Business Profile: UTC basketball alum stars in mortgage lending

photo Brandon Born sits in his office at Platinum Financial.

Brandon BornTitle: Co-owner of Platinum Financial FundingAge: 39Education: Graduate of Ringgold High School and a business management degree at UTC, where Born played basketball for four yearsCareer: After playing professional basketball for the Denver Nuggets and a pro team in Israel, Ironi Nahariya, Born joined Thunder Enterprises in 1997 and later rose to company president. In 2008, he and Matt Hamilton started Platinum Financial Funding.Personal: He and his wife, Campbell, have four boys

With two older brothers and a sister who played competitive basketball, Brandon Born learned early how to compete against more experienced players.

The Ringgold native, who began playing against his siblings and friends in elementary school on a makeshift basketball court inside his father's carpet store, went on to become the second-highest career scorer at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and a pro player for both the Denver Nuggets and Ironi Nahariya in Israel.

"Basketball taught me how to read people, stay focused and keep trying," Born said.

Those skills have helped Born successfully move from making jump shots to pitching real estate to now making home loans.

With a business degree from UTC, Born traded his gym shoes for a business suit a decade and a half ago. At age 25, Born was selling luxury home sites to millionaires in Wyoming, Hawaii and Tennessee for Thunder Enterprises during the real estate heydays of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Four years ago as the real estate market began to sour, Born decided to follow his entrepreneurial passions and joined with his longtime friend, Matt Hamilton, to form a mortgage lending business in Chattanooga known as Platinum Financial Funding. Despite the housing slump, Born said declining mortgage rates and changing lending standards created new opportunities for a different kind of lending.

"I got in when everyone was getting out because I understood the area's need for a credible mortgage company to help folks make sense of the real estate market and lending in general," he said.

Platinum Financial didn't make any of the substandard or no-down-payment mortgages that created so many problems for other lenders.

With lower mortgage rates and new alliances with real estate companies and lenders, Born has succeeded in building one of Chattanooga's biggest locally owned mortgage service companies over the past four years.

From his Gunbarrel Road office, Born's company has grown to include offices in Chattanooga, Knoxville and Dayton, Tenn. Collectively, the company's five offices have 25 employees who make and process loans sold in the secondary market to FHA, banks and other private lenders.

Born said he has tried to make borrowing simple and straightforward for Platinum customers, and the company has employed its own underwriter and used state-of-the-art software to speed the processing of loans. The average closing with a bank takes Platinum about 30 days, Born said, which is half the time for some other lenders.

Platinum has located offices within local Keller Williams and Remax real estate agencies to accommodate new home loans. But three-fourths of the mortgages Platinum now is making come from existing home buyers refinancing their mortgages at today's historically low rates.

Robert Moss, the leader broker for Killer Williams downtown office, said the Platinum office in the agency is "extremely customer-service driven" and praised employees of Platinum for "easing the home-buying process" and making sure clients have a clear understanding of the lending process.

Loan activity is being spurred this summer by the lowest mortgage rates in a half century. Real-estate website Zillow said Tuesday that rates on 30-year fixed mortgages fell again to the lowest on record for the company, dropping to 3.35 percent from 3.42 percent last week.

Born expects to process nearly $100 million of new and refinanced home loans this year. He hopes to triple that number over time with more offices in other markets.

"I've always been competitive -- in sports and business," he said.

As a 6-foot-5 forward at UTC, Born was the university's all-time leader in the percentage of 3-point shots he made and ranks second on the school's career scoring list with 1,449 points.

The athletic businessman maintains a putting green in his office and a membership at the Honors Golf Course in Ooltewah.

But these days, the 39-year-old former basketball star is more focused on helping a younger team at home. He and his wife, Campbell, had their fourth son last week.

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