Tabitha Mazzara of MBANC: “Hard work still matters”

Hard work still matters. I’m here until 9 pm every night until the job is done. You make every last phone call, you follow up with every email. Especially when you’re responsible for people’s financing. They have money that’s at jeopardy. They have close of escrow dates. It’s important. As a part of my series […]

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Hard work still matters. I’m here until 9 pm every night until the job is done. You make every last phone call, you follow up with every email. Especially when you’re responsible for people’s financing. They have money that’s at jeopardy. They have close of escrow dates. It’s important.


As a part of my series about strong women leaders of the Real Estate industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tabitha Mazzara.

Tabitha Mazzara is an outside-the-box mortgage industry thinker, whose sophisticated, holistic approach gets things done for high-net-worth borrowers other banks wave off as “too complicated,” while creating a home-like environment for her dedicated staff.

A self-described “mortgage brat,” Tabitha has achieved a venerable 35 years of success in the field in part by virtue of her extraordinarily diverse skill set. Over the course of her career, she has attained hands-on experience with nearly every aspect of mortgage lending: working in behind-the-scenes positions such as software consultant, customer-facing positions such as sales, as well as work in underwriting, operations, credit analysis, loan origination, and her current post as Director of Operations at MBANC.


Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?

I began working in the mortgage industry when I was just 13 years old, helping my mother, a mortgage broker. I was young, but I assisted in every aspect of her business — initial borrower intake, the application process, document retrieval, and all verifications required to satisfy loans.

This was 1984, way before all the technology we use today in the industry. Back then, we did everything by hand, and the manual nature of the work provided the very best way to gain an in-depth understanding of the mortgage industry and the steps required to facilitate a mortgage loan. Those years of experience served me well.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

It was 1988, I was 17, and already becoming a formidable young professional while still in school. My boss, who happened to be my mother, was going on vacation and left me with two files and very clear instructions that these files must be closed before she returned. To me, she was being completely literal, so it had to happen.

It turned out that after we had received some documentation, the borrower was behind on his mortgage, but had no idea that was the case.

He explained to me that he was not living in the property, but his daughter was, and he was sending funds to her bank account, so she could pay the mortgage each month. He was trying to help her build good credit.

But sadly, the father had no idea that his daughter was a drug user, and she was not sending out the mortgage payments, and now his house was in danger of foreclosure.

My mother had told me that the loan had to close. So asked an attorney who worked with our company often what to do. He said that in order to stop a foreclosure, we needed to have an “Order To Show Cause,” and that order needed to be signed by a district court judge.

I was in a diner, and went to their phone booth and looked in the blue pages, where judges were listed. I found the name of our district judge, then flipped over to the white pages, and called everyone with that same name until I reached the judge, and called him from a pay phone in a diner.

He asked me, ‘How did you get my number?’ and I told him he was in the phone book. He was in such shock that I’d called him at home, but at 17, I didn’t understand how intrusive that was. But rather than being mad, the judge was impressed by sincerity in trying to help this man not lose his house, and with my incredible chutzpah, so he said to me, “Young lady, do you have the documentation prepared?”

I did, so he replied, “Be in my chambers at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning, I’ll sign your order to show cause.”

I got it done, because it never occurred to me not to get it done, and because I thought my mother would kill me when she got home if the file wasn’t closed. But the takeaway from that experience was, intentions are pure, anything is possible.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think those will help people?

For the last four years, we have been in the process of developing software that we feel will really revolutionize the non-QM consumer-direct experience. It will further support our team members, and it’s something we will be really excited to share with the rest of the industry.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We bring a depth of knowledge to the market in a very significant way, because we have years of experience, and we’re very involved in all our transactions.

We’re not compartmentalized. We function as a team. Every single loan in this organization is acknowledged at some point not just by senior management, but by the owner.

We’re hypersensitive to our clients’ needs and that relates to their overall experience, to developing new products to services, and to the way we manage and treat our staff.

It’s very important to us that staff member who sits here is just as passionate about what they do as we are. It doesn’t stop at assisting and facilitating the purchase of a first home. It’s whatever’s on the table. If one of our employees comes in and they’re not feeling well, we’re going out and buying chicken soup. It’s personalized attention to every detail and every person, to clients and staff alike.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My mom was really a pioneer for female mortgage professionals, and she would stop at nothing to ensure that I understood what it took. And that was grit and hard work and intelligence. She got me ready for this.

The Real Estate industry, like the Veterinarian, Nursing and Public Relations fields, is a women dominated industry. Yet despite this, less than 20 percent of senior positions in Real Estate companies are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what do you think is the cause of this imbalance?

There are structural problems that prevent some women from getting ahead. Unfortunately, women have to work a lot harder for the same position that a man can easily step into. That is a reality.

In the last 10 years I’ve developed tremendous confidence. Earlier on, I was much more timid. I did not get the same compensation as men. They cut better deals, had better pay. No one laid anything at my feet or on my desk. To get where I am, I had to work harder and prove myself. It was hard, but in some ways it was wonderful.

What 3 things can be done by a) individuals b) companies and/or c) society to support greater gender balance going forward?

On an individual level, each woman who is able to secure a position where she may have some influence, it’s vital to exercise it. We have a responsibility to empower other women.

