A few years ago, when I entered the mortgage business, I realized that one of the best ways to differentiate myself was to simply act with integrity…not “ACT AS IF” I have integrity. The world of real estate finance can sometimes be very complicated and in many ways extremely confusing. Lots of people at banks, and especially at mortgage brokerages count on this. It was no less confusing for me since I entered the mortgage market at a time when subprime meant nothing to me, but it meant nearly everything to most people in the business of mortgage banking. (I work with HFM because integrity is EVERYTHING to its owner, Greg Kundinger, my friend and confidant). Now, I entered the business with lots of business experience. I was the associate publisher and C.O.O. of a big-market newspaper: a business owner of a company located on Madison Avenue for years; I am a serial eco-entrepreneur to be sure and I brought to bear lots and lots of business finance experience. But I had lived in Manhattan and never owned a home before moving to Atlanta. I thought I was moving to Atlanta to become a green builder with a little help from my friends at Southface Energy Institute. I was no real estate finance guy, but now I am affectionately referred to as the Eco Loan Guy. In the first week or two in the business, I really struggled through concepts and loan strategies that other people did not seem to struggle through. Then it happened…I had an epiphany and realized that I kept hearing people around me saying – just “ACT AS IF” you know what you are talking about. It seemed that was the industry mantra…”ACT AS IF” you are successful; “ACT AS IF” your loan package is in the client`s best interest; “ACT AS IF” you give a flying leap and…Laugh all the way to the bank!? ? ? I found that to be advice that I could not take. I could be many things, but duplicitous was not and is not one of them…especially when dealing with people`s homes and their finances. I am a husband, a father, a son, a friend…I couldn`t “ACT AS IF” and then sleep at night. Instead, I set out to “BE” knowledgeable, to “BE” somebody that people can and do trust. I needed to be something more than what I witnessed as loan officers high-fived each other when they made 5 points on a real estate transaction without disclosing it was a high-cost loan and not in their clients` best interest. I literally got sick and tired of being sick and tired of how the mortgage business operated. When my clients ask for advice, I give them my best advice, even if that means I don`t make money on it. Sure, I could lie and make a lot of money…but I didn’t then and I don`t now. To “BE” the best that I could be in the mortgage business meant I had to create something new. I had worked for multiple values-based businesses and felt at home in them…I felt like a fish out of water in the traditional mortgage arena. That led me to create myEnergyLoan. I needed to “BE” what the market needed me to be and it didn`t need me to “ACT AS IF” I knew anything. It needed me to actually know something…what I now know is that green building and green lending are the only things that make sense to me with regard to real estate. And I am not the stereo-typical environmentalist “granola-eating vegan,” either, although I do own a pair of vintage Birkenstocks and I absolutely love honey-baked organic granola for breakfast. Green buildings can help a lot more than they are right now, especially during this market correction and green financing is making the market heat up fast. To say the market is correcting its course right now would be the greatest understatement of economic history. The market has seized up (and lubing it with more light crude won`t bring it back to life) and it has hurt us all. There is no velocity of currency at this time… It even hurts the people who are making TONS of money RIGHT NOW since money can easily be made in a bear or in a bull market, regardless of whether the mortgage market melts down, the credit markets melt down, or if the polar ice sheets melt down. It turns out that we don`t need to “ACT AS IF” some magical market correction will occur – it won`t. Oh, a correction was inevitable, but now, what is happening is major media coverage is desensitizing us to the reality that many people in large banks got greedy and fed on people who also were being greedy; all the while “ACTING AS IF” it wouldn`t matter. Why haven`t more heads rolled? Please, bring back the yard irons for some of them! People “ACTED AS IF” they qualified for loans when they knew they didn`t. Think about STATED INCOME, STATED ASSET (SISA) loans. At best, SISA`s serve self-employed borrowers who rightly take advantage of our tax laws by deducting the costs of doing business, which means their tax returns did not accurately reflect their incomes. Provided you had a good credit rating, you could easily “STATE” your income “AS IF” you had it – and banks actually approved you – “AS IF” you did! How crazy is that? Stated income actually became CREATED income. And that, my friends, is a cosmic-clunker of an idea if ever I heard one. Did you ever hear the term NINA? That means No Income, No Asset…it`s a documentation type the likes of which has very little reason to exist, except that banking institutions and clearinghouses determined that if somebody has good enough credit and two-years of employment history with the same company, in most cases the loan application did not need to list any income nor any assets. WOW! Again – a cosmic-clunker of an idea if ever I heard one. Now that the duplicity is being exposed, I encourage each and every reader of this blog to refrain from “ACTING AS IF” it doesn`t matter that we put truth back in lending. SOLUTION: Be or don`t be…but don`t act as if TRUTH is anything less than what is needed at this time and for all time; especially at this time. Get your financial house in order – go green and reduce your reliance on foreign oil; unplug from fossil fuel and plug into renewable energy; live in a healthier home; be a responsible steward of your home and your money; enjoy your life and spend the savings in your own back yard, don`t give it to some single-bottom-line global bank who wants nothing more than for you to export your money out of your community and into their pockets. Now, that is my very best advice when it comes to real estate and real estate finance. – JC

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