As published in Scotsman Guide's Residential Edition, July 2008.
Let's be frank about Alaska.
It lives in our mind's eye as a place where moose stroll between snowy pine trees on their way to sharing drinks with the mayor in the town center. Or if we have a wee bit of firsthand knowledge, we recognize it as a cruise-ship depot, populated in off months by ice and disaffected college graduates who moved up north to "sort things out," usually while downing pelmeni at 4 a.m.
It's the final frontier. But this month, it becomes a bit more civilized.
On July 1, the Alaska Mortgage Lending Regulation Act takes effect, making Alaska the final state to adopt mortgage-broker licensing. As of this date, all new brokers must be licensed with the Alaska Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing; existing brokers must obtain a license by March 1.
In honor of this requirement, this month's Spotlight feature looks at Alaska's largest city, Anchorage -- the burg that's an anomaly in its state and in the nation on the whole.
For starters, Anchorage's metropolitan area is home to about 56 percent of the state's residents. And regarding the credit crunch that has crippled the nation? It ain't feelin' it.
"If you live here, you kind of feel a disconnect," said Joe Brammer, 1st Metropolitan senior loan officer and Alaska Association of Mortgage Brokers president, to Scotsman Guide's Ivanna C. Sukkar. "A lot of national issues don't fall over into Alaska. And we are not directly -- or even indirectly -- affected by things going on nationally."
Job growth, for one, has continued unabated in the state since its oil-related collapse in the 1980s. Housing prices have leveled off but are believed to be in a good spot for stability.
According to an attorney quoted in the Alaska Journal of Commerce, 70 percent to 80 percent of Alaska residents can afford a traditional mortgage on an average home, compared to 9 percent of Californians. Further, the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. -- billed as the nation's only statewide housing authority -- helps finance a good chunk of loans for low- to mid-income borrowers.
For the 338 brokers in the state now facing licensing for the first time, options for increased business appear to be somewhat enlightened.