PERSON OF THE WEEK: Mortgage lenders must make it their mission to actively reach out to underserved markets, including low-to-moderate income communities. Lenders have the ability to work with the underserved to not only get them into homes but also to help them keep their homes.
Gateway Mortgage Group, a division of Gateway First Bank, recently opened a new mortgage center in North Tulsa, Okla., which will be the only full-service mortgage center of its kind focused on the housing finance needs of residents in the area.
For the past 20 years, Gateway has been committed to strengthening communities. The new center will provide expanded outreach to a traditionally underserved market.
MortgageOrb interviewed Tina Johnson, North Tulsa native and mortgage sales manager of the new Gateway mortgage center, to gain a better understanding of how lenders can serve communities in need.
Q: How can mortgage lenders improve their relationships and be more active community partners?
Johnson: Being an active community partner is integral for understanding how to better serve customers. To comprehend community needs, lenders should collaborate with community residents, community businesses, local political leaders, area representatives and community development organizations to find solutions for the unique economic challenges and opportunities facing their area.
Along with collaborative community outreach, lenders can improve their relationships by investing in and giving back to their community. This can look like advocating for more affordable housing or partnering with financial institutions, community organizations and governmental agencies to help promote local economic development. Becoming a more active community partner can also involve volunteering with and investing in local or national nonprofit organizations that align with the community’s needs and your core values. Lenders who go above and beyond for their community can improve the lives of families and their local economy.
Q: What are some strategies mortgage lenders can implement to help low-to-moderate income individuals in their communities?
Johnson: It is imperative to know the specific needs of the communities we serve. It is essential to provide education and resources by connecting community leaders and facilitating regular seminars with experts in the industry. Explaining the mortgage process and benefits of becoming a homeowner empowers potential homebuyers. Working with approved non-profit organizations, Rotary Clubs, local chambers, and resilience coordinators throughout the city is an effective way to help low-to-moderate income families.
Q: You mentioned greater access to mortgage credit. What does that entail?
Johnson: Greater access to mortgage credit begins with educating the community on the mortgage process. It is important for potential homeowners to be knowledgeable and informed about every aspect of the homebuying process. Greater access to mortgage credit involves conveying available products and programs to the community. This may also involve identifying new opportunities to obtain mortgage credit in areas of revitalization. Down payment assistance products, along with renovation loan programs, also provide assistance with meeting affordable homeownership needs in the community.
Lenders must be actively engaged in providing resources to help customers understand the financial aspects of homeownership. By arming customers with information, it assists them with the big decision around becoming a homeowner.
Q: What kind of financial literacy resources should mortgage lenders offer?
Johnson: Financial educational services will assist first-time homebuyers, as well as the community in general, better understand the benefits, burdens and responsibilities of homeownership. Equipping homeowners with the knowledge to make the right decisions when it comes to their mortgage is invaluable and can keep individuals and families in their homes.
Mortgage lenders can offer financial literacy classes through the FDIC’s Money Smart Financial Literacy curriculum. It provides information on a wide variety of topics including budgeting and credit score repair.