How long have you been in the mortgage business and what inspired you to get into it?
After spending 2 years in the management consulting industry, training supervisors, managers and executives throughout the continent to be more efficient, I joined the mortgage industry in 1990 as a corporate trainer. My primary responsibility was to develop and deliver new hire orientation.
Many of my participants were new loan officers. They encouraged me to transfer to mortgage origination. Senior managers echoed the suggestion. At the time, I was finishing my Master’s thesis and needed flexibility in my schedule so I signed up for what I expected to be a couple years before returning to the corporate environment.
By the time I finished my MBA, I had developed a reputation for excellence in mortgage origination. I found personal satisfaction in helping customers finance home and completely enjoyed my work. In 1994, I met and partnered with my husband, Burney Ashley, forming the A-Team.
Who is your typical customer and what questions do they typically have?
There is no such thing as a typical customer. Every loan applicant has a unique set of financial credentials and housing needs. I work with Conventional, FHA, VA and Jumbo borrowers regularly, as well as USDA and portfolio customers as needed.
The first question everyone asks is "What is the rate?" They see advertised rates and think it is an easy question to answer, but it isn't. Interest rate is determined by many factors: Credit Score, Down Payment, Type of Loan, Type of Property, Location of Property, Interest Rate Lock Period and discount points paid. Published rates often assume the best case pricing with two discount points.
Then we get into "What is a discount point?" One point costs one percent of the mortgage balance to buy down the interest rate for the term of the loan, and often lowers the rate by up to ¼ % for the life of the loan ... so it is a good thing, right? Not always. Unless the borrower intends to stay in the mortgage for a long time, it results in a net loss to the borrower.
Borrowers also ask about documentation requirements. In short, I answer "Everything but your first born child" because post Dodd-Frank financial reform requirements are strict. Laws designed to protect society from another mortgage meltdown add layers of verification for income, credit and assets. Laws designed to protect society from terrorism require lenders to evaluate sources of income and assets for evidence of money laundering.
The important thing to remember is EVERYONE is required to submit the same level of documentation, regardless of qualifications. "Don't take it personally" I tell customers. "Believe me, I don't like it any more than you. If I didn't think you were a well-qualified borrower, I would tell you what underwriting guidelines you may not fulfill - because I do not get paid until AFTER you close (unlike some competitors)".
The other question customers ask is "What is the process?" The first step of the process is a "pre-qualification interview", an informal conversation where I ask you about your income, debt, cash-to-close and credit. The interview takes anywhere between 20 minutes and an hour, depending on qualifications. After that, I advise the consumer on mortgage products and guidelines that will satisfy his or her needs, or coach on how to become qualified.
At Guaranteed Rate, we invite you to apply on line @www.GuaranteedRate/RosemarieAshley for efficiency. The link takes customers to a series of qualification questions, and invites people to run their credit report free. I am notified by email and make a follow up call to review credentials and complete the pre-approval.
To add strength to your Real Estate offer, I invite consumers to upload verifying documents for me to review BEFORE they buy a house. I pre-underwrite tax returns, W2s, pay stubs and assets to calculate qualifications per underwriting guidelines. When the listing agent calls to check on your qualification, I can speak with confidence, increasing the chance your bid will be accepted.
When you get an accepted offer, a lot of the documentation is already complete. I collect the purchase agreement, contact the Realtors and facilitate the processing and underwriting of your file, keeping you informed at every step of the process. I am always available to my customers and their Real Estate agents throughout, answering questions and providing status reports. Although I have an entire staff for support, I am your primary point of contact before, during and after the sale.
What advice would you give new or first time home buyers?
1. Find a loan officer your like, respect and trust. Ask a lot of questions and tell your loan officer everything. That goes for repeat home buyers as well. There are no stupid questions and this is not rocket science. If you don't understand, a good loan officer will rephrase the answer until you are comfortable.
2. Voluntarily provide verifying documents prior to finding a home. The key to smooth processing and underwriting of a loan is a complete mortgage application. Although I am not legally allowed to REQUIRE verifying documents prior to pre-approval, I request them. When I review paperwork, I look at the file from the underwriting perspective. I notice red flags that may require additional documentation and let buyers know up front. There is no charge for this service.
3. Work with a Realtor. One Realtor. There is no advantage to engaging more than one Realtor because everyone can show you every listed house. The disadvantage of working with more than one Realtor is loyalty – it goes both ways. Realtors get paid at closing. They do not get paid to drive around and tour homes, answer questions, run searches or sign papers. If you do not commit to working with a specific Realtor, he or she is not likely to commit to you.
4. Don't take lender requests for additional documentation personally. Due to financial reform and anti-terrorism laws, we are required to document your qualifications beyond a shadow of a doubt. This is true for mortgage loans through virtually every source. Today's underwriting standards have written documentation requirements, and hold lenders responsible for a borrower's performance. This leads to underwriters exercising discretion for additional conditions in many circumstances.
5. Make yourself accessible to your loan officer and promptly comply with requests. Time is of the essence in real estate transactions. Laws designed to protect consumers can cause closing delays due to legal timing requirements. Tell your originating team how you prefer to be contacted and what hours are best. Make arrangements for contact about time-sensitive issues and respond quickly. Good communication saves time and money.
