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THURSDAY, JANUARY 24, 2008 • Banking & Finance

THE DAILY TRANSCRIPT

Close-up: Belinda Austin

Master of her domain: Ranch & Coast loan officer knows mortgages

By CATHERINE MACRAE HOCKMUTH

Special to the Daily Transcript

Belinda Austin isn’t the per- son to call when all you want is a quick rate quote for your new mortgage or refinance — although she can do that. She is the person to call when you want a mortgage that fits your long-term financial plans.

Austin, a loan officer with Ranch & Coast Mortgage Group, a brokerage in Encinitas, looks for long-term mortgage planning relation- ships with her clients, for whom she is constantly moni- toring market and legislative trends.

“I’m more focused on the mortgage as a tool in your big financial picture,” Austin said. “My opinion is every person needs three things to grow and sustain wealth: a good CPA, good financial planner and a good loan officer.”

Like many of her peers, Austin spends a good chunk of time reassuring housing- crisis panicked clients that there are still plenty of viable mortgage products available

for buyers with good credit. Rates for fixed, 30-year mort- gages are still hovering around a historically low 6 percent, and last week dipped to 5.69 percent, the lowest point in two and half years, according to Freddie Mac (NYSE: FRE).

Austin argues now is a great time to buy in San Diego despite dim headlines that have consumers sitting on the sidelines concerned that home prices will decline fur- ther. Data Quick Information Systems reported last week that the median home price in San Diego County fell 13 per- cent from December 2006 to December 2007.

But slow sales mean buyers with credit and cash are in an excellent position to negoti- ate, according to Austin. “It’s an opportunity market for people who are ready to buy a home,” she said.

Austin tells an animated 10- year history of the region’s housing market. Her arms zip up and away and down again, as she explains the boom and bust cycle in terms simple

Belinda Austin

enough for a kid to under- stand and funny enough to entertain a crowd. This is hardly surprising, given her passion for the subject matter and experience advocating for legislative reforms she believes will benefit con- sumers.

Austin will travel to Washington, D.C., Feb. 4-8 to lobby San Diego lawmakers on Federal Housing Administration reforms that would raise government- backed loan limits to benefit

consumers in high-cost con- sumer markets. The maximum loan allowed for FHA-insured loans is currently $362,790, while the conforming loan limit for Government Sponsored Enterprise lenders such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae is $417,000. A House bill (H.R. 1582) would peg the FHA-insured loan limit to 125 percent of the median home price in a partic- ular county, making it easier for San Diego homebuyers to qualify for FHA-insured loans.

As the government affairs chair for the San Diego North County Chapter of the California Association of Mortgage Brokers, Austin believes the House version of the bill is the best for California, and San Diego in particular, and that election year politics will propel the issue forward. Austin will travel to Sacramento in April as part of a CAMB group meeting with district Assembly and Senate lawmak- ers on mortgage reforms.

Austin’s discipline and focus are hardly surprising when you consider that she became a loan officer by starting at the bottom of the industry and

working her way up. She demonstrates a command of the subject matter earned through hard work and gives no indication of wanting it any other way. She also spent eight years in the Army Reserve as a musician with the 91st Division Band in Dublin, Calif., where she played the flute and the French horn.

“Mortgage brokers are small businesses that live and work and do all their activities within their communities,” Austin said. “And with that we’re licensed. We have to dis- close every penny we make. We have to pass an exam. I believe in being a mortgage broker. I believe it falls in line with consumer advocacy. We’re important to competi- tion and we’re held to a higher standard by law.”

Austin shows a certain dis- dain for loan officers who don’t understand the products they sell and who “may have been selling used cars last month.” As a young college student majoring in science, Austin took a temp job answering phones in the human resources department at North American Mortgage. When she finished her work

early, which she did often, Austin amused herself by reading resource manuals about mortgages. She was drawn in.

“Nobody dreams of becom- ing a mortgage broker,” Austin said. “I wanted to be an epi- demiologist.”

