Art Saitta is assistant vice president and residential business officer of Ridgewood Savings Bank, based in Ridgewood, N.Y. Ridgewood Savings Bank is a conventional mutual savings bank, founded in 1921 and now operates 35 branches across New York City's five boroughs, Long Island and Westchester County.
Saitta, who has 27 years of experience in mortgage lending, is part of the leadership of Ridgewood Savings Bank’s best-in-class mortgage team. To learn more, visit www.ridgewoodbank.com.
National Mortgage Professional Magazine recently sat down with Art to get an update on Ridgewood Savings Bank‘s mortgage operations.
NMP: Art, can you give our readers some background on how Ridgewood Savings Bank was founded and its business today?
Saitta: Ridgewood Savings Bank was founded in 1921 in Ridgewood, N.Y. when we opened our first branch, exactly where our headquarters stand today. Today, we are the largest mutual savings bank in New York State, with more than 750 employees and 35 branches and mortgage centers across New York City's five boroughs, Long Island and Westchester County. Our core business strategy remains the same—the development of our people to be best-in class, and in turn, for them to provide unsurpassed personal service to our customers.
NMP: How committed is Ridgewood Savings Bank to the mortgage business?
Saitta: Residential lending is one of the cornerstones of our success. Ridgewood Savings Bank has been committed to residential lending since its inception and we are a portfolio lender, except for State of New York Mortgage Agency (SONYMA) loans. We lend only within the communities we do business in because we have a direct interest in the success of those communities. We believe that since we understand the needs of the people who want to live in those communities, we can offer mortgage products to meet their local needs. In addition, since we thoroughly understand these communities, we have one of the lowest delinquency ratios in the country.
Ridgewood Savings Bank has been active in the mortgage broker community since 1994 and we have been dedicated to that industry by not only providing continuous service; but also, by taking an active role in the New York Association of Mortgage Professionals, the New York state affiliate of NAMB—The Association of Mortgage Professionals.
NMP: What makes Ridgewood Savings Bank unique to the mortgage business?
Saitta: First, our primary goal is to make loans that enhance a borrower’s life. It is not just about dollars and cents. We feel that our loans to qualified borrowers strengthen the communities they live and work in. We are a low fee, high service mortgage lender, where borrowers have direct access to underwriters and senior management. In addition, we do not use FICO scores to determine the results of a loan, unless it is a PMI loan or SONYMA loan. In the wholesale channel, we are best known for being a primary jumbo loan lender. In the retail channel, we are proud of our Community Outreach Program and our affordable loan products.
Second, Ridgewood Savings Bank never took part in sub-prime lending for the purposes of increasing income because we never wanted to risk our depositors’ money, which is why we have always been a financially strong lending institution.
NMP: What is the makeup of your client base?
Saitta: Our wholesale business consists of seasoned mortgage broker/bankers ranging from a two-person company, to companies considered to be some of the largest brokers/bankers in the country. We want solid business and it does not matter if a client submits one file a month or a dozen files a month, every file is a priority. Our retail business comes from existing borrowers, real estate agents, attorneys, financial planners, and referrals from our branch network.
NMP: What type of growth is Ridgewood Savings Bank experiencing in its retail and wholesale channels?
Saitta: In 2012, we broke all previous records for residential originations, and in 2013, we are projected to again be at record levels.
NMP: What would you say drives Ridgewood’s growth?
Saitta: Our wholesale business is known for our co-op and condominium loans and our clients have direct access to our approved appraisers. Mortgage brokers appreciate the ease of communication with our back-office and the direct involvement of senior management. Retail growth is being driven by our greater visibility within our communities and products that cater to the needs of the homebuying public. We also offer first-time homebuyer seminars that are very popular in our communities.
We respect the business of our mortgage broker clients and make certain that our retail mortgage consultants do not compete with broker clients. Brokers know that we do not change rates regularly. Our guidelines and forms are very accessible, and we offer free rate-lock extensions if rates have not increased or if a delay in closing took place due to our inability to meet their timeframe. Brokers know that we appreciate their loyalty and quality loans.
NMP: What is your outlook for the mortgage business next year?
Saitta: We are definitely witnessing a sellers’ market and see values increasing. In addition, we have begun to see new construction for condominiums AND the middle-priced market beginning to show confidence. Refinances, except for cash-out purposes, will be minimal, but we expect purchase business to increase. Rates will probably rise, but even with a rise in rates, we believe it will not impact the purchase market. I have been in the business for over 27 years and experienced fixed-rates at 16 percent and ARMs at 12.5 percent, and people still bought homes. People still believe in the American dream of homeownership, and want the best for themselves and loved ones. We directly help people achieve that dream and better their lives in the process.