Burrowing Into Borrowers' Brains

Getting insight into borrowers' needs builds better relationships and more closings

Sarah Wolak
Sarah Wolak
Burrowing into borrowers' brains

Connection over Transaction

Take Josh Welch for example. Welch bought a house at the tail end of 2020 when they were flying off the shelves. U.S. housing gained about $2.5 trillion in value in 2020, and Welch took a risk by competing for his Connecticut home. He went through Freedom Credit Union — based in Springfield, Mass., — and used a loan officer named Lisa Mish. “She’s actually a colleague of my father’s,” Welch explained. “I chose to work with that credit union because they don’t sell off mortgages to a third party, so I knew who would have insight into my mortgage file at all times.”

Welch said that despite the tumultuous market, Mish was responsive and proactive, especially when it came to putting in offers. “Keep in mind that it was still pandemic times, where if you saw and liked a house you needed to put in an offer on the same day,” Welch said. “Lisa was on top of helping us with letters of intent to each of the offers we made. And she was awesome with helping me get a new preapproval when I changed jobs during the process.”

Welch says that he looked at 12 homes and put in an offer on four. He said each separate offer was an emotional process and he was devastated when the third house he put an offer in on had sold. “It’s so easy to get discouraged,” he said. “Even though the mortgage process itself was straightforward, buying was incredibly difficult and stressful.”

Welch said that even though Mish was swamped with other borrowers, she always made his loan feel important. “I would 100% go back to her if I bought another house today, I wouldn’t do anything differently,” Welch affirmed. “Nowadays mortgages are online and don’t have relationships. But with Lisa, it’s now a lifelong connection instead of a transactional relationship.”

Josh Welch, homebuyer

Mish says that making time for Welch’s loan was difficult but not impossible. “At the time I worked with Josh, I had 50 loans in my pipeline,” she said. “I stayed up often til 2 or 3 in the morning just making sure my customers were comfortable and secure. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling burnt out then — everyone was.”

First-Time Borrower

For a newcomer to the housing market, buying a house is a stressor on its own. But securing a mortgage — especially as a young adult — is an entirely different playing field. Nicole LaRose, a native of Eastern Connecticut, decided to pursue an investment property purchase at just 22 years old. LaRose works at a local manufacturer and says that she met NorthStar Home Loan’s owner through community events that both of their companies participated in. “Growing up in a small town community is everything. I chose Jason Verraneault and NorthStar because I recognized their brand from contributing to community events that my employer was also involved in,” she explained. “Every time I ran across Jason and his team they carried themselves with such poise and professionalism [and] I knew I wanted to work with them when I started looking into real estate.”

LaRose said that her mortgage experience was a “breeze” and easy on her end after the initial steps of filling out a preapproval. “I applied for preapproval online and a team member from NorthStar reached out to me right away telling me exactly what they needed,” she said. “I felt like a lot of the work was taken off my hands and I was never left guessing. After I was under contract, my loan company did all the work behind the scenes and I rarely had to get involved, which was nice because there were other factors of the purchase that needed my full attention like what I needed to flip the property.”

But what she found was that NorthStar’s connections also came with her mortgage. “I’d say the familiarity between my loan company, Realtor, and contractor made the transaction so much easier. Going back to the small town aspect, my Realtor and contractor actually knew Jason from NorthStar and they had worked together multiple times,” she said. “It was like I had drafted a team of professionals that seamlessly worked together to help me succeed.”

LaRose’s loan was unconventional, too, which was why it was crucial that her transaction went smoothly. She applied for a HUD 203(k) loan which, according to HUD’s website, “enables homebuyers and homeowners to finance both the purchase (or refinancing) of a house and the cost of its rehabilitation through a single mortgage, or to finance the rehabilitation of their existing home.” 

Nicole LaRose, investment property owner

But LaRose said that if there was any difficulty with handling that loan, the NorthStar team didn’t seem to show it. “In my situation, the window of time between going under contract and closing was nearly three months, at no fault of my loan company,” she said. “This was a trying time for everyone involved but the NorthStar team never gave up and stayed persistent with me.”

Handling Unique Deals 

Jason Verranealt, LaRose’s loan officer, says that LaRose’s loan situation was a unique one that his team helped her navigate at the littlest cost possible. “She found a HUD-owned property, which means that the previous owner had an FHA loan and defaulted on that,” Verraneault explained. “HUD has a $100 down program instead of the normal 3.5% down payment, and we piggybacked that with a 203K loan for all the rehab and renovations.”

Verraneault says that with any customer, North Star’s goal is to get through all the tough paperwork and documentation at the beginning. “We also try and touch base with the realtors and the customer at least once a week for updates, even if the update is that things are still going smoothly,” he said. “We even invested in tech that sends automatic text updates during loan milestones such as when the appraisal goes through. It gives our customers peace of mind.”

For Mish, irregular loan or not, every borrower she works with wants the same traits out of her. “A customer’s main need is really knowing every step of their loan,” she said. “Whether it’s in the appraisal process or in underwriting, they want communication and more than that, they want to close the deal.”

Sarah Wolak
Sarah Wolak,
Staff Writer
This article was originally published in the NMP Magazine November 2023 issue.
Published on
Nov 02, 2023
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