6. Remember to have fun! This is a life change, and therefore inherently stressful. But no matter what stage you are entering, it is a new beginning for you and your family. Find real estate and lending professionals committed to making this experience rewarding.
How has the mortgage industry changed since you started, and what would you expect in the future?
When I started just after financial deregulation, the mortgage industry was expanding. Everything was done manually. The process was slow and origination was not regulated like it is today. There were no standards for integrity.
I have always believed in honesty and transparency to provide exceptional customer service before, during and after the sale. Realtors and customers found prompt contact, borrower education, frequent updates and friendly service appealing, and my business grew.
As competition increased, new loan programs were developed to help more people attain the American Dream. Before offering any of these creative financing options, I thoroughly researched the products to learn how it would affect my customers now and in the future.
I completely explained loan terms to borrowers, advising them to consider all aspects of loan terms before selecting an attractive but temporary start rate. My goal is and always has been to educate people to make wise mortgage decisions, now and in the future.
With the implementation of new financial reform laws and 21st Century technology, the industry is becoming more socially responsible. High standards for Loan Officer licensing, ability to repay requirements and accountability require all lenders to do business like I always have.
In the future, I expect to see balance restored. Whereas credit standards were too loose before 2008 and too tight after, they are returning to middle ground. Banks, mortgage companies and individual Loan Officers are now accountable for originating quality loans necessary for economic recovery and neighborhood stability.
What are the top 3 misconceptions people have about the home loan process?
1. Better qualified applicants are required to provide less documentation – FALSE. Pre-mortgage meltdown, there were a variety of mortgage programs available for a wide range on qualification profiles. Financial reform increased documentation requirements for everyone. No matter what your credit score is, how much money you earn, how much money you have in the bank or how much equity you will have in the home, verification detail has gone to the other extreme.
2. Technology necessarily increases processing efficiency – FALSE. Although technology provides faster, safe and secure information transfer, home loan processing is a complicated process. Unless the technology is backed up with competent, dedicated people, your loan application can fall into a black hole of no-respond automated email messages, computer glitches, incomplete documentation and massive confusion.
3. Pre-approval guarantees mortgage commitment – FALSE. All pre-approvals are NOT equal. The minimum requirement to put in most home purchase offers is an automated underwriting system (AUS) approval. The consumer enters financial information, pulls a credit report and authorizes a computer analysis of input. AUS findings do not account for special circumstances, underwriting standards for income calculation or user error. Without an expert loan officer's recommendation, digital pre-approval offers the seller little confidence in the buyer's ability to close as agreed.
What can borrowers do to insure a smooth mortgage underwriting process?
When applying for a mortgage, it’s important to remember the loan processing experience is a team effort. The first step is to find an experienced Loan Officer that genuinely cares about you, not just their pay check. When you call, do they respond promptly? Do they spend time getting to know your circumstances and future goals? Do they answer your questions in a way that you can understand? Do they brush you off if you’re not ready to buy or do they help you prepare?
Once you’ve selected your Loan Officer, cooperate with requests. The mortgage process is highly documented. Loan Officers are required to ask questions and review documentation that may seem irrelevant to you, but are necessary for approval. A good loan officer will explain underwriting rationale for the request, but the lender cannot waive these requirements.
Promptly provide any paperwork required. That is essential to smooth mortgage underwriting. The loan production team will review everything and often ask for more clarifying information to minimize underwriting conditions. Realize additional requests for information indicates an attentive and knowledgeable team working with you to close your loan quickly.
Always keep in contact with your loan production team. Your Loan Officer is your advocate. Call anytime you have questions or concerns about anything in the process. We can often correct issues before they become problems and delays. We are often available well after business hours and on the weekend.
Make sure you understand everything. There’s no such thing as a stupid question. Although mortgage professionals may use unfamiliar jargon, it is our job to explain it in terms YOU understand.
What do you enjoy doing most in your spare time when you are not helping people with their home loans?
My passion is producing and performing empowering music. I own a record company that specializes in personal and global transformation, an edgy brand of the Positive Mental Attitude industry. I'm a member of the Positive Imperative, Positive Music Association and Artists for a Better World.
Entertainment is a powerful tool that sets the mood, shapes perspective and incites action. A lot of commercial entertainment leaves us feeling angry, weak and hopeless. My goal is to encourage people to intentionally select entertainment that makes them feel better.
I released my first album and am in the process of recording the second. I perform live, grant radio, television and written interviews and maintain an internet presence.
When I retire, my goal is to set up a non-profit organization specializing in producing, performing and recording original, uplifting rock opera/musical productions about LOCAL issues using only LOCAL talent.
Tell us something that makes you unique or something wacky, yet interesting about you?
I look at my work as a vehicle to serve humanity, no matter what I do. In mortgage origination, my music career and the way I interact with society, I see opportunities to make the world a better place. As I look back on my career, I see personal empowerment as a consistent theme.
I believe business has a right to exist to the extent it increases value to individuals and society. In the mortgage industry as a commissioned loan officer, this translates into sometimes telling customers "No, it is not a good time for you to refinance" or "Yes, we have a program that will work for you now, but if you do a few things, you may qualify for a better interest rate in 90 days". Because my business strategy is to develop and maintain long term relationships that provide repeat business and personal referrals, I'd rather do what is right for YOU than provide a service that isn't in your best interest. (Isn't that the way business is supposed to work?)