Churchill Mortgage Expands California Operations

Churchill Mortgage has opened its newest branch in San Dimas, Calif. at 437 S. Cataract Ave, Unit 1-2, to enhance borrower service throughout the state. Churchill provides conventional FHA, VA and USDA residential mortgages across 46 states.

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Mike Hardy and Rick Mount will both serve as regional managers for Churchill’s operations in Southern California. Working together as a team since 2010, Hardy and Mount have more than 45 years of qualified experience in the mortgage industry guiding borrowers towards debt-free home ownership. Hardy’s background also includes experience as a Financial Advisor which allows him to better understand his borrower’s individual financial needs. Mount, prior to his work with Hardy, held several senior positions responsible for all aspects of the loan process.

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Other members of Churchill’s San Dimas, Calif. office include Melissa Chavez and Emily Holtzclaw as production managers; Ira Newman and Alana Smock as senior processors; Alyssa Torske as a processor assistant; Kristin Whitmer as marketing coordinator; and Ayman Botros, Christine Gilmartin, Randy Harrington, Mathew Herrera, Jonathan Jaidar, Geoffrey Kautzman, John Harsh, Gabriel Lozano, Jessica Martinez, Kevin Sprague and Troy Alexander as home loan specialists.

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“Churchill Mortgage’s mission to help borrowers save money, build wealth and achieve debt-free home ownership aligns with Rick and my own efforts to create a unique experience for each borrower that supports their overall financial goals,” said Hardy. “Joining Churchill is a natural transition for our team. We look forward to the enhanced level of service it will provide our borrowers.”

“All homebuyers deserve to work with a lender who is willing to put in the time necessary to ensure they make the best financial decision possible when purchasing a home,” said Mount. “Churchill Mortgage strives to fulfill this desire. As demand for housing in Southern California continues to grow, our efforts will be focused on guiding borrowers towards debt-free home ownership.”

“In a market as competitive as California, Rick and Mike’s leadership will be vital to helping borrowers make well-educated, thoughtful decisions regarding their next home purchase. We look forward to supporting their team as we continue to expand our Southern California presence,” said Mike Hardwick, president of Churchill Mortgage.

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A Story Of Growth

As an industry observer, I thought that I should share stories about lenders that are growing these days, I learned that AmeriFirst Financial Corporation is expanding its footprint to the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains with the opening of a new branch in Southern California. The branch is located in Rancho Cucamonga, a suburban city 40 miles east of Los Angeles, and serves as the first retail site for the independent mortgage lender in the state of California.

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It will operate as a full-service home loan center staffed by a total of 12 loan officers and a support team who will provide a full range of purchase and refinance loan options. These include conventional, FHA, VA and USDA loans, as well as AmeriFirst’s specialized products – renovation and construction mortgages.

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The new office is located at 12505 N. Main Street, Suite 260. It will operate under the name, “AmeriTrust Home Mortgage” to avoid confusion with Amerifirst Financial, Inc., who also operates in the southwest region.

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“We are excited to be working with the great folks in southern California as we continue to expand our reach in helping our neighbors achieve the American dream of home ownership,” said Mark Jones, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of AmeriFirst. “We are excited to offer our strong service proposition – high quality, high touch customer service – to residents of southern California. We also are committed to educating first-time homebuyers on the power of home ownership as a tool for building home equity and personal wealth and matching loan products that meet their individual needs.”

This expansion comes on the heels of the 35-year-old mortgage lender’s growth in central Florida in late 2017. At that time, it opened new branches in Winter Park and Tampa for a total of six full-service branches in the state. Headquartered in Kalamazoo, Michigan, AmeriFirst employs over 600 team members and provides home financing opportunities for thousands of families each year, especially in rural and underserved communities and among first-time homebuyers. It operates in branches across nearly a dozen states in the Midwest and Southeast regions and was recently recognized by Inc. 5000 for its 78 percent growth over a three-year period.

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Castle & Cooke Mortgage Opens Escondido Branch

Castle & Cooke Mortgage, LLC, an independent mortgage lenders with locations across the U.S., announced the opening of its Escondido, CA branch (NMLS #309712). The new branch is led by industry veteran and San Diego County local Leslie Thomerson (NMLS #508360), who has 28 years of experience in the mortgage industry and understands the housing needs of Southern California well.

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“The opening of our Escondido branch is a great opportunity for Castle & Cooke Mortgage to address the particular needs of our clients in the San Diego area,” stated Art Della Rocca, regional manager for Castle & Cooke Mortgage. “Leslie has lived and worked in the region for many years, and maintains an outstanding professional reputation within the local real estate community. We couldn’t ask for a better person to lead our Escondido team.”

