Tech-focused real estate brokerage Radius, flush with $14 million in venture capital raised this past April, has launched a mortgage lending arm in California that it plans to roll out to additional markets sometime next year.
The new venture, a mortgage brokerage operation, is focused on the California market to start, where Radius already has a strong presence. The firm, based in San Francisco, plans to refine and demonstrate “proof of concept” for the new mortgage brokerage through the first quarter of 2023, according to Sam Kasle, Radius’ chief revenue officer, before expanding to additional states.
Kasle also confirmed that Radius has its eyes on eventually launching a mortgage banking unit, which would allow the firm to underwrite and offer its own loan products as well as keep more of the profits in-house. Mortgage brokerages, by contrast, serve as intermediaries between lenders and borrowers and work with multiple lenders, or mortgage banks, and are typically paid by the lenders after loans close.
“We work with eight or nine different lenders to make sure that we have a full product suite to provide to the end buyer [homebuyer via the new mortgage brokerage], whether they’re looking for jumbo loans or VA [Veterans Affairs] loans or bridge loans,” Kasle said. “We work with a number of different lenders, including the top ones like UWM [United Wholesale Mortgage] and loanDepot, but we also work with some boutique lenders to make sure that we have a full suite [of loan products] to meet our buyers’ [agents’ and their customers’] needs across the board.”
Radius is setting up the infrastructure and testing the viability of its new mortgage brokerage arm in California first, including the workflows, product flows, marketing and the general playbook. Kasle said “when the sun comes back out” on the now-dour economy, hopefully sometime in 2023, then Radius “will be prepped to take advantage of that.”
Kasle added that “it’s a pretty good bet” that the next states that will be the focus of the mortgage brokerage’s future expansion are Florida, Texas and Washington, “which are very attractive markets.”
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The new mortgage brokerage is set up as a separate operation from Radius’ real estate brokerage, Kasle stressed, “so with the corporate structure, there is a clear delineation.” The mortgage brokerage services also will be presented to agents — both part of Radius’ network and beyond — as just one option among others, Kasle explained. He added that Radius will remain in compliance with the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), which governs mortgage settlement procedures and costs as well as referral fees and prohibits kickbacks.
“If we [Radius’ mortgage brokerage] are presented through one of our brokerage agents to the end user [the homebuyer], we are presented along with a number of other options to make sure that the end user is making a fully informed decision about all their opportunities,” Kasle added.
Radius is a full service, fee-based brokerage that enables real estate professionals to keep 100% of their commissions while providing agents and their teams with the services and resources needed to grow their business. The brokerage focuses on serving real estate professionals by offering them access to integrated technology, including a web-based dashboard and services that include mentorship; legal and compliance support; recruiting help; financial services; vetted business leads; customer-relationship management; and marketing resources. The goal is to build and amplify the affiliated agents’ own brands, Kasle explained.
Fee-based membership and access to Radius services is open to both agents and brokerage teams. In addition, Radius also operates an 85,000-member social network, with features that are like those of other social media platforms — including, in Radius’ case, offering real estate agents access to a robust referral-exchange network.
Radius currently has some 300 fee-paying member agents, according to Kasle, including 34 teams, across the seven states where it is currently licensed to operate — California, Colorado, Georgia, Oregon, Texas, Florida and Washington.
Radius, along with announcing the new mortgage brokerage, also said it plans to expand its real estate brokerage operations to more states by year’s end — although it did not reveal which states are on the firm’s planning whiteboard. Kasle said Radius helped real estate professionals and their teams close some $400 million in sales in the first quarter of 2022. In addition, the company claims its social network has helped participating agents generate $25 billion in referral commissions over the last three years.
Kasle said Radius brought in $2.2 million in 2021. Expansion will come in iterations, he said.
“First we want to prove that we can pull this off [the mortgage brokerage] in California and that it makes sense from an operational regulatory and financial basis, and also that were providing the right products and services to our clients and our clients’ clients [homebuyers],” Kasle said. “If all things go well, then we would start looking into how to keep more of the of the revenue and moving from being just a [mortgage] broker to being correspondent lender or even an originator.”
Kasle said any move toward establishing a mortgage banking operation, however, is likely two or three years down the road at this point. He added that by launching a mortgage banking operation and underwriting its own loans, Radius would be able to offer “even better, more innovative financing solutions and also keep more of the profits.”
Radius’ new mortgage brokerage arm will be headed by Michael Bardales, director of mortgage and a 20-year veteran of California lending. Silvia Grace Davis, a 17-year real estate veteran and top lending officer in the state, will serve as senior lending manager.
Radius, funded in 2015, is backed by an impressive group of investors and is fresh off raising $14 million in Series A venture capital funding that will help propel the firm’s expansion plans. Among its investors are Trulia founder and former CEO Peter Flint; Roofstock founder and CEO Gary Beasley; former Zillow CEO and co-founder Spencer Rascoff; Crosscut Ventures, led by co-founder and Managing Director Bret Brewe; and Sierra Ventures, led by Managing Director Tim Guleri.
“We’re following the tried-and-true VC [venture capital] path,” Kasle said. That path – if successful – normally results in an eventual sale of a company or a public offering of stock.
“Our internal goals are looking to what is needed to raise a Round B [venture capital investment],” Kasle said. “But because of the current [economic] macro-environment, we have looked at everything top to bottom at the company with a fine-tooth comb and are now only leaning into what’s essential.
“We have battened down the hatches to a certain extent, while continuing to grow, and are really setting our sights on a Round B [fundraising effort] next year.”
Kasle recognizes that Radius is going against the grain to an extent in planning a mortgage-brokerage expansion during a down-cycle in the housing market — marked by rising rates and declining mortgage originations, especially refinancing. He stressed, however, that “you don’t get to choose the weather,” referring to business operations and the current economic climate.
Radius does have a full tank of gas due to its venture capital backing and says it is positioning itself to take advantage of the market conditions — as opposed to being confined by them.
“We’re continuing to hire full-time staff, in both the [real estate] brokerage and the mortgage [arm],” Kasle said, adding that Radius currently employs about 80 people. “We’re pursuing more thoughtful growth, rather than all guns blazing at once.
“For Radius, the markets we’re focused on [for future product expansions] are in Washington, California, Florida, and in Texas. If there is a pullback [of the economy, a recession], that pullback is going to hit those areas less than then it could potentially hit others, which will give us a clear path to growing through a downturn.”
The real estate industry is “highly fractionalized,” Kasle added, so if a Radius were to achieve “10% penetration into 20 major metros,” it would easily become “a multi-billion company.”
“And the way we have set up our strategy, it can facilitate that level of growth,” he concluded.