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Mortgage brokers open doors

MORTGAGE brokers are about to become a lot more visible across Perth, with three competing groups set to open new shopfront offices in coming months.

By the end of the year, Mortgage Choice, The Loans Cafe and Wizard Home Loans will collectively have more than 20 branches in Perth.

Mortgage brokers have traditionally operated as mobile lenders, visiting customers at home and outside normal working hours.

While that will continue to be a key aspect of their service model, mortgage brokers believe shopfront branches will help them compete with banks and other traditional lenders.

Mortgage Choice already has a substantial network in Perth, with seven shopfront branches up and running.

Its latest branch, opened this month, is in a prime CBD location at the western end of Hay Street.

Four existing franchisees, who previously worked from home offices, have pooled resources to open the new branch.

Kerry Harvey, who runs Mortgage Choice in Subiaco, said his shopfront branch provided good brand exposure. And many clients liked being able to meet in a professional office environment, he said.

Mortgage Choice has a total of 35 franchises in Western Australia and more than 60 active staff in the business.

State manager Murray Sebbes said the group was presently on track to write $600 million worth of loans in the current calendar year, up from $155 million in 2000.

The Loans Cafe, as the name implies, has always understood the benefits of a visible shopfront presence.

It has operated from Adelaide Terrace in the city for three years and next month will officially open a seven-days-a-week branch in Marine Terrace, Fremantle.

In addition, the group has struck deals with real estate and accounting groups to open four co-branded satellite offices.

Managing director Anne-Marie Syme said the cafe concept was proving increasingly popular.

“We’re finding more and more people coming in,” Ms Syme said.

“Its easier for our reps.

“We still do a lot of house calls but we give people the option.”

She said the trend towards a more security conscious society was adding to the appeal of branches.

“It’s a big trust issue to have brokers coming into your home at night,” Ms Syme said.

A new innovation at The Loans Cafe is free Internet banking inside the branches.

Ms Syme said this would cater to the many people who did not have Internet access at their home or place of work.

The satellite branches will be opened in Applecross, Bayswater, South Fremantle and Marmion.

The Bayswater branch is a joint venture with Steve Lay Real Estate, which is refurbishing the former Westpac bank branch.

The Marmion branch is a partnership with accounting group Rob Prouse & Associates while the South Fremantle satellite branch will be a joint venture with the recently established Quadrant Property Group.

Plans for Applecross are currently being finalised.

Wizard Home Loans is one of the largest mortgage originators in Australia but presently has a modest presence in WA, with just two branches in Morley and Mandurah.

State manager John Duncalf, who joined Wizard six months ago when the two branches were opened, is aiming to change that.

“Our intention is to grow a substantial network,” Mr Duncalf said.

Wizard plans to open three new branches by the end of October and a fourth by the end of November.

Mr Duncalf does not plan to stop there and is presently on the lookout for new opportunities.

“We have fairly aggressive intentions for the first half of next year. It is conceivable we could have 10 branches by the middle of next year.”

Mr Duncalf said Wizard was looking beyond the metropolitan area.

“We need to be in the South West, in the Busselton Bunbury area in particular, as a springboard for growing into the area further south,” he said.

Shopfront branches have always been a part of Wizard’s business model, with the group opening its first branch in 1996.

Nationally, it has more than 175 branches.

Not all mortgage brokers or originators are opening shopfront branches, however.

Aussie Home Loans recently moved out of its expensive CBD branch, on the corner of St Georges Terrace and Barrack Street, for an upstairs office in Subiaco.

As mortgage originators, Wizard and Aussie have their own lending products, in contrast to brokers who arrange loans for banks and other lenders.

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