Picture it! Providence, 1994. I was 19, a freshman in college and just met Kim, my future wife. We wanted some supplemental income to help support our dinner dates at Chili’s, so Kim found a part-time position at Tower Financial Group in Cranston, RI. Believe it or not, my journey in mortgages began as a telemarketer. It paid $8.50 an hour (double the minimum wage at that time) plus the opportunity to make commissions!! This was big money back then, especially for hungry college kids. Little did I know I was falling in love, not only with Kim but also with the mortgage biz.
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. As soon as I got my driver’s license, I started a disc jockey business with my best friend in high school. I loved the idea that the harder I worked the more successful I could be. At just 16 – 17 years old I was going on consultation appointments, meeting with couples and walking out with $500 deposit checks! My first mentor, John Willard, a real old school wedding photographer, showed me the ropes about sales and that the key to success is excellent customer service. He would say “you have to do everything better than the other guy does it”. The DJ business was booming, in the end we were getting over $1000 a wedding and we made quite an impact on the local wedding scene.
Establishing relationships with people and making them smile was one of the best experiences of my life. I learned some good old-fashioned “people” and “sales” skills while managing the DJ business; but it was the job at Tower Financial Group that had the biggest impact on my life. Kim found the job at Tower via the Ol’ Providence Journal Help Wanted section; one of the only few ways you could find a job back then. It wasn’t easy to get started. I was practically 10 years younger than any loan officer at Tower and still in college, so I had to prove I was worthy of the opportunity. I did so by immediately becoming the top application taker, then began my way right up the ladder there and in the mortgage industry. Ironically, what finally made the difference was when the owner hired us to DJ the Tower Christmas party. After he saw all our equipment and how professional we were, he came up to me at the end of the night and said, “Okay kid, I’ll give you a shot. Come in early Monday, ready to learn.”
I was very fortunate to receive some amazing training at Tower. Just like anything in life, it’s all about a strong foundation. I was trained by Christina Fetta, I called her “the mortgage goddess”. She taught me everything about mortgages, the old school way. Of utmost importance and still what I preach today, she taught me that taking a good mortgage application is the key to a successful process. She also taught me to pay attention to the details and to do all the little things correctly every step of the way. To this day I still use the same HP 12C financial calculator. It’s almost 30 years old. Talk about old school!
Mortgage professionals today need a computer to function; back then we did everything by hand, in person, and mailed packages overnight. I remember that mortgage rates were just under 9%. The first time we saw a rate under 8%, it was as if a miracle just occurred! Speaking of miracles, I began to feel the epiphany of helping people. What is better than helping someone achieve their dreams?
I was motivated and successful at Tower and within 6 months became a top producing loan officer. I did well because I love helping people. To this day, I absolutely love that whether it is a purchase or refinance I feel like I can make a positive difference in someone’s life. I stayed with Tower for about another year before I was given an opportunity for more growth and income at Mansfield Mortgage in Lincoln, RI. Mansfield had some extremely talented professionals, many still in the business today. I learned from the best and I soaked it all up like a sponge, always knowing that I wanted my own company someday. I realized what worked and more importantly what didn’t work.
Now about 5 years later in 2000. Within a year, I married the love of my life, we started a family, and I established my own licensed mortgage company in Pawtucket, RI., Anchor Financial Mortgage, Inc. We were fortunate to find our home office at One Lonsdale Avenue in Pawtucket. It’s a great location for our office, right off 95 and accessible for all our clients. We were initially just licensed in RI and MA; but are now also licensed in CT, ME, NH, NY and FL.
Now it hasn’t always been roses and butterflies, there have been many ups and downs. When we first started things were pretty good, as interest rates decreased. Unfortunately, around the year 2004 people got greedy and that’s when all these crazy no income verification loans and option arm “pick a payment” loans came on the scene. I’ll never forget the first time I met with World Savings Bank in 2004 and learned about the option arm. When the Rep left, I said, “Well that is the end of mortgages as we know it. Sure enough, a couple years later, the bottom completely fell out because of all these bad mortgages. While we did close our share of no income verification loans for self-employed borrowers, we never closed an option ARM nor overstated income for a wage earner borrower (liar loans as I called them), as that stuff should have been illegal. It certainly caused one of the largest financial crises in history and we were hit hard.
It wasn’t an easy time, we racked up almost $200,000 in personal debt trying to keep everything afloat, and were navigating the waters, adapting to stricter regulations (i.e., net worth requirements) mostly meant to manage the bigger financial lenders in the industry. I refused to give up knowing that people need homes, and believing our business would have to come back. It was difficult and I hung on by my fingernails. This was the time that we became a lender, because brokers became the scapegoat for Wall Street. I went back to basics, focused on what made me successful in the first place, good old fashioned outstanding customer service. In fact, it makes me proud to say that my business relationships and my loyal client base helped pull us through the mortgage crisis and we came out stronger on the other end.
Fast forward to today, 23 years established in business, Anchor Financial Mortgage is stronger than ever. I am blessed to have the best crew in the mortgage business. It’s taken me over 20 years to put together this group of All-Stars but I did it. We call them “The Dream Team” and we have in house underwriting and processing. More important, my customer service philosophy has worked; for 22 years we have been registered with the better business bureau and we haven’t had one single complaint against us! My vision has come true and I am honored to we have helped thousands to achieve the American Dream! Our team, combined with access to every mortgage program available, makes this possible for our clients, every single day.
Most important of all, Kim and my three beautiful girls are doing great! Love and Marriage, and Mortgages. What’s next? Or as I often say “Who’s next?!”
Joseph M. Baptista
MLO # 14018
Anchor Financial Mortgage, Inc. NMLS #2471
One Lonsdale Avenue
Pawtucket, RI 02860
Email: [email protected]