? I can’t say I doubted getting into a mortgage – it can be nerve-wracking, but not doubt worthy. I actually have had regrets getting out of a couple of mortgages. Selling our properties out of necessity – making the “safe” choice for our growing family. Hindsight, we should have tried everything possible to keep the properties.
- Why is it important to stay focused on the long term? There is a proven track record. Home values over the long-term go up. Population goes up. Incomes go up. If you invest now, the property can be paid off and making you money in the long-term. One retirement avenue that is reliable to give you a decent return. Most of the wealthy – celebrities, presidents, multi-millionaires and billionaires have either made their money or continued to grow it by purchasing real estate.
- How has your past experiences influenced your mortgage business model? I have been fortunate to work for some amazing well-known companies that have influenced how I built my business. NBC Olympics Inc., a giant operation that strives for excellence in their story telling and services to the public. Ted Conferences Inc. focus on the importance of education and information sharing. Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver celebrates the value of homeownership and how it is a vital role in ending the cycle of poverty. These are all three core values I have built my business on – excellence in service, education and the power of homeownership.
- You often refer to the need for a ‘Well Informed Plan’; can you please elaborate on this?Own your home and if you are willing, leverage that to own more properties. Whether that is to purchase more properties or continuing to upgrade on your original purchase. The idea is to get in the market however you can and grow from there.
- Is there power in mortgages? What is it? Leverage. Borrowing money to make money. The banks do it. The wealthy do it. Why not you?
- What the benefit of working with a broker vs. a bank? This can be quite a long list. To be as succinct as I can, find someone you trust who has your best interests at heart. As independent agents, brokers can truly work in your best interest, as there are no direct ties between our pay cheques and any company’s shareholder demands. We are paid by lenders and have a wide selection of lenders to choose from. Our recommendation of products is not driven by a push to meet sales quotas. Brokers are independent business owners. If we do our jobs right, the expectation is that we will still have a business tomorrow to serve new clients as well as our existing ones. A bank provides great services – and lots of them, however, they do not specialize only in mortgage. They only offer a small sampling of mortgage products. Brokers have access to hundreds of products and options. If one doesn’t suit, we have a large number of options to consider from Banks, credit unions, and monoline lenders (lenders that only service mortgages and mortgage products). Brokers also have access to B lenders and private lenders if clients don’t happen to fit the standard mortgage requirements.
- What are some major rule changes that people still have time to act on right now? We just experienced some major mortgage rule changes. If you didn’t act in December then borrowers buying power can be minimized. Best thing to do is to reach out to a broker and see what your options are today and how to make that work for you now, and into the future.
- What are some questions that homebuyers need to ask? What are the penalties if you break your term early? What are the pre-payment privileges? Are there any limitations or restrictions on the mortgage?
- What are lenders looking for? Clients with an income to support a mortgage, who have a proven record of debt repayment (good credit score) and have some money to put down towards the purchase – they want to see that the buyer has some ‘skin in the game’.
- What is the future of real estate in your opinion? Prosperous
- What is the most rewarding part of your job? Happy clients in their homes. There are some files that can be full of hurdles, as a broker, pressing through to get the mortgage needed is a great accomplishment.
- You are a BC gal born and raised, with a period of living in Calgary, what is your favorite part of living in BC? The mountains. I wake up every morning and see them from my bed. It’s a great way to start the day.
- You have a passion for giving back; can you shine some light on a charity you are currently involved with? I volunteer with a charity called Mom2Mom. I am paired with a participant mom who I meet with monthly to grocery shop, connect and talk with. We are friends and I am also a resource that is outside her typical circle, if it is ever needed for any situation. IN CANADA, 21% OF SINGLE MOMS ARE RAISING THEIR CHILDREN IN POVERTY. IN VANCOUVER THAT NUMBER IS CLOSER TO 50%. Unfortunately for some mothers, they may not have had the opportunity to have a mom in their lives. To have had someone to raise and teach them the basics of life. Some may have had moms, but the resources or the experience of caring, loving and giving nurturing attention did not exist. Through mentorship, Mom2Mom aims to end the cycle of poverty by building connections and support to the main caregiver of the home so that the rest of the family can prosper with the help of other support programs.
- As a mother of 2 and wife, how do you like to spend your time with family when you are not working? We are a sport family. Watching sports, playing sports, supporting our sports teams. We are avid Whitecaps fans and love going to the games. We also love playing board games together and having family movie nights or checking out events around the Lower Mainland.
Irene Strong was born in Nakusp, BC, a small village in the West Kootenay region along the Upper Arrow Lakes. It’s home to one of Irene’s favourite beaches—and pizza subs (from Hoss and Jill’s Bistro, Cutrite Meats). The family moved to Revelstoke where Irene lived for 10 years before moving to Calgary, Alberta, to complete a joint degree in kinesiology and business management, majoring in marketing, at the University of Calgary.
She has since worked with leading organizations such as NBC Olympics Inc., TED Conferences Inc. and Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver, among many others. These great organizations have all influenced Irene’s mortgage business model, a model built on a foundation of excellence, education and belief in the power of homeownership.
Being a mortgage broker is a career that comes with great challenges, which have fortunately been far outnumbered by the great successes—assisting her clients in realizing their dreams of owning a home.
Irene now lives in Delta, BC with her husband Mark, son Jack and daughter, Mackenzie. When she is not working on a mortgage file, she is attending events and the kids’ activities, playing golf, spending time with friends or working on the next big project. She thoroughly enjoys her time volunteering with Mom2Mom Poverty Initiative Society, a community-based organization focused on improving developmental outcomes for children living in Vancouver’s inner city.
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Irene Strong – Mortgage Professional