I didn’t come into mortgage lending by the standard route. I cut my teeth by learning the ins and outs of the loan industry from behind the scenes. In 2004, I worked for Central Pacific Mortgage as a receptionist, handling files and doing data input. When rates went up and volume dropped, there were a slew of layoffs. I was fortunate to stay in the industry and begin working for Chase Subprime in shiny new offices off Crow Canyon in San Ramon. There I learned of a huge sexual harassment suit coming onto the company; I bailed, leaving for a position with SCME Mortgage Bankers. It was there I saw the implosion of the lending industry firsthand.
In 2006, it wasn’t unusual to see CPAs advertising fake W-2s on Craigslist. Fraud was rampant and SCME was party to that mess. In 2007, my company had a meeting announcing that we were safe from layoffs and one month later the office was shut down. As soon as I got picked up by Stearns Lending, I discovered I was pregnant and was again laid off. Fortunately, I had a side hustle of doing taxes to keep me afloat. I got a job at Wells Fargo in their Business Customers division and watched the fake account scandal happen there. Having witnessed so much unscrupulous behavior, I was constantly searching for a place where I could grow and feel comfortable. I had a solid background in funding and documents, but I wanted to do loans. I worked for Bank of America Mortgage for two years until they cut my bonus structure. I reached out to my old boss from Stearns, looking for a solid job working loans. I began working as a jumbo loan processor dealing with multimillion-dollar clients. These were not standard loans, and the requirements were in depth.
By this time in my career, I felt safe enough to invest in a home of my own. My husband and I had saved up $9000 and foolishly believed that would be enough for a down payment. I realized I was in this business and had little knowledge of all it took to buy a house. I wasn’t aware of all the programs available to home buyers. Through my company, I was able to secure a first-time buyer down payment assistance loan that afforded me a home to call my own. This victory led me to wanting to become an underwriter, but I instead became a loan officer assistant. Later, I got my license and went full steam ahead as a loan officer.
I am now the branch manager for Mason McDuffie here in Brentwood. My focus is on helping educate clients on the entire homebuying process. It is not easy. There’s greater regulation and required percentages in place that calculate precisely what loan amount you qualify for. Passing fraudulent information through this new system is near impossible. In 2006, we were giving mortgages to people who shouldn’t have been buying a home. We are much more responsible now. Overextending people was what brought on the housing market crash, at least we’ve learned from it. Our number one goal now is to get people into something they can afford today, so they can be where they want in the future. I am a prime example. I sold my home, financed through down payment assistance, and was able to leverage the equity to buy my dream house in Brentwood in 2019.
Most loan officers do not come from my background in processing, underwriting, and docs. I have worked on the pieces that create the entire process. I can help solve the puzzle of how to make that money you worked so hard to save, equate to homeownership.
Finally, we have come to a time in this industry where lending runs smoother and more responsibly. My office is busier than ever, as people are recognizing the benefit of securing a place to live for years to come. With just a little extra knowledge to help navigate the loan process, I can help make the American dream of owning real estate and passing on generational wealth happen for many in my community–that’s what makes this career gratifying.
Photos by Muhammad Saadiq