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Mortgage brokerage builds base by putting the community first

Posted: February 24, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 24, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Fred Arnold, left, and Fred Kreger with members of the American Family Funding team.

 

Practicing a servant leadership business model, American Family Funding built its business by putting Santa Clarita Valley residents’ needs first when helping them as a full-service mortgage brokerage firm.

“Our philosophy is that, whether you use us or not, we want to help you make sound financial decisions based on your long- and short-term financial goals,” said owner Fred Arnold.

Many folks hit hard times during the recession through no fault of their own, said Branch Manager and American Family Funding Advisor, Fred Kreger.

As a result, some find they don’t qualify for a mortgage today, but the firm doesn’t just “hang up on them,” he said. It created a “Fresh Start” program to help people get set up financially, so they can move forward and ensure that their future is intact.

“We can get some people into a new property only one year out of that short sale, foreclosure or bankruptcy,” Kreger said. “Our continuous commitment is to our community. We can get people into a home to satisfy their goals.”

To do so, American Family Funding takes advantage of programs readily available that many people are unaware of; and, perhaps more importantly, it has innovated some of its own custom-designed programs to get people on their way to home ownership.

The culture that has been instilled in everyone who works with the firm is to ensure that clients know that the firm has their best interests at heart. As a result, they end up referring their family, friends and neighbors.

“We’ll stick with them through the process whether it’s their first home or next,” Kreger said.

Begun in 1993, the company that employs 18 people was moved from Granada Hills to Santa Clarita in 1996.
With his team, the company worked to reinvent the mortgage market, he said.

“One of the biggest challenges buyers are facing today is getting their offer accepted when there are multiple offers on the table,” Arnold said. “So we came up with a program called “Keys On Time.”

The company put together a special team of underwriters, compliance auditors, loan document drawers and mortgage advisors to pre-qualify and approve the buyer – guaranteeing any seller that the buyer can close within 18 days or less from when the company submits their loan for approval.

The Keys On Time program allows buyers to remove the loan approval contingency from their offer, making them more attractive to the sellers in a competitive home buying market, according to Arnold.

“It essentially makes them equal to a cash buyer,” said Kreger, who makes sure the company knows every product out there in the market or it creates its own to suit buyers’ needs.

The mortgage brokerage firm’s success can be attributed to the philosophy that Arnold said envelopes his organization.

“If you’re going to take from the community, you better give back to the community,” Arnold said. “When your values are clear, your decisions are easy.”

The company also operates very nimbly, he said. It runs profitably so that it can survive, and it makes quick adjustments to the market so it doesn’t go out of business. That agility included moving the company twice in 2007 and 2008 to survive.

“When we had a downturn in the market, we adjusted employee schedules and ran very lean, so we could keep prices lower,” Arnold said. “If we can’t make the decisions, how can we give advice to our clients?”

Crediting great people who were willing to take reductions at the company to stay in business, Arnold said the business has grown because of the relationships those people maintained in the community. It didn’t rely on low interest rates to stay afloat.

“We relied on our relationships because they’ll always be there to keep our business growing,” he said.

Experts on the ever-changing regulations, the company often hosts quick business and lunch seminars that help others grow their business. The firm even had two competitors at one of their seminars, and that’s fine by Arnold because it helps to ensure that others in the community are successful, he said.

“Fred’s (Kreger) an expert on the compliance side; he can bring perspective to the market second to no one. He’s even been asked to meet with our elected officials in Washington D.C.,” Arnold said. “Then I will talk about ways to grow relationships in the community. I’m passionate about building relationships.”

American Family Funding takes one other fresh approach – and that is with the people it hires. There are very few people in the business; we need more (loan) originators as others retire and there are no training schools, or programs that the firm is aware of that do this, Arnold said.

“Instead of going after people in the industry, we started our own program,” Kreger said. “We bring people on and teach them the technical aspects of how to originate a loan and also teach them how to be successful.”

Training people from the ground up also allows the company to instill its values and ethics of how to treat itsclients.

“To us, that’s the second part of being a loan originator,” Kreger said.

Everyone who works with American Family Funding is also encouraged to participate in nonprofits throughout the region, Arnold said. He personally has a weak spot for veterans and seniors.

“A lot of clients have come to us because of those relationships,” Kreger said.

Referring to leadership by example, Arnold said it fits with the company’s philosophy to always be of service to others.

“As long as you’re continuously helping other people, the business will come to you,” he said. “People see who you are, that you care.”

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