Featured Industry Leader: Helga James, President-Elect, Alabama Mortgage Professionals Association – NMP Skip to main content

Featured Industry Leader: Helga James, President-Elect, Alabama Mortgage Professionals Association

Phil Hall
Oct 11, 2016

Helga James is president of Gulf Shores, Ala.-based Barr Group Mortgage and president-elect of the Alabama Mortgage Professionals Association (AMPA). National Mortgage Professional Magazine recently spoke with her about her work with the state’s trade group.

How and why did you get involved with AMPA?
I have been involved with AMPA for about 10 years or so. As a small business owner, it is so important to stay on top of the new rules and regulations. Having an organization that brings in great speakers and helps keeps us informed of the new things in our industry/profession is so important.

A few years ago, I decided to go to Washington, D.C. for the NAMB Legislative & Regulatory Conference. I could really see how being involved is so important. I have always been proud to be an American; however, when you actually see how it all works and know you can help make a difference in your industry, it motivates you to be even more involved.

Being in a group of your peers really helps you understand you are not the only one. You have a support system to help you weather the storms. Think about it … how could anyone survive TRID without a network of people to help guide you?

Why do you feel members of the mortgage profession in your state join AMPA?
How can they not join? AMPA provides amazing continuing education classes. I have done CE every year for more years than I would like to admit, and AMPA, by far, has the best classes. AMPA also provides opportunity and assistance to new loan officers wanting to get in to the business. There are trade shows to meet industry partners, special events when there are topics important to the industry, and we have a close connection with NAMB.

What role does your association play in the state legislative and regulatory environment?
AMPA works hard to get the word out for the changes that are happening. When the new TRID laws came into play, we had the CFPB come and talk with us. We received resources that are much needed, along with e-mail addresses and phone numbers of people we could ask questions of.

As a small business owner, I cannot afford to have a legal staff. I have to stay on top of the rules and regulations, and AMPA provides the resources that I need to do that.

We have a great relationship with the State Banking Department, and they frequently come and talk to us about changes that are coming or have just been made.

At the moment, there is a three percent points and cap rule that we have been working hard to fight. In Alabama, our median loan amount is around the $120,000 range. That means that half of the loans we do are less than that.

For example: If a borrower wants to purchase a $60,000 house, the company doing the underwriting will charge around $800. If the points and fees are capped at three percent, the mortgage broker would only be allowed to make $1,000. From that $1,000, they have to pay the loan officer typically one percent or $600. That leaves $400 for the company. Out of that $400, the company has to pay “to keep the lights on.” Many pay health insurance benefits, processors to work on the files, etc., and it makes it very hard to stay in business with this model.

As a result, many companies have rules that won’t allow them to do less than an $80,000 loan. They cannot stay in business doing smaller loans because they lose money on those loans. This, in turn, has caused issues for lower income housing.

NAMB and AMPA have worked hard to explain this to Congress by going to Washington, D.C. every year and meeting with our representatives. There is a bill, HR 3393, that we have been pushing hard to get approved, the Mortgage Fairness Act.

What do you see as your most significant accomplishments with the association?
Well, I am in the “learning” stages right now. I will take over as AMPA president next year. It has been wonderful to learn from current AMPA President Erin Tatum and Past President Linda McCoy, and hope I can follow in her big shoes.

I was part of the delegation for the state of Alabama that went to Washington, D.C. to lobby against the Biggers-Waters Act. Had that passed, national flood insurance would not have been subsidized by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This would have caused so many issues for people. I live on the Gulf Coast, but I spoke with people in the Gadsden, Ala. area where they have creeks and rivers and people would not have been able to afford their homes without the NFIP flood insurance. There was a man with a VA loan on a $50,000 house, if he did not have NFIP flood insurance, he would not have been able to keep making his house payment and he would have been foreclosed on. We met with most of our Congressmen and that bill did not pass that night. That was a big win that made me feel like we did our part for our borrowers. 

As the state affiliate for NAMB in Alabama, what do you feel that adds to your association and towards the overall agenda for the mortgage profession nationwide?
NAMB is amazing! They do so much for our industry. My personal favorite is the Legislative & Regulatory Conference in D.C. Members of Congress come and tell you about things they have seen and learned, and the FHA and VA come and speak with you about changes coming to those programs. The CFPB comes and talks about issues that they have seen. You learn so much and you really get a chance to affect some change in our industry.

NAMB will come in and talk with AMPA about our issues, and we are very lucky to have Linda McCoy, who is a board member with both NAMB and AMPA to keep us updated.

How would you define your state's housing market?
I think we are doing pretty well in Alabama. More people are coming into the industry, which is a sign of growth. Home values have done well after the recession. Zillow predicts 3.4 percent growth in our state over the next year. I think the future is bright for the mortgage business in Alabama.

Phil Hall is managing editor of National Mortgage Professional Magazine. He may be reached by e-mail at [email protected].

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