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A holistic approach to mortgage lending

When selecting a mortgage lender it’s important to find a reputable one, or better yet, ask around for recommendations. This is how homebuyers tend to find Valley Mortgage – friendly referrals based on past, proven performances. The company has been around since 1983 and thus, seen many changes in the industry’s regulations as well as approaches to lending. According to Brian Johnson, President of Valley Mortgage, “I always take a different approach when compared to most bankers. I try to get an idea of what a customer is comfortable paying on a monthly basis, what they have for income as well as monthly debts so that we can work backwards into the right kind of loan program. It’s important to tailor it to their particular situation.”

Johnson’s holistic approach permeates the philosophy of lending at Valley Mortgage, which makes them a popular choice among homebuyers. For example, Johnson had a client struggling with debt who wanted to see what impact moving to a new house would have on the household cash flow. In the end, the numbers showed that the client could pay off nearly $30,000 in credit cards by moving. “The client sold their house and bought a new place. They even had enough left over for a down payment. They were feeling an incredible amount of relief after that,” says Johnson.

A strong, collaborative team

Valley Mortgage benefits from Johnson’s team of strong loan officers that includes Angela Searls and Kristin Sevald, who, like Johnson, care about helping their clients fulfill their dreams of homeownership. They specialize in finding the right programs for homebuyers. Both Searls and Sevald bring extensive experience to the table to better serve their clients.

Searls started out in customer service and sales before finding her passion for mortgage lending. “It’s an honor to assist families and individuals in making their dreams come true.  I take great pride in helping people finance the greatest purchase of their lives.  Every person who walks into our office has a story to tell. I’m the lucky one who gets to hear it,” she says.  In order to learn the ins and outs of the lending business Searls earned her XINNIX Certified Originator (XCO) designation, which is held by less than half of 1 percent of mortgage officers.

Sevald’s previous history in the banking industry and as a loan underwriter set the stage for her work with first time homebuyers. “I love helping people. I love seeing the excitement of buyers finding out they are preapproved to buy their first home or get into their dream home,” she says. Sevald’s tactic with clients is pragmatic – educate homebuyers so that they can confidently select their best mortgage options.


A holistic approach

Sevald and Searls stand strongly behind Valley Mortgage’s “holistic” approach. Since clients come in with differing levels and understanding in regards to credit, it’s important to look at the whole picture. Clients may come in ready to purchase a house but may need to work first on improving their credit scores. In these instances, Sevald gives suggestions on how to do so.   Sevald strives to walk with her clients through the entire process of home buying from application to moving in. “For many clients, this is their first home, so keeping them involved and up-to-date is key to keeping them happy,” she says.

Buying a home can be extremely stressful. Searls considers it part of her job to make the process easier for her clients. She does this by anticipating any pitfalls that could cause a loan to fall apart. She says, “Each client is important, and my goal is to make sure they achieve their dream of owning a home.”

Advice for homebuyers

The first and foremost thing to keep in mind when looking for a mortgage lender is to choose someone local. Sevald and Searls are both adamant on that point. “When looking for a mortgage lender, local is ALWAYS best. You want to be able to meet with and talk to your mortgage lender. Local underwriting is also key. You want the person reviewing your file to be familiar with the community you are purchasing a home in,” says Sevald.

Searls also believes strongly in finding a lender that is both a personality and a professional fit. The lender should be readily available and put homebuyers at ease during the stressful process. It’s important that the mortgage lender returns calls and emails promptly. They should also be able to explain the process and loan programs in detail. All in all, Searls is clear when she says, “Don’t settle.” It’s worth taking the time to find the right mortgage lender.

It’s important that homebuyers think about the long term needs of homeownership. According to Searls, “Have a financial cushion for unexpected expenses. I always worry when a potential buyer wants to buy a home and has no savings to fall back on.” Though pertinent, not everyone has the luxury of a savings to fall back on. People looking for more affordable housing can still call on Valley Mortgage.

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Housing for all

Valley Mortgage assists those who don’t qualify for mortgages the first time they apply. In fact, Valley Mortgage was the winner of the 2014 Champion of Affordable Housing for ND Housing Finance Agency. The lender’s first strategy for helping those seeking more affordable options is to provide them with guidance to get their credit back on track. Johnson remembers one instance when a young man wanted to purchase a house but had never owned a credit card. Thus, he lacked the requisite credit score. Johnson advised the client to open a credit card to establish a credit score. The client will be eligible to apply for a mortgage once his credit is reported for at least six months.

Valley Mortgage not only focuses on a holistic approach to lending, but they embrace a collaborative team approach to addressing client needs. Sevald appreciates the supportive and family oriented atmosphere at Valley Mortgage. “I like the people – it feels like family. Everyone is willing to help whether it’s with a client, a computer problem, a late night question…someone is always there to support you.”

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