Steven Woloszyk Expert Interview
Steven Woloszyk is a professional loan officer, and an expert at guiding first time buyers through the process of buying their first home.
Pattern of Excellence
Our primary goal with the Expert Interview series is to shine a light on professional problem solvers that have chosen the mortgage industry as their career.
If you have ever had the unfortunate experience of getting tricked into working with a call center mortgage lender, you will notice a night and day difference when talking to a professional loan officer like Steven Woloszyk.
We believe that once you are introduced to experts like Steven, you will be empowered with the knowledge of how a true professional works, and you can better avoid the trap of big box lenders trying to dump you into one of their call centers.
What I Learned About Steven
I had a couple of big take-aways from my conversation with Steven.
Probably first and foremost is Steven's passion for helping people. He truly cares, and treats his clients as though they are family.
It doesn't surprise me that Steven specializes in probably the most challenging, and most rewarding loans that a professional loan officer can tackle....the first time home buyer loan!
Get Your Questions Answered
If you are like most people that visit this website, you’ve got a mortgage problem or an unanswered question and you’re having trouble getting answers.
We are here to help you get the right answer, the first time, and connect you with an experienced loan officer that can help if necessary.
Asking Your Question is Easy
- Email me Directly: Simply click the email icon at the top of the site. These questions come directly to me and are answered very quickly.
- Leave a Comment: Below every article is the option to leave a comment or question. We see these comments and questions in real-time and every question is answered.
Scott Schang: Welcome to Find My Way Home podcast. My name is Scott Schang. I'm the founder here at Find My Way Home. I'm really excited today because I'm joined by a friend of mine, Steven Woloszyk. The purpose of what I want to do with these expert interviews is the overwhelmingly majority of people that find our website, they have an issue or they have a problem.
A lot of them have been on the phone with maybe one of those call center lenders that they saw a TV commercial and they thought they could push a button and get a loan. They get in trouble, they find our website, and I want people to know what mortgage professionals sound like. I want to provide contrast for when you're talking to some kid in a call center that's trying to hock a mortgage or trying to cram a square peg in a round hole or whatever, and then you meet somebody like Steven and you're like, holy crap, this is where I should have been from the very beginning. Steven, thank you so much for taking the time to come on here with me today.
Steven Woloszyk: I greatly appreciate the intro. Scott, can’t thank you enough for all that you and your team, what you're doing for the real estate community, helping to educate folks when it comes to mortgages and promote the American dream of home ownership. It's awesome. Glad to be a part of it and thank you very much.
Scott Schang: Absolutely. It's funny how there's a lot of ... It’s interesting how we find each other and I met you through a friend and Steven is part of what I consider a close network of people that I really respect and trust in the industry, and what you'll find in this industry is when you find somebody who truly, truly cares about their clients and that they're an expert sharing those values, we find each other because I'm not going to sit here and say the mortgage industry is a beautiful place and it's all butterflies and rainbows. It's not.
There's a lot of sleazy people in our industry. There have been in the past new business models coming out, are not putting as much value on expertise and professionalism and experience. It's hard for people like you and I, Steven, from our little desks to have a loud enough voice so that people can hear these things and hey, let's leverage the good old Internet and see if we can’t make little waves out there. Let's jump right into this. I don't have as much of a specific agenda in terms of talking about anything specific.
I really just want people to know who you are as a person and as a professional. As a mortgage professional, you're a professional problem solver. You volunteered to make a career of helping people get mortgages. How on earth did you get there? What does that path look like? How did you end up here?
Steven Woloszyk: I don't think there are too many of us who grew up having aspirations of becoming a mortgage lender. I think far more frequently we wanted to be baseball players, professional football players, firemen. Certainly wasn't anything I dreamed about growing up.
Scott Schang: You don't always hear that mentioned in that list of things you want to be when you grow up.
Steven Woloszyk: I want to be a movie star, a professional athlete, or a mortgage lender. I guess if any of those come about.
