The Home Loan Fixer-Upper

Entrepreneur Jason Madiedo grew his company from four employees to 560 by helping Hispanic families become homeowners

Jason Madiedo, President and CEO, Alterra Home Loans

At a young age, Jason Madiedo thought he would follow in his father and brother’s footsteps and join the military—he wanted to be a Marine. But his life took a different direction. Instead, Madiedo took after his mother.

“My mom had a different plan for me,” he says. Ede Madiedo wanted her son to follow in her footsteps into the mortgage business. She had built a successful career in the industry, focusing on service specific to the Hispanic community. And like a good son in a Hispanic family, Madiedo says he did what he was told.

“It’s either that or else!” jokes Madiedo, now president and CEO of his own company, Alterra Home Loans.

Even though Madiedo spent his grade school years helping his mother around the office—putting together loan packages, running documents to and from—he didn’t consider getting into the lending business himself. He had seen all of the work his mother put in, with long days and hours on the weekends, but he wasn’t sure it was something he wanted.

His mother became the top loan officer at her company and eventually one of the best in the country. Her drive came from a passion for helping immigrants like herself become homeowners—an opportunity that had fueled her own career and success.   

It took some time, but once Madiedo saw the impact on Hispanic and Latino families, he too became passionate about the home loan sector. Helping first-time homeowners close on a house is “so emotional,” he says, adding that many first-generation immigrant families dream of owning a home. He loves becoming a trusted advisor to the economic life of a family, Madiedo says.

Just as the first person to go to college is a major milestone for many Hispanic families, so is owning a home for the first time, Madiedo says. Owning a home can help build a family’s wealth, so that other family members can go to college.

“How can you not get addicted to helping families do that?” Madiedo says.

The average amount of wealth in the American household is $116,000. For Hispanic families, that number falls between $4,000 and $6,000. It’s a gap that Madiedo is passionate about fixing.

In 2006, he used that passion to fuel an entrepreneurial venture that would become Alterra Home Loans. Madiedo had been working as a loan officer for his mother and her partners for many years, and moved to Las Vegas with the mission of expanding her business.

The housing market was crashing, and Madiedo and his wife Valerie thought it would be a great opportunity to start a company to serve the underserved market. So they did. They had saved up enough money to start a brokerage and sustain their family for three to five years—enough time to get the business off the ground without needing to earn additional income.

They decided to open Venta Financial Group to help Hispanic and Latino families own homes. Then Madiedo pitched the idea to his mentor Felix DeHerrera, whom he had met at the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals’ national conference in 2002.

DeHerrera liked the idea, and he was in.

Initially, Venta Financial Group focused on mortgages, not real estate, and had an office with only four employees. Madiedo says that at the beginning, he not only did payroll and licensing but also designed fliers and cleaned the office, too.

It paid off, though, and the company grew. The company rebranded as Alterra in 2010, combining the English word “all” and the Spanish word tierra, or earth.

In 2013, Alterra took a step back and retooled the company values. The retooling involved swapping out picture frames for TVs that displayed metrics in real time. This was an uncomfortable time, he says. Alterra lost 30 percent of its employees, but gained people with key skills, and built a better company as a result.

Today, Alterra has 560 employees and offices in eighteen states. About 80 percent of the company’s mortgage closings are to minority consumers, 70 percent are Hispanic, and 63 percent are first-time home buyers. Alterra is a billion-dollar company, but in the next five to seven years, Madiedo says it’s on track to become a five billion-dollar company.

Retooling Alterra allowed him to put what matters most at the center of the company. These values, Madiedo says,
aren’t mind boggling.”

The first value is that “little things matter.” Madiedo says that if a customer wants to close on their home before the weekend, then they will work until the job is done.

Internally, Alterra monitors homeownership and will pay for a down payment on a house for its employees. Today, 53 percent of Alterra employees are homeowners, up from 46 percent in 2014.

Another core value is finding a better way to accomplish a task, no matter how big or small. Saying “this is how we do it” isn’t part of the dialogue at Alterra. 

And the third value is “own it.” Madiedo says transparency is key. Employees are held responsible, not only to their customers, but also to themselves and their colleagues.

“These are three things we can do today and tomorrow, no matter how big we grow to be,” Madiedo says.