February 27, 2018

Today, we chatted with Jackie Alves, an underwriter at HDF. She is a person that has gone through both the counseling and lending side of our organization. Let’s hear about her experience!

What is a typical day like for you at HDF?

I’m in an underwriting position, but I’ve gone through the whole process at HDF. I started as a counselor, then a processor, and now an underwriter. I was hired as a homeownership counselor, and I worked as a counselor for 3 years. Counseling is nice because you get to interact with clients more. You get to know their background. You go through their budgets and everything with them. Basically, you check for their eligibility and make sure that the clients are eligible for our loan products. You also discuss their credit reports with them. It is a lot of information, but it’s good because you feel like you have an impact on the clients when you sit with them one on one.

Then, I moved to a processing position, which is under the Lending Department. Processing is a middle step between counseling and underwriting. The processor takes the loan packages from the counselors and put them in the system for the underwriter. What the processor does is basically reviewing all the documents and make sure that the documents are completed files. As the underwriter, you also go through and verify all the documents, but the underwriter also need to make sure that all the verifications and income and credit information are there.

How did you change your role from Counseling to Lending department?

When I started out as a counselor, I didn’t have much background in the industry. I liked counseling, but I was more like a number person. I also wanted to learn more about lending, but we already had an underwriter at the time. Once we implemented a series of Encompass, the underwriting system, HDF needed someone to fill in the role of a loan processor, which HDF never had one before – that’s how I started to get involved with the lending side. From there, once someone left the underwriting position, I became an underwriter.

All roles are good for different reasons, but my most favorite role is probably underwriting. I like underwriting better just because it’s very by the books. There are certain sets of rules and regulations that you go by and that’s it. With counseling, people have different stories and backgrounds, so  you have to gather all the information. But with underwriting, it’s either you fit the mold or you don’t.

How did you come to work in the real estate industry?

I did Sociology and Political Sciences in college. When I graduated from college, I originally wanted to go to law school. But later I decided that it wasn’t for me because of the high cost and the saturated market. So I took a position with a family friend at a real estate law firm a legal secretary. I didn’t have much knowledge in real estate at the time. I had no idea what I wanted to do. So once I learned about an opening position at HDF, I applied to become a homeownership counselor. I was a Sociology background – you know, studying people – so I thought this might work. Honestly, I kind of fell into the real estate industry (laughing). But I’ve come to really like it. I started at HDF on September 2011, so it has been 7 years now.

Could you share about a rewarding experience you had while working at HDF?

Like I said, when I worked as a counselor, I get more personal experience with clients. I’ve had a couple of clients coming back and writing me a thank you letter for getting them their homes. I kind of missed that when I was in the processing position because I didn’t have that kind of interactions with people anymore. In the underwriting position, there was even less. But I remember once as an underwriter I had an immigrant client. He had been struggling to get the loan through, and there was so much paperwork because he was buying a multi-family home. He wanted to achieve the American Dream basically. It took a while to go through the documents, and there were lots of back and forth. I remember when he finally bought his home, he called me and thanked me over and over again that finally he had a place for his family and to live in America. He was so excited. When you hear that kind of story, it really gets to you. It makes you feel like “ok, it’s worth it. What you’re doing is the right thing.”

That’s probably the best part of the job, that you get to learn the people and you get to talk to them and help them through the process and actually get them to where they want to be. Because HDF does second mortgages, the process takes a lot longer than first mortgages. There can be frustration in the client part, so when they are finally done, they’re so thankful of us. That’s rewarding.

Why do you think a large portion of HDF’s leads come through the Danbury office?

I think that Danbury is more reasonably priced than in Fairfield county. It’s harder for first-time homebuyers to purchase in Stamford-Norwalk area because the prices are so high in that area, so it’s easier for families to get started in this area of Connecticut. Also, Danbury itself is building a lot more new housings, and the commute to Westchester isn’t bad from here. Also, we’re the closest office to any towns north and outside of Fairfield county, so that might be why lots of leads come through the Danbury office.

What do you want to see HDF become?

I would like to see HDF becomes a first mortgage lender. We’ve been doing little by little with LEAP loans as a first mortgage lender, and I think we really have the potential to really expand our services to first mortgage. I’d like to see that happens. I also would like to see us grow with more staff now that we have a lot more loan products and get more loan applications. That’s a great thing, so expanding the staff would help.

Could you share the most important lesson you’ve learned while working at HDF?

One would be patience. Next would be thoroughness. It’s important to double checking your work because it’s easy to overlook things. HDF has taught me to take my time when going through things. Patience is also important in the sense that sometimes clients don’t understand that it’s going to take a while or sometimes you need to tell clients you need one document many times before they are going to hand it to you. The importance of housing regulation compliance has also been big.

What do you like to do when you take a lunch break?

I like chatting with people in the office. Katye and I go to Sesame Seed a lot for lunch. We also go to the mall in Danbury – it’s one of the biggest mall in Connecticut and only 10 minutes away. Kayte and I usually go for a stroll to decompress during our lunch break.

What are your hobbies?

I like sports a lot. I played basketball and soccer for a long time. I watch lots of football and baseball as well. I also go to lots of music festival.

What is your favorite animal and why?

I love penguins (laughing). I really want to own one. They are very cute and cuddly. I want to bring them home.

If you have a weekend off from work and unlimited money, what would you want to do?

I would want to go for a vacation, probably somewhere tropical especially during the winter months. Like, in an island just to relax. I’ll go with my girlfriends – we do girl trips every year. I’ll also go shopping because I like to shop.

Thanks Jackie for the chat! She is the first person from HDF’s Danbury office that we interviewed!