Scott Schang: Whatever comes my way.
Steven Woloszyk: Interestingly enough, before we started this, the path for me becoming a mortgage lender, one of my friends dropped in who I used to work with. I used to hawk manufactured and modular homes back in the day. When that industry started to turn south, we had a gal who worked at National City at the time that would come into our office for a paper, not that there was a whole lot of a paper, and apologies for the industry term, but really solid borrowers.
You didn't get a whole ton of them at that time with manufactured and modular homes. She took care of all the ones that qualified in that range. When things started going south, I begged her for an introduction to her manager thinking the writing was on the wall, it's getting harder to finance manufactured and modular homes, so she helped me with an introduction back in 2003 and I begged for a year.
Scott Schang: Yeah, because I was going to say about early 2000 is about when they kind of started getting rid of ... It was getting harder and harder to find financing for modular and manufactured homes.
Steven Woloszyk: It was.
Scott Schang: You did, you put a little hustle into it. You did beg to ... Okay, so you talked to them. At what point did you know you were hooked? What was it about the lending that really hooked you? Because this is a hard industry. It's a very, very challenging industry. We have people’s lives in our hands. It's a lot of pressure. We're middlemen 99% of the time. We're just ... I have a professional firefighter helmet hanging up in my office and it says loan rescue because we literally put out fires all day long, right? It's like something flares up here or something flares up there. You introduced, you asked them to introduce you. They said, okay, sure, Steven, we’ll show you the ropes.
Steven Woloszyk: Indeed, but it was pretty much sink or swim because the bank had a lot of market share back then and people serviced the brick and mortar. Being the new kid on the block, I was told if you want to make it in this business, go get the business. I joined every association around because I didn't get any of the natural traffic from people that kept their accounts there. It was tough. I got on at the tail end of the refi craze which allowed me to cut my teeth, but building relationships was really difficult because everybody was just rewriting their own money right then and there, and there wasn’t a whole lot of purchase business.
To be truthful, I almost failed out of the business completely. Then in 2006, I said, this is it. This is my year. This is when I make or break it and I came up with a game plan and I focused on MSHDA which is the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, that's their bond program. They offered an interest rate about a half a percent below market rates and then we would tandem that with at the time you could use a third-party down payment assistance program, and that became my niche. Over a two year period I think I originated 70 some loans and it was all about first time home buyers. That's when I fell in love.
Scott Schang: See, that's awesome because that's almost exactly what my path was. What was it about that program that you found gave you an advantage over most other people? I'm curious if you saw the same things that I saw.
Steven Woloszyk: Number one was you had a market rate that was a good quarter to a half percent less than what the going rate was, sometimes even more than that. At the time it may have been five and a quarter for a 30 year fixed rate FHA mortgage and if you did a MSHDA you could get four and a half. There was a big advantage there. It was relatively easy from a documentation standpoint, and a lot of folks in the marketplace didn't want to do it so it allowed me to really capitalize because birds of a feather, right?
I mean, you're working with first time home buyers and often cases they're hanging with other people that are first time home buyers, and so it just kind of like a mushroom cloud, it just sort of expands and I wound up being able to build a business using the third-party gift that you could use back then allowed it so that a borrower can go to the closing table, get the keys to the house, the money back for the earnest money deposit and the appraisal and you looked like a superstar with an interest rate half percent less than what everybody else was getting.
Scott Schang: I'm glad I've got you on here because you're a little humble and I think coming from the outside looking in, I want to explain something here. Those programs, it sounds very similar to what I was tackling in California. They're harder. They're a little bit more difficult, they're different guidelines from everything else. There are guidelines on top of everything else, but also they didn't pay as much to the bank so a lot of banks wouldn't do them. You had the combination, kind of the perfect storm of it being a unique product so the guidelines were different from what most people know.