To take just one example, my underwriting manager joined our company eight years ago was our first employee here in L.A. and she joined us as a loan processor. She is bright, dedicated, passionate. I sponsored her for a certification and promoted her to an underwriting management position, and she deserves it.

We need to make an earnest effort to find the proper candidate for each position, yes, but also ensure that we work as hard as we can to acknowledge and empower women, so they can gain the experience and confidence they need to achieve success.

Companies need to make an earnest effort to dismantle the stereotypes or negative norms that exist within them. At our own company, we’re constantly finding creative ways to impart knowledge and train our people. It’s always better to take a positive approach and reinforce someone’s strengths, not focus on the weaknesses. Sometimes you need to plug some holes in an employee’s performance. But it’s always about elevating, and with regards to women in particular, elevating them through education and support.

As a society, if everyone participates genuinely to address gender imbalance, I think we’ll see change in the years to come. But it will be slow. It’s unrealistic to think big protests will instantly change things.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

To become an entrepreneur or reach a senior management position, you have to have a certain level of confidence. It’s a challenge for women of my generation. I was born in the 1970s and grew up in the ’80s and the world was a really different place then.

I appreciate many of the traditional values I was raised with, and I would not have it any other way. But women played a very different role back then.

Today, young people coming into the industry have this amazing confidence and they operate in this different, new world. Managers are adjusting to it. You still have an industry dominated by men who are of my generation and their thought processes are different. But confidence can overcome some of the obstacles we face as women.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry?

The real estate industry is cyclical, which is so exciting because there’s always an opportunity for growth and change. Growth happens when we’re on an upward cycle, and change when it’s on a downward cycle. Growth is exciting, and change is scary. But both are good.

The second thing I love is how vital real estate is to the overall economy. Changes in housing values affect consumer spending, which makes up 70 percent of the economy, and companies need housing to have a reliable workforce. You add to that all the jobs tied to the industry itself, from construction to financing, and we’re really at the center of the U.S. economy.

I also enjoy how multi-faceted real estate is. It’s an incredibly vast industry, and there are so many aspects to it, and so much to be constantly learning. You could spend a lifetime rediscovering yourself in the real estate industry.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?

First, I would like to see a stronger lobby for mortgage bankers. We play a vital role and we don’t have enough representation, and that’s our own fault.

Second, I think there should be greater collaboration within the industry.

Finally, we need to make sure that we’re all properly mitigating risk. Responsible lending, responsible policies and procedures are all important.

The fact everyone has a different perspective on risk can be pretty scary. Obviously, I have to do what works for me and focus on my business. But it is scary that we could be vulnerable based upon other people’s decisions. I can decide to run my business responsibly, but I’m impacted if, for example, a third of the companies in mortgage finance are not acting responsibly.

What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?

Focus on productive, fluent communication. It means everything.

You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non-intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?

  1. You have to be organized, which is the biggest key to making sure everything happens when it’s supposed to.
  2. Second, I would say that you have to really be thorough within your process and consistent, right from the beginning. You have to work systematically. You can’t deviate from the process because there’s too many things that can kick you off your game. You have to make sure that you can follow that process religiously, without fail. Every single time you do it, it’s got to be the same. I’ve found that each loan application is nuanced to a specific borrower — their credit, their income. And there’s so many components that you’re bound to miss something, and it’s very easy to miss something and compromise your transactions. Sometimes I would have a borrower show up at the closing table with money from an account I had never seen. That’s a problem, because we have to source the borrower’s assets. That’s why you need a firm process and to ask the same exact thing every single time. 
    Now, I have the experience to modify as necessary in the conversation, if for example someone who had a mutual fund or an IRA now has cryptocurrency. Obviously you have to modify, but it’s the same set of questions.
  3. It’s important to focus on the initial application. Have deep conversations with your clients about their finances, so the borrower has a good experience, your processing department has a good experience, and the loan can close without undue challenges.
  4. Another key to success that many people miss is just communicating with everyone. Many people in the industry do not communicate with all real estate agents on a purchase transaction. Communication can be completely flawed and broken, especially in a time when people think communicating is simply sending an email or a text message.
    As a loan officer, when you’re providing financing on a purchase transaction and you have a selling agent and a listing agent, pick up the phone. Introduce yourself. Let them know what role you’re taking and set expectations. Take charge. That changes the entire process. And of course, communicate with the client so they don’t encounter pitfalls. Never forget the fiduciary responsibility we have to our clients.
  5. Hard work still matters. I’m here until 9 pm every night until the job is done. You make every last phone call, you follow up with every email. Especially when you’re responsible for people’s financing. They have money that’s at jeopardy. They have close of escrow dates. It’s important.

Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Communication.

All movements rely on communication. But how did we get to this boiling point? What happened, What did we not do? You know, from a personal and business perspective, I can say that communication has been they key to my work/life success. But today, communication is a vacuum. Although, we have all sorts of mediums such as social media, studies have shown that we communicate far less than ever before.

Like I tell my children, colleagues, and clients, communicate. Because if you don’t it hinders and impedes the relationship and process. All parties must communicate clearly with one another. Whether it’s at home or your work, communicate. Let people know how you feel and what you want and need. Imagine all the people sharing all the world…

How can our readers follow you online?

http://www.mbanc.com.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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