Broker's Playbook - Good For Real Estate



Partner Profile: John Freeland Smith, Centum Freeland Mortgage Group

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The path to customer service excellence led John Freeland Smith through a decade of work as a real estate lawyer before placing him exactly where he was meant to be: principal mortgage broker for Centum Freeland Mortgage Group Inc. The GTA expert remembers craving more independence and flexibility after the birth of his first child, and always had an aptitude for the financing end of real estate deals. He’s not working any less, he says, but he does enjoy being a mortgage broker a lot more.
What makes you a great mortgage broker?
First, and most importantly, I enjoy it, which is a key element to being good at anything. I put my clients first and try to ensure that they understand the process and their options, make them comfortable and reduce their stress level. My legal background has also proved invaluable; I understand how the deal operates from start to finish and can flag any concerns that may come up at the back end so they don’t turn into day-before-closing problems.
What was the most difficult mortgage you put together?
There have been a number of tricky ones but one in particular sticks out. It was a house on an island with no road access. The borrower’s income was low, credit was poor, and the loan-to-value and debt-service ratios were high.  There were also a few unusual issues with the borrowers themselves, beyond income and credit, that proved challenging.  Even for the few lenders who would look at the deal there were just too many exceptions required.  Eventually we got the deal done through a small local lender who understood the property and could see past the various quirks.  It was a very satisfying outcome.
What is your favourite type of deal to do?
I don’t think I have a favourite type. Some commercial deals can get quite interesting, with a lot more moving parts, but they’re all interesting in their own way. There are particular deals, however, where the outcome is of particular importance to the borrowers, more so than usual, perhaps because of some recent personal or financial issues. Getting those deals done and helping the client across the finish line are the most satisfying.
What has been your favourite client encounter?
One of my favourite client encounters was with a client who gave me a painting. He was a painter, and I helped him and his wife purchase their first home. They were lovely people and I was just happy to help them out, but as a thank-you he gave me one of his paintings. I was quite touched. It’s still hanging in my office. Although that stands out, there are many deals that were an absolute pleasure to work with all the parties involved. Those are my favourites.
What do your real estate agent partners love about the service you provide their clients?
They know their clients will be well-taken care of. The best outcome is that the client thanks the real estate agent for sending them my way, and that is the standard I aim for. I keep the real estate agent in the loop too, as the mortgage process moves along, so they’re not left wondering how it’s going or where things stand. Communication and happy clients are the keys to a mutually beneficial relationship.
Why should agents refer deals to you rather than send them directly to a bank that pays a referral fee?
Because they’ll be glad they did. Seriously, if the referral fee is the only reason to send a client to the bank then that may not be in the best interest of the client, which should be the agent’s main concern. Brokers can provide more options with more independence, but ultimately it’s about the relationship. The agent needs to feel confident that their clients are being well taken care of, whether that person is an independent broker or an employee of a bank, regardless of any fee they’re getting. And let’s not forget that banks don’t always say yes. A mortgage broker has more options available to get the deal done.

Contact John via email at or by phone at 416-699-5149.