She got her first real job at Cal Fed Lending in 1999 and spent four and half years from 2002 to 2006 running her own contract processing busi- ness — Callisto Mortgage Processing — where her job was to pore over every detail of a loan application to make certain the loan would close. Austin joined Ranch & Coast in April 2007 and was previ- ously with WS Financial.

She describes her pre-loan officer days as a time spent mastering her craft, learning everything there is to know about mortgage products.

“I came from a poor back- ground so I’m very sensitive to people and finances,” Austin said. “I think it does make a difference because we’re talk- ing about peoples’ homes.”

Hockmuth is a San Diego- based freelance writer. Source Code: 20080124crd

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Continued from Page 1 dar year.

To carry the Amylin exam- ple yet further, assume that instead of exercising in October 2008, you wait until January 2009 to exercise the same ISOs when the stock is trading at $50 and the strike price is $10. The sector still crashes in June 2009, but rather than hold the stock through December 2009 — in which you pay the AMT tax on a $40 spread — you sell the stock immediately and pay income tax on the $5 spread.

Finally, it is important for ISO holders to exercise early in the year to avoid a liquidity crunch when taxes are due in

April. If ISOs are exercised before April 2007, a holder will have achieved long-term capital gains and be able to sell the stock before April 2008 to supplement tax pay- ments.

While there are significant advantages to ISOs, the strategies can be complicated and destructive if not imple- mented correctly, so please consult your tax adviser before applying any tax strategies.

Callan is a Certified Financial Planner and presi- dent of Callan Capital, a bou- tique wealth management firm based in La Jolla.

Source Code: 20080124crb

A trusted partner can help businesses get through challenging times

N o m a t t e r w h a t i n d u s t r y y o u a r e i n , o r w h a t s i z e y o u r b u s i n e s s , y o u u n d o u b t e d l y h a v e s o m e c o n c e r n s a b o u t t o d a y s e c o n o m i c c l i m a t e .

While there is still wide-

s p r e a d d e b a t e w h e t h e r t h e S a about n D i e g o r e g i o n w i l l f a l l i n t o a r e c e s - s i o n , t h e d i f f i c u l t s t a t e o f t h e h o u s i n g m a r k e t a n d s l o w l y r i s i n g u n e m p l o y m e n t r a t e s h a v e g i v e n m a n y b u s i n e s s - e s r e a s o n f o r p a u s e . T h e s e c h a l l e n g e s n o t w i t h s t a n d - i n g , w e l l - m a n a g e d c o m p a - n i e s f i n d w a y s t o n o t o n l y s u r v i v e , b u t t o p r o s p e r , u n d e r t h e s e c o n d i t i o n s . F o r m a n y o f t h e s e b u s i n e s s e Rick Hudson s , t h e p a r t n e r s h i p s t h e y e s t a b l i s h w i t h t h e i r v e n d o r s a n d t r u s t e d a d v i s e r s i n c l u d i n g t h e i r b a n k e r i s t h e f o u n d a t i o n t h a t a l l o w s t h e m t o t a c k l e e c o n o m i c h u r d l e s h e a d - o n .