The lenders didn't make a lot of money so they didn't like to promote it, and you're working with first time home buyers that have never been through this process before and quite frankly they're probably scared to death of making the wrong mistake or they're squeaking in there by the hair of their teeth just barely getting in there and they really have to count on you. That's the hard stuff. That's the hard stuff that you latched onto. That's the difficult part. That's the getting in there and emotionally guiding this first time home buying family walking side by side through this journey of home ownership in territory that most people don't want to go in because it's too hard.
Steven Woloszyk: Right, yep. Absolutely true. You've brought up a really good point. It paid the loan originator less. I made significantly less doing MSHDA loans but my thought process was volume. I'll help twice as many people because people are going to want this and so it was about how many people can I serve? How many people am I able to serve, and if I serve people in the right way, will they tell other people? With nobody else doing it, not only did it become a way to build a business from the consumer standpoint, but realtors and offices would say, hey, I have someone that's inquired about MSHDA, do you know any lenders in town that will do the MSDA loan program, and you better believe my name was one of the first ones to come up. It sort of grew.
Two years straight I loved doing them because it seemed like what was right for the customer. It was not what was about it for me. It's not what's in it for me but what’s in it for them, and when you're doing it in the right fashion for the right reasons, it makes it a lot easier for people to promote your name and say, hey, here's who helped me out. It doesn't surprise me one bit that we would share in this similar path.
Scott Schang: It's funny because we've never had this conversation so I had no idea that you started out and I started off the exact same way with the California, state of California programs. Man, it explains so much. What really kind of got you hooked then is just that relationship with the first time home buyers. You had little competition or you didn't have as much competition because lenders didn't like to do them or loan officers didn't want to learn about it, so that's kind of where your niche, so you really kind of fell into a first time home buyer groove and that ended up being what you ended being really passionate about, right, is helping people. I could almost go as far to say helping people that aren't sure if they can even achieve the American dream yet until they meet you.
Steven Woloszyk: Yes, that's absolutely correct. Fell into might be generous. I had a need to find something. I really struggled back then in finding my way in the mortgage business, so I was very fortunate to explore MSHDA and to find that as a viable tool. You're absolutely correct. Some of those deals were the absolute most difficult deals that I ever worked on, but I cut my teeth and I learned. Some of those mistakes were the most valuable mistakes because you learn from them. It's a learning opportunity. I learned a lot in a condensed period of time by taking on all the toughest loans.
Scott Schang: I don't think people really understand how many moving parts there are with loans. I mean, they understand when they go through the process because it's crazy. It's kind of cumbersome, but I saw a documentary ... I'm trying to think of what it was. It was like a series on world war II and they were doing a piece on General MacArthur and it was obviously a reenactment, but during world war II he’s walking down the middle of the battlefield. Doesn't even have a gun. There's bullets going by him and he’s not even flinching. He’s looking around, he’s like, you go there, you go there.
It seriously reminds me of doing loans sometimes. When you see so much, you overcome so many challenges, it really just isn’t scary anymore. I don't care what comes up. I've probably seen it, and if I haven't, I know where to go for the answer. That two years for you was a boot camp that really set you up to be able to have the demeanor and the confidence and the expertise. I mean, that's your internship. That's your four years of medical school right there, you're learning how to do the basics.
Along that line, let's talk a little bit about when you first are introduced to a new client, whether they contact you or they're referred to you by somebody. What is that initial conversation look like? When somebody reaches Steven Woloszyk for the first time, what is that experience like?
Steven Woloszyk: The introductions come from so many sources today. Sometimes it's an instant message from Facebook, it's a text, it's an email, it's a phone call. No matter what methodology there is to it, one of the things I try to do each and every time is have a phone conversation and discover needs and wants and go beyond just here's my website or here's a link to something or here's the email that says what you need and some different ways to apply. I want to dig in and find out what’s the catalyst here. What is it that we're looking for.
