Sundae VP of Lending Andrew Jewett answered 10 questions on subjects ranging from the state of the housing market to what attracted him to Sundae.
Andrew Jewett joined the Sundae team at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. It was a strange time to embark on a new career path, but one with the incredible opportunity of creating real estate lending services that ultimately help homeowners get more money when selling off-market properties.
After receiving a degree in finance and transitioning into the real estate world, Andrew spent the past 15 years working on the financial and mortgage side of the business. We asked him 10 questions to learn what attracted him to Sundae, and how he sees the company evolving in the long run.
1. How did you get into the real estate business?
I honestly kind of fell into it. I was a business and finance major in college and always knew that I wanted to start my career in finance. My thinking was that I would get the fundamentals of finance under my belt, then go into whichever field I wanted from there. When I interviewed right out of college, I ended up taking a job in the asset-backed finance department at a place called Greenwich Capital. It was, at the time, one of the most active players in the mortgage trading and securitization industry. I fell in love with it instantly and there was no turning back!
2. You were a financial analyst in 2005 focusing on housing loans. What were the most important moments that led you from there to where you are today?
First and foremost, the housing crash and ensuing financial crisis starting in 2007 was a powerful moment. I was so young at the time but had a front row seat to the insane market environment we lived in before, during, and after the crash. It really shaped the way I look at the world. Seeing companies and people behave so poorly because they were making money hand over fist one minute, only to end up without a job or in bitter legal battles, taught me some valuable lessons about risk, unbridled optimism, and living by the “life’s too short” motto. I try to bring a lot of those experiences into how I approach the world these days. Whether it’s evaluating the risk of a project or just evaluating the merits of a new partnership, I always think about it through the lens of “what happens in the worst-case scenario and are we appropriately prepared?” This helped me evaluate some very important and challenging decisions throughout my career and, despite the pain and challenges we all went through, it’s become a very valuable lens for me as I get older.
3. You co-founded Aperture Real Estate in 2016. Can you say more about the company?
Aperture was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. My Dad was an entrepreneur and I always hoped that someday I would be able to do something on my own, like he did. Throughout my career, I’ve had the good fortune to work with my dear friend Matt Miles (we’ve worked together for 15 years now). As we looked out at the landscape of the real estate industry, we recognized that there are little nuggets of gold hidden in plain sight in the copious amounts of data related to real estate. We knew that many non-traditional homes often fall through the proverbial cracks. And we thought there was an opportunity to use data to identify transactions that didn’t fit the traditional mold of a clean listed house that would sell to families. So, in 2016, we quit our jobs to start Aperture and build that system. We started off using it for ourselves but ended up realizing that our data and our tool had a much bigger use case than just a couple of guys with a little bit of money to spend. As with any startup, we had some major ups and downs and I learned a ton from that experience. Then in 2019 we met the team at Sundae and it was a match made in heaven. With Aperture we had a tool that could help Sundae, and with our experience and background in the industry we felt we could add to Sundae’s amazing team, mission, and existing platform. Matt and I joined Sundae in early 2020 and the rest is history.
4. How does Aperture enhance what Sundae does?
When we first started working with Sundae, it became apparent that we could use the tool in some incredibly useful ways. Sundae’s mission is to help homeowners get the best outcome when it’s time to sell a house that needs some love. As I mentioned before, there are so many home sellers whose situation is just not right for a traditional listing strategy. Often they get preyed upon as a result. Our tools help identify these people and properties, giving us a chance to provide them the best outcome possible.
5. What attracted you to join Sundae?
Really, it was the mission and people. The real estate industry is notorious for having a “used car salesman” vibe and Sundae wants to change that. Our people are exceedingly empathetic and truly driven by the mission. It never ceases to amaze me how far our teammates are willing to go for a homeowner. Just the other day, I heard a story of one of our Market Experts helping a home seller load boxes into a moving truck because they had to be out of their house in just a few hours, and would otherwise lose a deposit. Everyone is so willing to go that extra mile for our customers. It’s really inspiring!
6. What excites you most about your role at Sundae?
The ability to change such a massive market in a truly meaningful way. We’re building a platform that has the potential to help so many people and become a driving force for change in a market that is incredibly inefficient. Being able to do both of those things at the same time is a dream come true.
7. How did COVID-19 affect your transition to a new company, both personally and professionally?
It hasn’t been easy, that’s for sure. I am fortunate to that I knew a large number of the people here at Sundae before I started. I also understand the business very well so I think I’ve adjusted relatively quickly. But it’s been challenging. I’m leading a team of seven people right now, and I’ve never been in the same physical space with five of them. For me, a big part of leadership is being able to read a situation and adapt using all of the physical, verbal, and nonverbal cues you receive. Not having those little interactions makes it hard. With that being said, our team is amazing and we’ve all come together quite nicely and started to work well together. At this point, going back to an office might be a little weird.
8. How has the pandemic impacted your goal of developing a lending and financing arm of the business?
It’s been challenging. I never thought I would say this, but I miss having a whiteboard. Building business lines often means getting a group of people in a room for hours on end and getting your hands “dirty.” From tech builds to conceptualizing an idea, having that communal space where people can draw, talk, and express themselves is extremely valuable. Doing that virtually hasn’t always been easy, but we’ve managed. I shudder to think about how bad this might have been to the global economy if the pandemic occurred before the days of video conferencing and other online collaboration tools.
9. How do you think Sundae is positioned in the long term as a result of the pandemic?
Our mission is more important than ever. So many people in the U.S., and throughout the world, have experienced the devastating effects of the coronavirus. By providing home sellers the best possible outcome, I truly believe that Sundae can be a driving force, not only for change in the real estate industry, but in helping to overcome some of the horrible impacts of this pandemic. We sit in a unique position to help people, and we’re doing everything we can to ensure people receive fair and honest treatment.
10. You started a new job in a completely remote environment, and embarked on building a new line of business during a national crisis. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned?
We’re all in this together. It sounds cheesy but having to jump into a new work environment with new people in a crazy, stressful, and unprecedented world really highlights that we’re all humans. We all have our individual and shared stressors to deal with. Whether it’s the mom struggling with homeschool and childcare for two small kids, or the single guy living by himself in a San Francisco apartment with no social interaction, everyone faces challenges with this pandemic. The more empathetic we can be towards these challenges, both individually and collectively, the better off we’ll be. I try to remember that and come back to it every day. It’s been helpful to me and is something I think we should all try to remember from time to time.
Check out other interviews with members of the Sundae team:
- A Real Estate Economist on the Effects of COVID-19
- 10 Questions with Sundae’s Director of Business Development
- Housing and the Pandemic: One Expert’s Opinion
Zach Child is a recent graduate from the University of Washington with an interest in digital marketing strategy. At Sundae, Zach is part of the team that distributes editorial content across social channels and is responsible for the creation of visual content that helps grow Sundae’s brand.