Nate Kuchera of Bank of Manhattan on helping families get the home – and loan – that’s right for them
I was only half joking when I used to say that I pursued a college degree in journalism because the math requirement was minimal. As an adult, purchasing my first home in my early 30s, my understanding of the real estate market revolved almost exclusively around what I read in the papers and my grasp of what was going on in the mortgage industry was even more elusive. Like many of my friends in a similar life circumstance, we relied heavily on the “experts” in the industry to help us navigate the at-times overwhelming amount of information involved in buying a home or investing in real estate.
Some of us got lucky in working with reputable lenders while others ended up with mortgage lenders who worked as if they were in it for the one-time payoff – individuals who were seemingly not all that concerned about what happened next – to the client, their clients’ families, or even to their own companies.
In the wake of one of the most challenging economic climates in our country’s history, the mortgage industry has experienced a great “shakeout” with many less than reputable players falling by the wayside – and you have to figure that those left standing are doing so because they are doing something right.
That’s why it’s so refreshing to meet a seasoned professional and dad like Nate Kuchera, who believes it only makes sense to service people in such a way that they’ll want to come back to you in the future – a philosophy that has served him well, both professionally and personally.
“Growing up I knew I wanted to help people in some way, so I tried to bring a different approach to an industry that needed people who would be honest, transparent and able offer sound advice,” says Kuchera, senior loan officer for the Newport Beach-based Bank of Manhattan. “Our business can be like many others, where the focus is mainly about ‘closing deals,’ but I’ve learned if you don’t take care of the borrower at the beginning, middle and potentially months or years after the transaction, you will just be status quo.”
Bank of Manhattan, N.A., is a full service bank headquartered in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, California with five full-service offices in El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Pasadena, Glendale and Montebello as well as seven mortgage loan production offices in Southern California.
Founded in 2007, Bank of Manhattan specializes in delivering relationship banking services and residential mortgages to families, entrepreneurs, family-owned and closely-held middle market businesses, real estate investors and professional service firms.
“We are delegated for loan amounts up to $5,000,000, and have the ability to go higher,” says Nate. “We don’t need to wait for Jumbo investor approval, which can take weeks and hold up contingencies and escrows, and we have the ability to close in as little as two weeks. Because we process, underwrite and fund everything in Southern California, we have the ability to move very quickly.”
Nate, whose office is located in Fashion Island in Newport Beach, has “personally gravitated to the jumbo and super jumbo loans as a specialty” in response to demand from his clients, but he also covers all aspects of residential lending, including construction and multi-family.
But Nate isn’t just a mortgage professional in a highly challenging market – he’s a dad. And being a dad influences the way he does business.
“When I was growing up, I watched my father make our family his priority,” says Nate. “He would get up at 4:15 in the morning to exercise, get to work and work very hard, then make sure he got home in time to be with his kids. I don’t think he or my mom missed many events while we were growing up. My dad was successful and well respected in his work. The biggest thing I’ve learned from that is balance. Now that I have a family, I’ve tried to implement some of those principles I learned from my parents. I feel very fortunate that my job enables me to spend time with my kids in the morning before school and in the evenings. I am, however, very dedicated to making sure my clients and my business partners’ needs are met. My team works together to make sure it all runs smoothly. Overall, I think the perspective I have is gratitude – just being thankful that we’ve been able to survive and thrive in our business, despite all of the changes in our industry.”
So in this changing mortgage market, what is Nate’s advice to families looking for a home loan?
“First, just realize our industry has undergone many changes over the past three or four years,” says Nate. “Bring your questions and be confident knowing the process can be manageable and tolerable if you have the right guidance. Then, make sure the loan agent you are working with is truly working to find you the best option for your needs. Typically in our business word of mouth referrals are great, so ask friends and family members you trust to tell you who they’ve worked with.”
While buying or refinancing a home today can be no less challenging and as seemingly overwhelming as it was years ago, finding the right mortgage lender and being proactive can help families avoid some of the common heartaches and headaches in the home buying process.
“It really helps to be prepared,” says Nate. “These days, whether you are purchasing or refinancing, you need to be prepared to provide two years of tax returns, W2’s, recent pay stubs, and a couple months of bank statements. It’s usually best to have these items reviewed along with a recent credit report. Having them up-front and early in the process can save big potential problems down the road. Loan transactions can have very important deadlines that, if missed, can be expensive or cause you to lose a home you are trying to purchase. These potential problems can all be mitigated with just a little planning and, of course, working with the right mortgage lender.”
Nate adds that for first-time homebuyers, it’s extremely important to get pre-approved before you start looking for homes. Make sure to have a credit report run, complete a loan application and have your financials reviewed. Let the loan agent know if you are going to use your own funds for the down payment, or if you may be having a family member provide a gift towards the down payment. Make sure to discuss the various loan options that are available. Obviously, working with a real estate agent who is knowledgeable is equally as important, so take time to find someone you trust, and put your mortgage lender in contact with the agent before you submit offers or open escrow.
“Whether we are working with parents of young kids or those with older kids or teenagers, we work to provide our clients the best loan products based on where they are in their life, and of course their plans for the future,” says Nate. “For example, a younger family may think a 15-year fixed mortgage is best so that they can pay off their loan early, but the best approach may be a 30-year fixed, so that they have some cushion to handle unexpected expenses that may arise. They may not realize you can still accelerate the mortgage and treat it like a shorter-term loan. If we don’t take the time to discuss specifics with each of our clients, we are not doing our job properly. “
Knowledge is a major priority for Kuchera and the team at Bank of Manhattan. They want you, the client, to walk away understanding exactly what your opportunities are and the best possible plan for moving forward, whether it’s a new purchase loan, a refinance, an equity line or anything in between. They want you to get the information that you need, without having to opt in to some email marketing program or other gimmick. That means you can get good, trustworthy information from Nate and his colleagues.
“When you are well informed, you can feel confident in the decisions you make,” he says. “I’m confident that when someone contacts me, I can guide him or her to the right loan programs – even if it means referring them to someone else. I’d rather have someone in the right program that fits their needs than advise them to go with something not suitable for them.” M