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Prior to joining Castle & Cooke Mortgage, Thomerson was a sales manager for both Freedom Mortgage and Stearns Lending. Her extensive background in the mortgage business has prepared Thomerson to lead the Escondido branch with professionalism and skill. She is committed to providing her clients with a smooth and streamlined borrowing experience, adhering to Castle & Cooke Mortgage’s standards of clear communication and transparency. Whether assisting a customer through their first home buying experience, or aiding a client through the process of obtaining a VA loan, Thomerson’s team is committed to meeting each borrower’s unique needs.

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“My team and I are very excited to be part of the community on Grand Avenue in Escondido,” said Thomerson. “We are looking forward to meeting our business and local real estate neighbors, and are eager to share our expertise.”

Thomerson can be reached at or at the Castle & Cooke Mortgage Escondido branch, located at 104 West Grand Avenue, A & B, Escondido, CA 92025.

Lender Opens California Location

Castle & Cooke Mortgage, an independent mortgage lender with 36 locations across the United States, has opened a new branch office in Anaheim, California. Offering borrowers a full suite of loan products, Castle & Cooke’s new Orange County office will deliver exceptional customer service and the consistently fast closings for which the company is known.

Located at 2099 S. State College Boulevard, Suite 640, the Anaheim branch office will be managed by Michael Otto (NMLS# 740162).  Otto has nearly 20 years of mortgage banking experience in Southern California, with several past management roles at large financial institutions, including Carrington Mortgage Services and Pacific Mercantile Bank.

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“With Michael’s leadership and experience, an exceptional team of mortgage professionals and the company’s advanced lending platform, there is plenty of excitement surrounding the new Anaheim branch,” said Jim Mitchell, Castle & Cooke Mortgage’s Southern California’s regional manager. “Michael and his team will expand the company’s market share by providing customers with superior service while working hand in hand with local real estate professionals to help Anaheim residents achieve their dream of homeownership,” he said.

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“The high demand and lower inventory in Orange County and the Southern California housing market in general frequently puts pressure on borrowers and their loan arrangements,” said Otto. “Our mortgage professionals work tirelessly to alleviate that pressure by offering customers the speed, knowledge and flexibility required to make their homeownership dreams a reality. Successful transactions are a hallmark of the Castle & Cooke experience and we will carry on that tradition of excellence in the Anaheim branch office,” he said.

Lender Expands Retail Footprint Through Acquisition

Freedom Mortgage Corp., a privately held, full-service residential mortgage lender licensed in all 50 states, has purchased the assets of BluFi Lending, a direct mortgage lender with branches in California and Nevada. Under terms of this transaction, BluFi Lending’s five branches will be rebranded as Freedom Mortgage. This is part of Freedom Mortgage’s strategy to expand its retail lending footprint in the Western U.S.

BluFi, founded in 2009, is headquartered in San Diego, CA. It specializes in helping consumers save time and money on home loans for purchase and refinance and prides itself on having a seasoned team of mortgage bankers and industry professionals. In 2013, BluFi originated over $400 million in residential mortgages.

“The hard work of [BluFi CEO] John Lee and his talented team exemplifies what a well-established mortgage lending organization can accomplish. BluFi Lending built a solid market presence in the Western U.S. and Freedom Mortgage will help them continue to grow,” said Stanley C. Middleman, president and CEO of Freedom Mortgage. “Freedom Mortgage is gaining valuable expertise, proven marketing tools and a retail platform to expand. We’re pleased to have them become a part of Freedom Mortgage.”

John Lee stated “Given the financial strength and commitment of Freedom Mortgage to grow its retail business, we are very proud to become members of this highly regarded company. Assisting future homebuyers with an easy loan process to homeownership is our goal, and we will be able to achieve more with Freedom Mortgage. ”

“The industry’s changes are opening up a lot of opportunities for lenders that have a solid plan in place,” said Mr. Middleman. “Some companies are downsizing but, at Freedom Mortgage, we’re growing. By merging with BluFi we’re expanding our ability to foster homeownership to more people in a greater territory, and for that we are both excited and grateful.”

Freedom Mortgage is a national full-service mortgage banker with wholesale, retail, commercial, correspondent and servicing operations. The company is licensed in all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico and has a $44B servicing portfolio. Freedom Mortgage maintains an A rating with the Better Business Bureau and is known for using the most advanced technologies and providing world-class service to its clients, borrowers and partners. The company was founded in 1990 and is headquartered in Mount Laurel, New Jersey.