I want to get an idea of budget. Getting away from the purchase price. Our industry has done a disserve to some degree by saying how much can I be approved for? 200,000. 200,000 in one municipality versus another can be difference of hundreds of dollars a month depending on the property taxes, or what kind of insurance coverage you might need.
Scott Schang: You don't just collect a credit card and make them fill out an application and then forward it to somebody else? I'm surprised. Isn’t that the wave of the future?
Steven Woloszyk: It's really interesting that you say that, Scott, because just recently someone had posted on Facebook about they can’t believe the lack of people having that important intake call, that opportunity to discover wants and needs and build rapport and really to ask questions and then listen. People want to know that people care and how else do you do that? Is sending a link to a website really showing you're that interested in helping them? All that to me is it shows is maybe you're too busy. Now, that said there was a time when things were crazy in the refi business that that's what we did. People just wanted a lower rate or a lower payment. There wasn’t a whole lot to it.
Scott Schang: Some of those were referred to you and they know what they're getting into. A refinance is a little bit different than a first time home buyer.
Steven Woloszyk: Absolutely.
Scott Schang: You know, I think that there's the mortgage industry and people’s financial health is analogous to your physical health. I think a lot of times if you have a physical ailment and you go to a doctor, you want an expert. They're going to sit there and the first thing they're going to do is they're going to ask you a bunch of questions. How do you feel? What were you doing? What were you doing this? Your financial future, your financial health is the same way. There's a lot of moving parts and if you're not financially healthy, you're probably not physically healthy either because when you look at all the statistics for divorce, for depression, for all this stuff, money is really something that can either make or break your spirit or your heart.
You really go through, you take your time, and you have this intake where you're learning and what our industry has tried to do and what these big box lenders try to do by spending millions and millions of dollars is they're trying to commoditize the process. They're trying to make you think that you can walk into Walmart and pull a mortgage off the shelf. The reality is those companies have done an absolutely phenomenal job at making the application easy, but everything else is brain surgery. Nothing else has changed. You still have to have an underwriter go through it. The documentation still has to line up. You still have to explain everything, but they don't work that way.
It's you get on the phone with a telemarketer. It's like okay, yeah, yeah, we can do that, we can do that. Yes, yes, everything is super easy. Let's fill out an application. Here's an application fee and then maybe you don't hear from them again. You really take your time and I think the thing that what I want people to recognize is that when you call a call center, you're a number. You're part of their quota on whether they're going to get an application or not. When you call somebody like Steven, he’s your guide. He is your Yoda. He’s your mortgage Yoda that's there by your side to help make sure that you're asking the right questions and making informed and educated decisions, and that is the stark contrast.
I think Eric Shank wants to chime in here and give us an amen. Eric is another one our friends. He seems to be agreeing with what we're talking about here. That's really consistent, Steven. I see that with anybody that I respect that I consider an expert. It's always the same. There's always an onboarding process. Now, this is one of my favorite ones because you can’t get away with being in there's business without having great war stories. Tell me about one of your favorite saves.
Steven Woloszyk: You and I could probably talk days, same with Eric who’s joined us, with our war stories. I thought about this-
Scott Schang: Yeah [inaudible 00:21:20] one.
Steven Woloszyk: All right. There are two but they're parallel. Nah, I'll go with one. They both involved extenuating circumstances. In one, the gentleman had serious brain surgery so we were looking to close the gap for when they could purchase again. Extenuating circumstances are very difficult, whether it's conventional or FHA with the documentation that you need to provide. We were able to help him and his family into a home again after going through something as traumatic as brain surgery and being off of work for a year.
That was back in the MSHDA days, and that's exactly what we did, a MSHDA FHA with a third-party down payment assistance. It was just so gratifying because it went so much deeper. To your point about the relationships versus stamping them out. Can you imagine today what would happen to that person if they had called someone that didn't know the guidelines or just the cookie cutter stamp them out? Not a chance.
