This wasn’t how Damon Germanides of Insignia Mortgage Inc. thought his life would turn out. Not that he wasn’t supposed to be in Southern California — that’s exactly where he was supposed to be. But the family business was about feeding the rich and famous, not helping them buy houses.
“I come from a family business and that’s the restaurant business,” Germanides said. “My dad had a restaurant for many years and I worked there into my early 30s.”
The restaurant, Mirabelle, was one of West Hollywood’s venerable eateries, a 43-year mainstay serving Mediterranean food on Sunset Boulevard. Madonna and Sean Penn visited back in the day. So did Lionel Richie, Halle Berry and Eddie Murphy. Quentin Tarantino supposedly wrote part of “Pulp Fiction” there while having a bite to eat.
But the restaurateur life wasn’t for Germanides, who found himself at a crossroads. A detail-oriented, meticulous thinker, Germanides said he didn’t have a passion for the business and yearned for something different.
“I got my MBA at USC (University of Southern California),” he explained. “And a dear friend of mine who I just graduated from business school with was working for a mortgage bank as the CFO. And he said, ‘You know, you might like this business because it’s analytical.’
He thought, with a good work ethic from the restaurant business, I’d probably do really well in it over time.
“Not like it is today, but it required a little bit of market analysis [and] a lot of socialization. And he thought, with a good work ethic from the restaurant business, I’d probably do really well in it over time.”
Fast forward to today and that seems like a bit of an understatement. Germanides came in at No. 4 among the Top Mortgage Brokers in Scotsman Guide’s 2018 rankings, brokering $191.6 million in loans last year. That figure also was good for 14th on the Top Dollar Volume list, and his refinance haul of $109.1 million was sixth-best in 2018.
It’s all in a year’s work for Germanides who, along with Insignia co-founder and business partner Chris Furie, specializes in SoCal’s active jumbo loan scene. The daily menu can get a little bit complicated, Germanides said, but Insignia’s analytical bent and hardworking team are a recipe for success.
“Our average loan size is about $2 million,” he explained. “We work with a lot of self-employed borrowers, real estate investors, foreign nationals [and] wealthy retirees. People who have complex incomes and complex ownership structures, and they’re looking to buy properties with opaque types of entity structures as well.”
“It’s a bit of a ballet,” Germanides said with a chuckle, adding that he comes home “tired every day,” but satisfied after a day of hard work. It’s especially rewarding, he said, to help connect people to their new homes and real estate investments in his backyard of California.
“At the restaurant, we had mortgage brokers who would come in and I had no idea what they were talking about,” he quipped. “I never thought in a million years that this would be the career path I would’ve had the blessing to be put in.
“I always say that the hardest day in the lending business is equivalent to a very good day in the restaurant business and what it takes to keep a restaurant going.”