How long have you been in the mortgage business and what inspired you to get into it?
I have been involved with the mortgage industry since 1988. I started in the business as a real estate appraiser because of the flexibility of the job and I like the analytical process of developing market analysis from market data. Since 1988 I have worked in operations, underwriting, origination and loan review and auditing.
Who is your typical customer and what questions do they typically have?
My typical customer comes from my referral base and most of them refer their clients to me because I take the time to guide them through the process. Most of the time, it is the more difficult files with complicated financials and credit history. Again, I like the challenge of putting together a deal much like putting together a puzzle.
What specific steps do you use to help your customers find the best home loan for them?
I ask them what their short term and long term goals are. Typically if they are first time home buyers, they almost always say that they are going to live in the house forever. What I try to do is to let them know that “life” changes and at every change and life stages there typically is a housing decision involved. Whether they are going to have a family or if they are just starting out, look at where they see themselves in five years. The average time frame for a home owner to stay in the house has been 5 to 7 years. It may be a bit longer or shorter for some people but that is the national average.
How long have you been in the mortgage business? What awards have you won?
Total time in the business has been over 30 years! The awards I have won have been mostly satisfied customers that refer their friends and family to me!
What are the pros and cons of a fixed rate mortgage versus an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM)?
It really depends on the individual. Most of my clients who are more risk adverse, no matter where they are in their life stage, typically will want a fixed rate mortgage. It gives them a sense of security knowing what their payments will be. Others who may be a bit more sophisticated or move up buyers understand that they will not be in the house forever and will look at an ARM because they like the lower rate and they know that they will be out of the house before the rate changes.
Tell us about a specific challenging borrowing situation and how you got the mortgage closed and funded.
This was a very unique situation with one of my clients during the time when we had the financial crisis and their house values were much lower. This client came to me wanting to refinance her house because she was retired and had only 5 years left on her mortgage but could not refinance because she did not show enough income. I had to jump through hoops to get the credit risk management to see that it makes common sense to allow her to refinance because her payments was going to go down substantially and that we were at very little risk because she had a lot of equity. We were finally able to use the special Fannie Mae refinance program (HARP) to help her solve her problem.
What advice would you give new or first time home buyers?
I would say first, get educated. There is a lot of information available in the public domain but sometimes it is too much information and they get confused. Secondly, I would recommend to make sure you know what your credit history is and thirdly, understand that the lender is looking at the “ability to repay” very carefully, so make sure your income is documentable and shows as least a two to three year history and has the ability to continue for the next three years.
Tell us about a mortgage product that consumers may not be aware of?
The hottest program we have available right now is our Double Match program. It is a little twist on the Freddie Mac Home Possible (3 percent) down program where the buyer will need to come up with 1 percent of the down payment and we will match it with a 2 percent grant. It does not have to be paid back, however, there are some restrictions on who can qualify based on their credit and income but it is an awesome program!
How has the mortgage industry changed since you started, and what would you expect in the future?
The industry has changed a lot in terms of documentation and consumer disclosures when it comes to making sure that the consumer understands what they are getting into. Since the financial crisis, many claimed that they were not advised or aware of the terms and condition of the loan and so therefore they were taken advantage of. The industry has come back with much more restrictive guidelines and more importantly, more disclosures up front so the consumer is aware of what they are getting into.
What part of the home loan process do customers find most difficult and how do you help them through it?
I think the most difficult process is the collection of documents and data on their personal credit worthiness and stability. The process is more documentation focused because of the more stringent guidelines so it may seem to be redundant and somewhat obvious however, it is all about making sure that the file is fully documented and solid. I try to help them anticipate what is needed up front when I do the pre-approval so the final formal loan process is almost a non-event.
What are the top 3 misconceptions people have about the home loan process?
First, it is not about how much money they make or how much money they have in the bank but how we are able to document it. If we cannot source the money, we cannot use it. Secondly, even if you had an 800 credit score, it is just one of several components to the credit decision process, all other factors, including job stability, income stability and the actual house they are buying since that is the collateral the banks are leaning on if things go wrong down the road, that are also very important. Finally, what they experienced a few years ago with another property they took out a loan on may very differently today because the guidelines are constantly changing and the requirements are different. Because they have purchased a home before and taken a loan out before does not mean that the process and requirements are the same today.
What 2 or 3 mobile apps would you recommend for home buyers or house hunters, and why? What Smart Apps do you recommend your customers use for the house hunting process?
The smartest app I would recommend is one that you connect with an experienced agent. No app is going to replace an agent’s knowledge of the market and their ability to help you put together a strong offer or a strong listing. I know that there are a lot of tools out there but I have to emphasize the fact that experience and knowledge is key in this market and no tool is going to replace that.
What resources could you recommend that borrowers use to learn more about the mortgage process and how to ensure a successful home closing?
My suggestion would be to look at the Making Home Affordable website. Although this is a website that was created and continue to be a site that provides a lot of information for homeowners in trouble. It is a great resource of what to watch out for.
What can borrowers do to insure a smooth mortgage underwriting process?
If they can follow our direction and provide the documentation and explanations we need up front, it will make the entire process much less stressful. We have seen a lot of different situations and client’s credit profile so we can match them up with the right program and we know what to anticipate with each program, what the underwriters are looking for so as long as they can follow our direction it makes life much easier for all parties involved.
Are you active in any local associations or community groups, and at what level? What goals and/or success have you helped these groups achieve?
I am involved in several community organizations include the Asian Real Estate Association of America and the various local Board of Realtors. I have served on the Board in various capacities and the goal for me was to help these organizations be visible and look to for consumers to find answers and assistance.
Are you active in any fundraising organizations? What goals and/or success have you helped them achieve?
I have been involved in several organizations that help the less fortunate and the homeless and have been very rewarding for me personally because I feel like there is so much that we can do to help raise the awareness that the less fortunate. They are no different than who we are but maybe just one unfortunate incident away and that we should lend a helping hand to bring them back on their feet and be productive and rebuild their self-esteem.
Summary of where you grew up: family, affiliations, college, high school, etc.
I was fortunate enough to have grown up overseas in Asia and have had the experience of an Eastern Culture with a Western education. Asia will always be my heritage but I am a global citizen and I constantly remind myself that we live in a fast-paced global society.
What provides you with the most satisfaction in your job as a Loan Officer?
Home ownership is such a rewarding an empowering experience that helping people buy their first home gives me the most satisfaction. It is the American Dream although it is such a clichés but it really is something that much families hope to achieve.
What do you enjoy doing most in your spare time when you are not helping people with their home loans?
I enjoy spending time with friends and family and I enjoy entertaining and cooking. I have been fortunate to have had a father who was very much into good food and good company and I enjoy sharing it with my friends and family.
Tell us something that makes you unique or something wacky, yet interesting about you?
I grew up overseas and since I have been in the U.S. for over 40 years I am very much westernized but I am bilingual and most people are surprised that I speak Chinese fluently and it is a true representation of who I am….a conglomeration of cultures!