The CA Market Leads The Way Back

*The CA Market Leads The Way Back*
**New Data Emerges**

california***Veros has announced that San Francisco and other metro areas in California are poised for the country’s strongest levels of appreciation in the coming year. The forecast also reports select markets in the Northeast will continue depreciation trends, though these trends are lessening. This is the conclusion of the company’s VeroForecast real estate market forecast for the 12-month period ending June 1, 2014, updated quarterly and covering 969 counties, 324 metro areas, and 13,502 zip codes.

****Veros’ future home price index (HPI) forecast continues to show significant strengthening and improvement across the nation, particularly in the west, including Texas. The HPI indicates that, on average for the top 100 metro areas, Veros expects 3.1 percent appreciation over the next 12 months. This is the fourth consecutive quarter where the index has shown forecast appreciation. In a dramatic improvement, most areas of the country are now expecting to see appreciation with far fewer areas showing price declines. As of this forecast update, nearly 90 percent of U.S. markets are expected to see appreciation, while the remaining markets (approximately 10 percent) are expected to experience declining home prices. This is a highly positive national trend given last quarter’s split at 75% of markets appreciating and 25% of markets depreciating.

****Projected Five Strongest Markets

****1. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA +12.7%

****2. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA +11.6%

****3.  San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA +11.1%

****4.  Midland, TX +11.1%

****5. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ +10.9%

****Projected Five Weakest Markets*

****1. Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, NY -2.9%

****2. Kingston, NY -2.1%

****3. Norwich-New London, CT -1.9%

****4. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT -1.8%

****5. Atlantic City, NJ -1.6%

****Essentially, all markets in the top 5 positions now have double-digit forecast appreciation, with the re-emergence of California markets taking over three of the top 5 spots.

****San Francisco is experiencing a serious housing shortage, with supply down nearly 80% from its peak in 2008. Although prices are still relatively expensive compared with much of the U.S., affordability is back to 2004 levels. This low supply, historically good affordability, relatively low unemployment of 6.7% (compared to the 7.5% national unemployment rate) and continued low interest rates are propelling this market to the #1 spot with 12.7% appreciation forecast. Similarly, the Los Angeles and San Jose market upswings are about the significantly reduced housing supply, down more than 70% and 75% respectively from their peaks. In Los Angeles, affordability is back at levels not seen in more than a decade and the low unemployment rate in San Jose are positioning these markets in the #2 (+11.6%) and #3 (+11.1%) spots respectively.

****Moving out of California, Midland, Texas and Phoenix round out the list of VeroFORECAST’s anticipated strongest markets with 11.1% forecast appreciation and 10.9% appreciation, respectively. Both markets have made regular appearances on the top 5 list and demonstrate consistent strength. “It’s encouraging to see steadily rising appreciation expectations,” commented Eric P. Fox, vice president of statistical and economic modeling for Veros. “What we are seeing now indicates a return to a healthy market with improvements appearing in a conservative yet correcting manner.”

****Florida, Washington, Colorado, North Dakota, and Idaho are looking particularly strong as well. Although not making it into the top 10, Houston, Austin, and Dallas are expected to fare well also, and Boston is finally positioned for recovery.

****On the other end of the spectrum, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut occupy this quarter’s bottom 5 markets as the anticipated weakest market areas. In Poughkeepsie and Kingston, New York, as well as Norwich and Bridgeport, Connecticut metros, unemployment rates are proving to be a significant driver, keeping each of these markets moving in a downward trend. Interestingly, a few of these markets are also being strongly influenced by population trends, where either the area’s population has declined or remained flat, and as a result, lack the demand associated with an influx of new residents to motivate housing turn-over and, ultimately, the growth that tends to accompany healthier housing markets.

****Atlantic City takes the fifth position on VeroForecast’s bottom 5 list at -1.6%. Although it is still ranked as one of the nation’s weaker markets, residents should be encouraged by the upswing from last quarter’s -4.2% forecast, which was driven by high mortgage delinquencies and unemployment rates.

****The majority of the poor performing markets are primarily in the Northeast portion of the country, with parts of Connecticut and New Jersey expected to fare poorly relative to the remainder of the U.S. Pockets of the South are also forecast to be weak, especially Mississippi and Alabama, along with areas of South Carolina.

****“Overall, the recovery in the housing market is forecast to continue to accelerate and quite significantly over the previous quarter,” said Fox. “We have been consistent in our position over the past year that the recovery will be lengthy and gradual, which it has been, while many were talking about ‘shadow inventory’ pulling the housing market back down and creating another recession.  Now we are finally over the hump with appreciation being the forecast norm,” he noted. “Although strong appreciation is expected for months 13 to 24 in the forecast, it is not as strong as in months 1 to 12. That is to say, we are seeing the first signs a year or two from now that the rapid increase of prices will slow a bit in many parts of the country. However, we don’t foresee drastic slowing – simply some moderation.” Fox said.