Impac Mortgage Holdings, a nonbank once synonymous with losing money and alternative-A lending, has big plans. Not only does it aim to fund $1.2 billion in loans this year, it expects 80% of that to come from loan brokers.
Although the Irvine, Calif., company's goals may look small to megalenders such as Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase, it is coming off a year in which it funded or brokered less than $50 million.
With warehouse backing, Impac's longtime president, Bill Ashmore, says the company can achieve its goals. He would not identify his warehouse backers, confirming only that Impac has "several." Ashmore is pinning Impac's future on "high-performance" brokers who are getting poor treatment from the nation's remaining wholesalers.
As of last week Impac had table-funded very few loans, but Ashmore says that will soon change. The company hopes to have 15 full-time wholesale account executives on board by early February, half of whom formerly worked for Bank of America. (B of A is getting out of the business.)
"We are only hiring very seasoned AEs," Ashmore said. "These aren't people who bring in $3 million a month in loans. These are performers that bring in two to three times that."
In time, Impac hopes to have a roster of 1,000 brokers. Once it has staffed up, each account executive will manage 20 or so loan officers.
Initially, Impac will table-fund conventional, government and jumbo loans in Arizona, California, Florida and Hawaii and then expand into residential markets in the Pacific Northwest.
Some mortgage officials who have done business with Impac over the year were surprised by its growth plans, especially given its history of alt-A losses. "They must have good warehouse relationships. I wish them well," said a West Coast executive.
In one quarter in 2007 Impac posted a $1.2 billion loss. But even before the worst days of the housing bust, Ashmore and his partner, Joseph Tomkinson, trimmed staff, cutting originations and surviving off the cash flow of Impac's portfolio of mortgage-backed securities. (At one time Impac was a real estate investment trust.)
Impac was eventually delisted by the New York Stock Exchange but had decent enough relationships with its bankers that the company stayed afloat. It is now traded on the American Stock Exchange and has even turned a profit. In the fall it bought a stake in AmeriHome Mortgage Corp., which has Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae lending approvals. (Impac just had Fannie approvals.)
"We survived through all of it," Ashmore said when asked about the housing bust and new fears of a second housing recession. The expansion into wholesale "marks our re-emergence."