Scott Schang: Not even close. It's because the big box business models are not built to employ experts. They're built to employ cogs in the conveyor belt, in the machine. That's the way that they work. I'm not saying that there's anything negative about it. It's great if you don't need an expert, but it's not any cheaper. They're not going to give you any better service. Wow. Extenuating circumstances is really tough. That's one of those things ... What people don't understand about underwriting guidelines is they're not black and white. They don't say you can do this. They say if this condition exists, you may not be prohibited from qualifying if you can ... You know?
It's really, really convoluted and it's sometimes it seems like it's a crazy path. You must have really ... This is an important part of this, again, because people who aren't in the industry don't understand what your relationship and your communication with your team had to be in order to get something like that done. First of all, Steven as a loan officer has to know that extenuating circumstances, if you can document that a one-time hardship happened to your client that's not likely to happen again. You have to be able to identify that there's a possibility there, then you have to go and make sure that your underwriter is okay with it, who your underwriter’s sole job is to not write bad loans, is to not get in trouble.
They're trying to save the loan or they're trying to save the lender. You're trying to save the borrower, and so you have to be able to have the confidence and the expertise to have a conversation with your underwriter to get through that, right?
Steven Woloszyk: That's the biggest piece and it's why I love the business so much is we're an advocate. We're an advocate for our customers. Nobody else is sitting there and hearing the story and gathering all the information. In the back, it's black and white. It's the guidelines. My job as an advocate for the consumer is to paint that picture as best I can and to have supporting documentation that matches up with the story. You're right, it's like we got different forces kind of pushing and pulling.
We do our jobs right though. We get everyone to see it through the same lens, and if it's documented, you make it so it's a rock solid case. It is similar to being an attorney. You are an advocate for the consumer. That's the part that I love. That's the personal relationship piece and that's just what I thrive on and I know you thrive on is building these relationships, and having a part in someone’s life. Something that can change their life for them, their spouse, their family. It's a big piece.
Scott Schang: It's just such a stark contrast to, like I said, calling a call center. It seems like I rant about that, but I mean, I am passionate about making sure that people aren't being misled and that's why I started Find My Way Home 10 years ago when the mortgage industry crashed. I thought it was an opportunity to help people understand without talking to those sleazy sales people type. It was a way to really share the expertise, but you call a call center, they are not even asking those questions.
They have one job and that's to fill out an application and collect your credit card number so that they can move it on so that they can pick up their next phone call, and that's the difference. We've got a couple minutes left here. I like to end these interviews with this. What is the best advice that you would give a first time home buyer today?
Steven Woloszyk: Single best of advice is if you have any inkling that you want to be a home owner, don't delay. Get it together. Get the documentation that you need. Have your credit pulled. Don't rely on some third-party vendor. I won't name specific names but we have a lot of people that say I've been watching my credit score through x-site or this site. No.
Scott Schang: Not the same scores.
Steven Woloszyk: Find a professional and see what's out there because what you think may be your credit score may be a big difference from where it is, and get things in a row. One of the things that's difficult sometimes when you want to be a professional and build that relationship is having to be really reactive where someone is referring someone to you at the last minute where there's five offers going in and you've not even spoken with them before. That's kind of treating it like the commoditized industry that so many are looking to have it morph into, but that's not the case.
When you do it the right way and you have your credit pulled by a professional, you can make sure you're putting yourself in the absolute best position. Have your docs reviewed. When you do it upfront and you do it right from the beginning, the rest of it is smooth sailing. That's the biggest piece of advice.
Scott Schang: That is such great advice. It really is. People want the barrier of entry to start the process to be as low as possible, but reality is the higher you make that barrier of entry, you get all of the crazy stuff out of the way. You dig up anything that could potentially be a challenge and then you're playing on offense and you're not playing on defense. A professional like you can find your way when challenges pop up, but really preparing upfront, I couldn't agree with you more. That's probably the best advice is working with an expert and taking the time. Taking the time. Because it's going to take time and it's going to take effort and it's going to take energy, and to make sure you're dialed.
