Residential Magazine

Top Women Originators 2021

The top producers benefited from a favorable market created by unfavorable circumstances

By Jim Davis

The top women originators in the U.S. excelled like never before in 2020. With homebuyers taking advantage of low interest rates and a favorable housing market, the top women in the mortgage industry increased their total loan production — exponentially in some cases.

Two women in Scotsman Guide’s annual Top Women Originators rankings topped the $500 million mark in total loan volume, based on 2020 production reports. This is the first time anyone has broken this mark. In fact, the previous year’s winning volume of $329.2 million was eclipsed by 16 women, who rode the refinancing wave of 2020 to produce that much or more in volume.

This only tells one part of the story, however. Women in business have generally dealt with significant challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A McKinsey & Co. survey of 40,000 employees last year found that women — and women of color, in particular — struggled to balance the blurring lines of work and home life. Burnout became a real issue in many cases without the support of child care or school.

One in four women contemplated either taking a more limited role in their career or leaving the workforce altogether, according to the survey. Women at the top rungs of the mortgage industry performed like never before in 2020, but it was likely never easy and the challenges were unique for female professionals up and down the career ladder.

In Scotsman Guide’s 2021 Top Women Originators rankings, Austin First Mortgage’s Yinan Sun claimed the top spot with $580.6 million in loan volume. The Austin-based originator’s production went up by 160% from the prior year, when she produced $223 million in loan volume. 

Guaranteed Rate’s Risha Kilaru, based in Fremont, California, placed No. 2 in the rankings with $539.6 million in loan volume. Kilaru, who had been the No. 1 woman originator for the past two years, boosted her loan production by 64% compared to 2019.

Originators from Better Mortgage Corp. took spots No. 3 and No. 4 on the list. Wai Ping Tsang, who is based in Oakland, took third by producing $420.1 million in loan volume in 2020, a rise of 49% from her $281.6 million in volume one year earlier. Zoey Cigar-Hodge, based in New York City, had the largest jump among this year’s top 10. She went from No. 36 on last year’s Top Women Originators list to No. 4 this year. She totaled $414 million in dollar volume in 2020, up 209% from $134.1 million in 2019.

Guaranteed Rate’s Dianne Crosby claimed the No. 5 spot in the rankings, producing $384.9 million in loan volume. This was 87% more than the $206.1 million the Oakland-based originator produced in 2019.

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Single women eclipse single men in homeownership

TWO-2021-Homebuyer-Demographics-chartSingle women purchased 18% of all homes in the U.S. in 2020. This was double the pace of single men, who accounted for 9% of all home purchases, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Single women have edged out single men as homebuyers for decades. (The largest bloc of buyers are married couples, who accounted for 62% of all home purchases last year.)

Women owned more homes than men in each of the 50 largest U.S. metro areas, according to a study released this past March by LendingTree. Single women owned 5.2 million homes in these metros compared to 3.6 million homes owned by single men.

Boston led all major metros for the largest homeownership gap among single women and men, according to LendingTree. This 5.9 percentage-point difference accounted for 66,300 homes in the Boston area. In Tampa, single women own nearly 132,500 homes, or 16.8% of the housing stock, the highest share among the nation’s 50 largest metros. Nationally, single women and men were the most likely household type to purchase a townhome or row house, NAR reported. (JD)

Women slowly gain larger share of originator jobs

TWO-2021-Gender-Breakdown-chartWomen continue to represent the minority among U.S. mortgage originators, but they have made modest strides in recent years. According to the Stratmor Group, a data-driven mortgage advisory company, 41% of retail originators were women as of 2019. This share was up from 40.2% in 2018 and 39% in 2017. 

According to Catalyst, a nonprofit organization that advocates for gender equality in the workplace, women held 54.3% of jobs across the U.S. financial- services sector as of 2019. This was the second-highest share among the 13 countries analyzed, with the U.S. trailing only France. 

Leadership roles, however, are more difficult for women to obtain. Catalyst reported that women represented only 20% of the executive positions in major financial-services companies in 2019, although that share stood at 26% in the U.S., second only to Australia (34%).

Nearly two in three Realtors are women, according to a 2020 report from the National Association of Realtors. The typical Realtor is a 55-year-old white woman who attended college and owns a home. Last year, 64% of Realtors were women, although that was down by three percentage points compared to 2019. (NP)

Home equity is rising but borrowing is quiet 

TWO-2021-Leading-States-Home-Equity-chartU.S. home equity continues to surge. CoreLogic reported that aggregated equity across all residential properties with mortgages rose by $1.5 trillion (or 16.2%) from fourth-quarter 2019 to fourth-quarter 2020. This breaks down to an average gain of $26,300 per homeowner over these 12 months. And with national home prices rising by 9.2% last year, the average homeowner with a mortgage now has more than $200,000 in equity.

The states with the largest average equity gains during this time were in the West, led by California ($55,000), Idaho ($48,000) and Washington ($47,000). The smallest gains occurred in the Midwest, with North Dakota ($8,000), Iowa ($9,000) and Oklahoma ($11,000) at the bottom of the list, CoreLogic reported.

These growing equity cushions, however, aren’t translating into increased borrowing activities. Attom Data Solutions reported that home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) represented only 7.5% of all loan originations in third-quarter 2020. This was the smallest quarterly share since 2013. The $50.1 million in newly originated HELOCs in Q3 2020 was down by 24% on a year-over-year basis and is the lowest dollar volume for any quarter since 2015, according to Attom Data. (NP)

Low levels of foreclosures are expected in 2021

TWO-2021-Foreclosure-chartAccording to Black Knight, last year ended with 2.1 million seriously delinquent mortgages (loans at least 90 days overdue), a whopping 1.5 million more than at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news, however, is that the sharp upturn in serious delinquencies didn’t equate to a wave of foreclosures as initially feared. 

Rather, it was the opposite — proactive forbearance plans and sweeping moratoriums have driven both foreclosure starts and completions to record lows. Black Knight reported that foreclosure starts sank by 67% annually in 2020, while completions plunged by more than 40%. According to Attom Data Solutions, only 214,323 U.S. properties had foreclosure filings last year, the lowest level since the company began tracking them in 2005.

Foreclosure activities appear to be on track to stay minimal in 2021. President Joe Biden has been vocal in pushing extensions of foreclosure moratoriums. Earlier this year, both the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development were showing a willingness to make such moves on the loans they purchase or guarantee. (AA)

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Rounding out this year’s top 10 are Josephine Cardenia of Better Mortgage Corp. ($382.2 million); Kelly Malatesta of First United Bank & Trust ($371.8 million); Joanna Yu of U.S. Bank ($371.2 million); Julie Long of New Fed Mortgage Corp. ($365.7 million); and Ja’ala Goodman-Robinson of Better Mortgage Corp., ($351.2 million). (JD) 

Contributors: Arnie Aurellano (AA), Jim Davis (JD), Neil Pierson (NP), Victor Whitman (VW) 

Verification: Mike Gagle, Brian Warr


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