Kent Winkelseth of Shelter Mortgage

Being a good mortgage broker requires having a strong understanding of the ever-changing residential lending landscape, as well as an innate ability to engage clients with honesty and sincerity. Kent Winkelseth, vice president and production manager for Shelter Mortgage in Orlando, has honed his skills over the last 20 years to become a valuable and trusted source for business partners, team members and those looking to achieve the dream of homeownership.

Shelter Mortgage Company is a full-service residential lender that offers hundreds of loan programs and mortgage choices to its customers. In Central Florida, Shelter has offices in Orlando, Melbourne and Indialantic. Winkelseth and his team of mortgage experts guide clients through the mortgage process and monitor loans from beginning to end to ensure ultimate customer satisfaction.

JR: Tell us about your professional background.

KW: I’ve been in the mortgage business for almost 20 years. Pre-mortgage, I had a landscape company for about eight years, then went into electronics as a circuit board broker. This is my third career, and the one I actually have a passion for. I’ve always considered myself someone who is generally comfortable in sales. I was either selling a product, selling a service or both. I love helping people, which is the main driver for me.

JR: How did your career as a mortgage broker begin?

KW: I actually went to appraisal school but wasn’t sure I wanted to get into the real estate industry. I wanted to share a business opportunity with a mortgage broker friend of mine, but she turned the tables on me and told me she thought I’d be great at doing what she did for a living.

“I was fortunate to have mentors who were well-respected and experienced in the industry, and I took advantage of their wisdom and advice along the way.” – Kent Winkelseth

JR: How did you respond to that?

KW: I was intrigued. I knew of her success as a mortgage broker through some friends. She wanted me to spend a day with her and, after the end of that day, if I didn’t like what she did, no harm no foul. I spent an afternoon with her while she met with clients and took some loan applications. I asked, “You think I can do this, don’t you?” She said, “I know you can do this.” That was my introduction to the mortgage business.

JR: To what do you attribute your growth and success in this field?

KW: I was fortunate to have mentors who were well-respected and experienced in the industry, and I took advantage of their wisdom and advice along the way. Mentoring is critical, and the learning never ends. Even now, I’m learning every day. Surrounding yourself with people who have been doing what you’re doing for longer, who are well respected, committed and passionate about what they do creates a win-win scenario. I still recall certain comments that were made to me early on. One of my mentors told me that when I’m originating a loan, I need to get all of the information. I can’t get some of it and pass it on to my processor hoping there are no hiccups or challenges. “Garbage in, garbage out,” she said. I’ve never forgotten that, and I share that wisdom with team members today. 

JR: How did Shelter get through the recent
mortgage crisis?

KW: Leading up to it, we were not necessarily the company that offered some of the hybrid products that other companies did. Some of those products ended up being the demise of those companies. I think they got caught up in the excitement and the peer pressure from other lenders to produce and offer products that allowed people to get into homes with a limited amount of documentation. That led to people not being able to afford their mortgages. We didn’t get caught up in that.

JR: What did you learn from that experience?

KW: It was somewhat of a challenge at the time, but it ended up being a blessing in disguise. Realize that at one point, you, as a buyer, could purchase a home without documenting employment, income or assets, and you could do it with zero down payment and zero money out of pocket. Pushing the reset button has allowed the industry to flourish again. For us, it wasn’t as much of a transition because we were already doing it the right way. So many people actually got out of the business because they didn’t know how to make the transition over to fully documented files and loans.

JR: There was no doubt an erosion of trust as a result of that crisis. How important is it for you to build and maintain client relationships and trust?

KW: If you want to be looked at as a go-to expert and be respected in your industry, the most important qualities are honesty and integrity. Gaining trust comes from commitment and putting yourself in your client’s shoes. Each and every client is an opportunity to better yourself in your field, but it’s also an opportunity to develop a long-term relationship. I want to be my clients’ lender for life, not just for one transaction. That’s only going to happen if that relationship is handled properly. I always ask my clients to tell me how they feel about the experience. Of course, I’m excited when they say, “Oh, it was fantastic. You never missed a beat. It was a simple process.” That’s always wonderful to hear, but it’s also just as important when they say, “It was a good experience, but there were times I had to send documentation an additional time or wasn’t sure what I was being asked for.” I thank them for that feedback because it allows us to become better at what we do.

JR: You have a variety of experts at Shelter Mortgage. How does that team effort enhance the client experience?

KW: We understand the efforts of many are always going to outdo the efforts of one. If you can partner up with good team members, you’re going to provide a better experience for the customer. I can only do so much, but two of us working with you, or three or four, are going to do a better job. When clients know you have a team working on their behalf, it gives them confidence in the entire process.

“If you want to be looked at as a go-to expert and be respected in your industry, the most important qualities are honesty and integrity. Gaining trust comes from commitment and putting yourself in your client’s shoes.” – Kent Winkelseth

JR: Providing people with mortgages they can manage represents an important service to the community because it ultimately affects the housing market and the way people view regional quality of life. Plus, your products and services provide viable options for people.

KW: That’s a good point. Offering different types of products that all lenders might not necessarily get involved with provides options. A good example is our first-time home buyer program. Many lenders don’t offer this product because it’s a labor-intensive loan and you’re required to meet standard underwriting guidelines in addition to program guidelines. However, you realize it’s an important service for that first-time buyer who wouldn’t necessarily be able to become a homeowner without it. Construction lending and construction loans are also something not all lenders participate in. There are different risk factors associated with these types of loans, but utilizing VA loans for veterans is important to us. We love working with and helping our veterans.

JR: How would you describe your current role and what you want to accomplish moving forward?

KW: As a producing manager, my goals are to originate loans and grow the business. As a team, we want to bring in and develop new talent. It’s exciting seeing younger folks in the business. In the end, I love what I do and want to continue to bring as much value to homeowners as possible.

JR: Any final thoughts about your profession?

KW: The business is very rewarding but also challenging. Every time I say yes to a referral, I need to be available when they need me, which could be on a Sunday morning or a Friday evening. You’re not saying yes to a referral because you hope it works; you’re saying yes because you know you’re going to close that loan. That’s an incredible responsibility and one I take very seriously.