Make sure you have all your ducks in a row because you go out and make offers on homes. Seriously if I had a nickel for every time I had somebody call me and say my offer just got accepted, I need to get approved. I have this big dent in my forehead from just like, whack, you got to be kidding me. You want to do this now when the clock is ticking and you have everything to lose? Now finally, home owners. What is the best advice that you would give a home owner today?
Steven Woloszyk: Existing home owners, you know, it's come about a couple of times of late is keep up your home. Keep up with the improvements, keep it looking nice. I recently came about with a potential refinance on a deal and they went and looked at an out building and they hadn’t been in the out building for two plus years, and it turns out that feral cats got in the out building and tore it apart. The poor gal, she called and she was crying because she felt so bad because she thought it was some view of the people are looking at her like she lives in this certain way.
I told her, I said, listen, there's far worse things in the world, but it is important to take care of your home, continue to work on having it appreciate, paying down that principle balance because you never know when life is going to change. You want that flexibility to be able to either move or to sell quickly if you need to. Don't maximize loans on your property, leaving yourself no equity and just keep the home in good condition in case you need to do something on the fly.
Scott Schang: Do you find ... I talk to Jim Duffy, you know Jim Duffy. I talked to him the other day and he was sharing how many of his clients, once you help them with that first time home buyer, your real estate, your home becomes an asset at that point and it becomes a financial vehicle. It becomes an investment vehicle. Do you find that those first time home buyers you've worked with them over and over again and helped advise them on if they have the best financing, if they need cash out, what's the best way to do it? Do you find that that happens a lot?
Steven Woloszyk: Yeah, I think that goes hand in hand with how you and Jim and all of us that are with the same kind of mindset. I think that just comes about naturally. When you do it right the first time, you show you truly care, when you listen, you become their lender for life and they reach out to you for all their questions. As a matter of fact, they'll reach out to you find out if you know a good financial planner or who they might want to reach out to about insurance or what realtor you might refer if it's been a while since they last used one.
I think that's the real wonderful thing about building relationships is becoming that source for all of their needs and not that long ago, just about a week ago I was fortunate enough, blessed enough to close third generation. I shot pool with the gentleman and I helped him with a home down in Florida. Then he referred his daughter for her first home, and then just last week we closed on a home for his mother. It was the first time I could recall in the 14 years of being in the business that it was three generations of a family that I was able to serve, and it made me smile and it warmed my heart to know that I had touched this family in three generations.
Scott Schang: Imagine what that meant to that family. I mean, having the security and the confidence to be able to say, talk to my guy. My guy will take care of you. He’s honest, he’s hard working. He’ll figure it out. I mean, just you can’t underestimate the value of having a professional network, a go-to group of people that life’s hard enough. Get people in your corner that are going to help you, your accountants, your financial planner, your mortgage professional, your doctor, your CPAs, these professionals. Yeah, Steven. I can’t thank you enough for being here. I know you're a busy guy. I appreciate you sharing your experiences with it, with all of this.
I think it's going to be extremely, extremely valuable. I don't know if we can make an impact but I know that we want to and we can try. I appreciate you being on this journey with us and contributing all your time and your effort and your expertise, and helping folks out and answering questions for folks on the Find My Way Home that come to our site and need help and guidance and they want to meet somebody like you. I just really appreciate you and I appreciate you being here.
Steven Woloszyk: Scott, only one thing that I might suggest is that you mentioned whether or not it might have an impact. I would posit it has and you've had. Find My Way Home network, the people that you're involved with has already had a positive and profound impact on myriad families, too many to mention. We know that already. We've shared the stories. There already is an impact. It's palpable.
Scott Schang: Let's see if we can help even more.
Steven Woloszyk: I agree 100%. Thank you so much for the opportunity to be a part of something really special, Scott.
Scott Schang: I appreciate it. You have a great day and we’ll talk soon.
Steven Woloszyk: Peace.