Is your banker one of your trusted advisers? T h e r e i s m u c h t a l k i n t h e b a n k i n g w o r l d a b o u t r e l a t i o n s h i p s , a n d w i t h g o o d r e a s o n . Y o u r b a n k i n g r e l a t i o n s h i p c a n b e v i t a l t o y o u r s u c c e s s . U n f o r t u n a t e l y , f e w b u s i n e s s o w n e r s o r m a n - a g e r s g i v e m u c h t h o u g h t t o t h e q u a l i t y o f t h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p . E v e n f e w e r c o n s i d e r t h e i r b a n k e r t o b e a v i t a l p a r t n e r a n d t r u s t e d a d v i s e r w h o w i l l w o r k w i t h t h e m , d a y i n a n d d a y o u t , t o h e l p t h e m m e e t t h e i r c o m p a n y s o b j e c t i v e s . M a n y b u s i n e s s o w n e r s o n l y s e e t h e i r b a n k e r w h e n i t i s t i m e t o o b t a i n f i n a n c i n g , o r w h e n n e w a c c o u n t s a r e o p e n e d . I n S a n D i e g o , t h i s h a s i n c r e a s i n g l y b e c o m e t h e c a s e a s l a r g e , o u t o f a r e a f i n a n c i a l i n s t i t u t i o n s h a v e b o u g h t o u t s m a l l e r , l o c a l l y b a s e d b a n k s . I n m o s t o f t h e s e c a s e s , d e c i s i o n - m a k i n g h a s b e e n t r a n s f e r r e d o u t o f c o u n t y . S o m e t i m e s t h e o n l y w a y t o r e a c h a b a n k e r i s v i a a t o l l - f r e e p h o n e n u m b e r r o u t e d t h r o u g h s e v e r a l p e o p l e b e f o r e r e a c h i n g a n i n d i v i d u a l w h o c a n h e l p . S m a l l t o m i d s i z e d b u s i n e s s e s a n d p r o f e s s i o n a l s a r e t h e o n e s w h o f e e l t h i s l a c k o f p e r s o n a l i z e d a t t e n t i o n t h e m o s t . A t 1 s t P a c i f i c B a n k o f C a l i f o r n i a , o n e o f o u r c o r e v a l - u e s i s t o s t r i v e t o d e l i v e r s i g n i f i c a n c e o n a p e r s o n a l l e v e l : t h e g i v i n g o f t i m e , t a l e n t , r e s o u r c e s a n d s e r v i c e t o c r e a t e v a l u e f o r o u r b a n k , o u r c u s t o m e r s a n d o u r c o m m u n i t y . S a n D i e g o i s a n e n t r e p r e n e u r i a l c o m m u n i t y w i t h a n u n i m a g i n a b l e r a n g e o f t a l e n t a n d c a p i t a l i t s a f e r t i l e p l a c e t o g r o w a b u s i n e s s . O u r b a n k e r s w o r k w i t h t h e i r c u s t o m e r s t o c h a n n e l t h i s g r o w t h i n a m a n n e r t h a t d e l i v e r s b o t t o m - l i n e r e s u l t s f o r a l l c o n c e r n e d , h e l p i n g c u s t o m e r s m e e t t h e i r f i n a n - c i a l o b j e c t i v e s w h i l e a t t h e s a m e t i m e f u e l i n g t h e c o n t i n u e d g r o w t h o f t h e b a n k . T h i s i s t h e t r u e m e a n i n g o f p a r t n e r s h i p . O u r r e l a t i o n s h i p c u l t u r e f o c u s e s o n c r e a t i n g p a r t n e r s h i p s i n s t e a d o f j u s t o p e n i n g a c c o u n t s o r p r o v i d i n g b a s i c s e r v i c e s . A s a c u s t o m e r s p a r t n e r , w e m a k e i t a p o i n t t o k n o w t h e i r b u s i - n e s s a s w e l l a s t h e y . T o g e t h e r , w e i d e n t i f y n e e d s a n d c r e a t e e f f i c i e n c i e s t h r o u g h f i n a n c i a l s o l u t i o n s . I n t h e p r o c e s s , o u r c u s - t o m e r s c o m e t o r e l y o n 1 s t P a c i f i c s s e a s o n e d p r o f e s s i o n a l s a s s o m e o n e t h e y c a n t r u s t . T h i s b e c o m e s a l l t h e m o r e v a l u a b l e w h e n e c o n o m i c t i m e s g e t t o u g h e r , a s t h e y a r e t o d a y .

A great business bank Let us help you deliver significant results for your business. Call us today. At 1st Pacific Bank of California, our goal is to be a great business bank for San Diego County. Our people have created a relationship culture using perceptive listening and active responses to create significant results for our cus- tomers.

1st Pacific Bank is a true local bank: publicly traded and headquartered and managed in San Diego. With seven San Diego County offices and more than $420 million in assets, we have the lending and depository resources to take care of most San Diego businesses. To learn more about 1st Pacific Bank, call Rick Hudson, vice president and branch manager, at (858) 875-2055, or visit www.1stpacbank.com.

Submitted by Rick Hudson of 1st Pacific Bank of California

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