Pete Castillejos launches Hawaii's first USA Mortgage office at Pacific Guardian Center – Pacific Business News – Pacific Business News (Honolulu)

Pete Castillejos recently opened the first Hawaii office for USA Mortgage, an employee-owned home lender based in St. Louis, after 17 years in the Honolulu mortgage industry.
Prior to his new role, Castillejos worked with the Hawaii office of CMG Financial and is the current president of the Hawaii Mortgage Bankers Association, whose members include home lenders and Hawaii’s largest banks.
Castillejos said that, like a lot of people in his industry, he did not set out to be a mortgage banker. After starting a career in sales, he eyed going into real estate but instead found a job with a mortgage lender that offered a good training program.
“So I went that direction, and I stayed,” he said.
Since opening the USA Mortgage office on the ground floor of the Pacific Guardian Center’s makai tower, he’s brought on a crew of seven, including loan officers, an underwriter and a processor, and plans to bring on two more people this month.
Castillejos said he’s aiming to grow the company’s market share statewide and has plans to eventually open offices on the Neighbor Islands.
What is your strategy for launching the business?
The strategy for a national company opening up a new market is to hire a veteran and an experienced team. The team I hired has several years of experience, locally, already. We’re almost entirely referral based. We have a huge network of Realtors and clients who were already referring us business, so we’re not starting from scratch. They know my team more than they know our company name.
What is it like launching a new business in this hot real estate market?
There’s a lot of business because our [interest] rates are really competitive compared to the market and people are starting to find that out. Because of that, we’re pretty busy. Something we hang our hat on is closing on time. The Realtors are going to want to know what makes [USA Mortgage] different from everyone else. One, we’re 100% employee owned. That creates the culture, because when it’s 100% employee owned I can already tell from corporate on down that everyone cares a little bit, tries a little bit more, on each file. And then our interest rates and [that] we close on time, that’s the big things that clients look for when purchasing or refinancing a home.
How has this year been for the Mortgage Bankers Association of Hawaii?
It’s looked different because of Zoom, obviously. Before the pandemic, we used to meet face-to-face regularly; everything has been virtual. We [recently] had our mortgage conference and it was completely virtual. Usually we fly in speakers from the Mainland and then we have a huge conference in a hotel in Waikiki over two or three days. But this time it was a half-day virtual conference and we still had speakers – there was still some value but there’s something to be said about being in person and shaking hands and networking in the evening with mixers. That’s where a lot of the value comes in, in my opinion. One of the things I put into this year in my presidency was golf outings, because that’s one of the things that was allowed during the pandemic. We’ve had up to almost 40 people come out to golf, because everyone’s so anxious to see people in person.
What has been the biggest issue for the association this year?
We’ve been blessed this whole year with a pickup in business with refinances, so just having enough support to handle the volume coming in.
Is it harder to hire loan officers or is it harder to hire the back-end people?
That’s a good question. There are fewer back-end people, so I would say it’s harder to hire both. Salespeople are going to go wherever they’re making the most money. I would say most people you talk to in the mortgage industry would not say they planned on being in the mortgage industry. You don’t go to college saying I’m going to be a mortgage banker or processor or an underwriter, it’s just something you kind of fall into. I would say both underwriters or processors came from a bank or something like that.
Is there anything new on the horizon for the industry?
One of the things you might see coming up is remote online notary. It’s like remote signing, everything will be e-signing, that’s the direction we’re going. You don’t have to necessarily physically meet with the client or the notary for signing because you’re doing everything online or remotely, or e-documents. … It’s making sure everyone’s ready, and everyone’s on the same page, which is why the MBAH meets to make sure that we’re all on the same page.
Pete Castillejos
Regional manager, USA Mortgage Hawaii
Address:733 Bishop St., Suite 151, Honolulu, HI 96813
Phone: 808-427-6454
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