Residential Magazine

Featured Top Originator: Mark Cohen, Cohen Financial Group

No. 1 Top Dollar Volume, No. 1 Top Mortgage Brokers

By Hannah Darden

More than 35 years in the business has not dulled Mark Cohen’s passion for mortgage. Every grateful post-close email from a client still has a profound impact on him, and he treasures the relationships he’s built over the years — some with families he’s served for multiple generations.

“Obviously, I love the business,” Cohen said in a recent interview with Scotsman Guide. “It’s what I’m best at. I’ve met a lot of great people, made great friends, and financially it’s been rewarding… but it’s just the competitive part of me… it’s in the blood.”

It is literally in the blood for Cohen, whose business furthers a family legacy. He said his mother was the first female broker in Los Angeles, and he worked with her back when the mortgage business was run by fax machines and FedEx. In 1985, after getting his MBA and then graduating from law school, he started his business.

“You’ve got to know your position in the market and take advantage of it.”

He said he liked it from Day 1, inspired by the challenge and bolstered by his gregarious nature. Over time, he built relationships within Southern California and caught a few lucky breaks along the way with banks which didn’t have mortgage departments and gave him their business.

Now very well-established in LA, Cohen specializes in jumbo and super jumbo loans. He serves as the in-house or affiliated lender for several real estate companies, which he said opens doors and helped him stay stable in the turbulent market. And stable he was; Cohen’s volume decreased just $8 million — or 1% — from 2022 to 2023.

“I’ve been able to close some large transactions, in the $8 million to $12 million range. So that helped quite a bit,” Cohen said. He found himself expanding his market share by filling a void, able to close loans others couldn’t because of his close-knit lender relationships. “You’ve got to know your position in the market and take advantage of it.”

He said the $1 million to $5 million market has strong demand, but inventory is a big challenge. There are five or more offers on many homes, and buyers get discouraged after striking out two or three times.

“They’re willing to spend a million — or millions — of dollars, which is a lot of money,” Cohen said. “And they just can’t buy a house.”

There’s more inventory in the $5 million to $15 million market, but market conditions and a new Los Angeles real estate sales tax, the “mansion tax,” has slowed deal flow.

He’ll do any deal he can, from Federal Housing Administration and Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to private money and bank statement loans. He said the bulk of activity is in non-qualified (non-QM) mortgages right now, as rates come close to those for conventional loans. He’s even beginning to branch out, closing a few commercial deals.

“You’ve got to shift to where the activity is,” Cohen said. “There’s a whole other area out there that, until the last year or two, I never really explored. And it’s vast.”

He’s busy expanding his market share and offerings, but he also emphasized the importance of finding balance and accepting that some days are better than others.

“You’ve got to just live your life. You can’t just be absorbed by your business all the time because that’s not a healthy lifestyle,” Cohen said, highlighting family time and hobbies as crucial.

At the same time, he remains available as much as possible to clients. Even while traveling, the convenience of technology means he can be there for a client from anywhere in the world. He enjoys the flexibility that gives him and appreciates those opportunities to get out of the office.

He said that there’s no way to make 100% of people happy. He aims for 99%. His clients appreciate his reliability, consistency, knowledge, resources — and, of course, his execution, he said. He’s not done yet but has a legacy he hopes to leave.

“I want to be remembered in this business as somebody who gave 100% effort, who is honest, ethical,” Cohen said. “Someone who was aggressive, is fighting for his clients and getting the right deals through in the right manner.” ●

Tips of the Trade

The most important things are knowledge, honesty, integrity, understanding the product and being available. Be able to execute on that. Have personality and be able to communicate with people. It’s about the little things; I just did a deal with a guy in Chicago, and my son went to Northwestern, so we talked about that. Strike up a personal relationship with a comment about their city or something you have in common. You have to show that you’re a human being and not a robot.


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