Realty recovery spurring jobs growth in Reno area |

Realty recovery spurring jobs growth in Reno area

Rob Sabo

One of the fastest-growing sectors of Nevada’s employment in March — for once — had nothing to do with gold or silver mining.

Reno-Sparks employment in financial activities in March grew by 200 jobs year-over-year, or 2.3 percent annual growth, the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation says. Only construction, which saw nearly an 8 percent increase year-over-year growth in employment, had larger growth rate in the private sector in the region.

Real estate, rentals and leasing, a subsector in the financial activities category, recorded year-over-year growth of 8.4 percent statewide in March, overtaking mining. Many companies across greater Reno-Sparks are capitalizing on the increase in home sales to add staff and in some cases expand into new markets.

Greater Nevada Mortgage Services of Carson City in early May opened an office in South Meadows, and it will open a third office in Elko June 3. Greater Nevada Mortgage employs 18 in Carson City, 11 in Reno, and expects to hire three mortgage consultants to kick off operations in northeastern Nevada.

Nick Serrano, vice president of mortgage lending, says the company last fall identified opportunities to expand the company’s footprint and capture more market share as home sales continued to improve across northern Nevada. The change is in stark contrast to the late 2000s, when mortgage, title, insurance and real estate firms vacated the region and left tens of thousands of square feet of commercial office space dark.

“There is a shift of mindset in the workforce,” Serrano says. “Mortgage is an industry where it’s obvious people are feeling comfortable to take that career path. A few years ago people didn’t see mortgage as a viable career path, but we are seeing a shift in this market. It is encouraging news for our business that we have people outside of the industry that want to get into it again. They see mortgage as an opportunity worth taking.”

Pat Riley, district manager for Nevada and Arizona for Eagle Home Mortgage and Universal American Mortgage Company, both subsidiaries of Lennar Homes, agrees that careers in the mortgage industry are on the rise. Though Eagle Home Mortgage suffered along with the rest of the industry during the downturn, many of the company’s employees have worked together for 20 and even 30 years, Riley says.

Employees with experience in finance and banking are a natural fit for Eagle Home Mortgage, he adds.

“We are able to train them based on current guidelines and give them a true foundation to pursue long-term career in this industry. If you have a strong work ethic and can adapt to change, you will do well.”

Eagle Home Mortgage has offices in Reno, Sparks, Winnemucca and Elko, and has added 14 new employees in the Reno-Sparks market in the last 12 months, Riley says. Eagle Home Mortgage and Universal American Mortgage Company serve as the retail mortgage banking division of Lennar and have been growing rapidly and hiring across the western United States, Riley says. Eagle Home Mortgage employs 24 in Reno-Sparks and 10 in Winnemucca and Elko.

“We are continuing to search for the top talent in the state,” Riley says. “The overall market is healthy, new home construction is coming back, and there is a low-interest rate environment. All are powering sales. With the correction in home pricing, it has become very appealing to many consumers.”

Kathy Miller-Flanigan, branch manager for Axia Home Loans, opened a regional branch of the company headquartered at Bellevue, Wash. in late 2012 at South McCarran Boulevard. The office employs nine.

Though Axia hasn’t done any hiring since hanging its flag in northern Nevada, Axia’s volume of closings continues to grow each month, Miller-Flanigan says.

“We are very happy with our progress in the short six months we have been open,” she says.

Steve Schiller, president of northern Nevada operations for Ticor Title, also hasn’t added to his staff over the past year — but Ticor Title avoided sweeping layoffs during the lean years, Schiller says.

His concern is with the future of what he describes as a “fragile” housing market. Shrinking inventory levels of new and existing homes across Reno-Sparks have Schiller wary about coming months.

“We have no inventory to sell, and our industry is a volume-based business. There is good volume now, but without any sustained growth in new homes or existing homes to sell, there is the potential for that volume not to be there. I’m not real aggressive on hiring until I have better idea of what will happen in our local economy.”

Cherie Williams, chief executive officer of the Reno-Sparks Association of Realtors, says that as the housing market continues to improve she’s seen increased interest from new licensees entering the industry and joining the association.

In 2011 there were 131 new applicants, and in 2012 there were 150, Williams says, and new applicants for the first four months of 2013 are trending up 33 percent versus the same period in 2011.

The wave of hiring begs one question, particularly in light of how bad the region was hammered when the bottom dropped out of the housing market. Is the growth in financial and real estate sector sustainable? Eagle’s Riley says yes, but with a certain caveat: Companies must focus on bringing aboard competent employees.

“In late 2005 through 2008, a lot of companies were hiring people who did not have lot of experience and were not trained very well,” Riley says. “They did cause a lot of pain and suffering for a lot of consumers by putting them into loans they should not have been in. That has all changed. Now it is based on quality, not quantity, and if we continue to growth with high integrity and high quality in mind, I believe it is very sustainable.”