An Australian national, who has been living in the Philippines for nearly a decade, launched the first mortgage brokerage in the country that is expected to bring the real estate sector to the next level.
“We are the first [online mortgage broker platform] here. We help you compare banks, side by side. We help you secure the best bank for you and your circumstance,” says Chris Elder, the founder and CEO of Nook Asia Pacific Limited, a company based in Eastwood, Quezon City.
Nook is a property financial technology company that helps Filipinos find, compare loan products and experience a seamless loan application process online. It serves as an intermediary between mortgage loan applicants and banks. Mortgage refers to a loan secured by an individual from a bank to purchase a house, land or condominium unit.
“Our model is based on mortgage brokering which globally is a multi-billion-dollar industry. What we are simply doing is bringing an already existing successful model to the Philippines. This is not new. We are not inventing anything new. We just bring it to the Philippines, and we are adding technology to make it much quicker and easier,” he says.
He says Filipinos are still intimidated to start their home loan search because of various reasons, including not knowing whether they are qualified to borrow from any of the local banks for a housing loan. Nook, therefore, was designed to make applying for a home loan simpler and easier through its website, which allows users to evaluate the most optimal loan option for their target properties.
“Applying for a home loan here in the Philippines can be a tedious and intimidating process. Before prospective clients even begin, they are already overwhelmed with the long list of requirements or the time they need to set aside to accomplish all the application steps. We aim to address this with Nook. We offer users an end-to-end platform, from property search to bank approvals, empowering more Filipinos to gain seamless access to financial options available to them,” he says.
Elder, who is married to a Filipina, has been living in Eastwood for the past 10 years. He became an official Philippine resident five years ago and saw the rapid expansion of the residential real estate sector.
On why he chose to launch Nook in the country, he says: “This is a big untapped market, and we are the first here which presents a great opportunity.”
“We partner with banks. Right now, if you want to get a loan, it requires you to travel from bank to bank to collect all the requirements and stuff like that. For us, you just get online and you fill up just a few questions and then you can compare all the banks side by side, rather than trying to manually do it yourself,” says Elder, who is a member of the Entrepreneurs Organization.
He was an accountant and IT consultant in Australia before managing a services firm that was sold to a private equity-backed European company. He then spent the next two years as a management consultant to fast-growth companies in the Asia Pacific region, including Hong Kong, the Philippines and Australia. He established Nook in 2018.
Nook currently employs 19 individuals in Eastwood, but Elder says the plan is to hire dozens of property consultants to support the growth of Nook nationwide. Its business model is based on commission from every successful transaction with banks.
He says Nook is beneficial for both borrowers and banks. “There is no loan application fee. If you go directly to the bank, you pay for loan application. Manually comparing banks is very difficult because you don’t know how much the monthly repayments will be and you also don’t know which banks you are truly qualified for. You don’t know until you submit all the applications to the bank and wait for them to come back,” he says.
Elder says Nook provides free comparison of the loan products. “After that, you just simply select which bank that you want to apply for, and we guide you through the whole process. We do that for free. It is free because banks pay us for commission,” he says.
Nook allows borrowers to get a preview of the amount of monthly repayments they have to make, fees and other requirements from each bank and get pre-qualified in just a few minutes. Elder says Nook will help clients in every step of their housing loan process, together with Nook home loan consultants, free of charge.
Elder says Nook is a completely free platform. Among its bank partners are AUB, BDO, BPI Family Savings Bank, Bank of Commerce, CTBC, Chinabank, RCBC and Security Bank. “We look to bring five more banks to the platform,” he says.
He says banks, in partnership with Nook can reduce resources and time in qualifying a home loan borrower. “We are delivering pre-qualified, ready-to-go home loan borrowers. Banks waste a lot of time assessing loan applications from people who are not qualified. They also waste a lot of time assessing applications from people who are just shopping around and who end up going for another bank in the end. For us, we are giving them ready to go customers that do not waste their time,” says Elder.
Nook uses a three-step process to help customers. “We use algorithm to work out whether you are qualified and which bank you are qualified for. What we do is we qualify the borrowers and the bank verifies them. We qualify to make sure they are able to lend, and then the bank verifies to make sure they are credit-worthy,” says Elder.
He is confident about the company’s performance in the coming years. “The Philippines is an emerging economy. The real estate loans here are growing at 10.6 percent. We have a lot to thank for Lazada and Shopee for showing that if you provide a good online experience, people will use it. Now is the time for Nook to launch in the Philippines,” he says.
“Because it is already based on a successful model, we are forecasting rapid growth, but not straightaway, because people want to understand what mortgage brokering is. But over the coming years, slowly and surely people will understand it more. Globally, it is massive,” says Elder, referring to the mortgage brokering business.
He says in countries such as Australia and the United States, more than 60 percent and 68 percent of borrowers respectively go through mortgage brokers instead of direct-bank applications to secure a housing loan.
Elder says as a property portal, Nook is free to use for all brokers, agents and property owners.
“What Nook offers is direct access to bank partners for your home loans with the easiest application process you can get. It is time that the Philippines recognize how technology can transform the home loan process from application to closing,” he says.