By Torin Stafford
Darice is a Senior Mortgage Advisor in our Visalia, CA branch. However, we were able to chat with her at her new home office, just after her first meeting of the morning.
She was concerned that we might get interrupted by one of her three dogs, but they behaved themselves the whole time. Her inside pup is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel / Poodle mix – smart and sheds minimally. The outside duo consists of a classic Golden Retriever and an English Cream Retriever puppy – a shorter and stockier pure white dog from which Golden’s were bred. But her menagerie is just where we got started.
CHM: Your title is Senior Mortgage Advisor. What does that mean? I do loans. I sometimes wish I didn’t have the ‘Senior’ part of my title. I’m not old, just experienced. What it really means is that I can do big, complex loans. I sometime think I’m just the world’s biggest problem solver. With so many people having such different needs and being in different places in their lives I need to be creative and put scenarios together to help them.
In many ways I do credit counseling. I work with jumbo loans, to fist-time buyers to people buying their fifth house. The people part is my favorite part. I work with people in different economic scenarios and at different points in their lives. Part of the joy is helping all of them.
CHM: How long have you been in the mortgage business? I’ve been doing loans since 2008. I shouldn’t be standing. I came in when things were falling apart. Most of the people who started when I did are gone. I’m blessed to remain in the business and be successful.
I formerly worked for a title company for 20 years. I started in the escrow side and moved to sales and marketing. Because of that experience, I understand the whole real estate transaction process – escrow, titles, loans, even the paperwork. I was fortunate to have great teachers along the way.
So now when things are complicated, people will say, “Go to Darice. She’ll know how to handle it.”
CHM: How long have you been with us? Since 2011. On May 25th it will be five years. Before coming to CHM, I moved around looking for the right fit. When I met with Scott Simonich we liked everything about Commerce. It has a real family feeling. That’s probably one of the reasons it’s been voted one of the best places to work in the area. They’re people-people, like me. That’s why I like it here.
CHM: What first drew you to CHM? An old friend of an old manager knew one of the owners. Once we talked to them we could tell there was a family feel to the company. They’re not publicly traded. I like that. Everyone here strives to make a loan work. We all get it, from the bottom to the top.
We do things a little differently. Underwriters are involved by day seven. We don’t wait until day 25 to get them involved and find out there’s a big problem. You need a staff to back you up. It’s not all about me. Everyone else helps me get the job done.
CHM: I hear you say “we” a couple of times. Who’s we? In the office I have a full0time assistant – Angela. I also have a sales coodinator, Cindy, who helps me with customer service. It’s important for us to communicate with customers and be up front with people all of the time. Even if things aren’t going well, communication is key. Or if something falls through, you have to give them good service. These days it’s way too easy to shoot off a text or an Email. I’d rather meet in person. I’ll text someone to tell them I want to sit down with them and talk about something. I like to meet face-to-face at least once during the transaction, because I think it helps to establish trust. I’d rather go to a customer and talk to them directly initially than communicate by text.
My staff helps with all of the paperwork. We’re a team. I tell my customers that if they want to talk about the loan, they should talk to me. If they need to work through the paperwork, they can rely on my team.
Even though I don’t like to initiate our relationship by texting, my customers know that they can text me almost 24/7. It’s important that they keep up with everything and that it’s all explained to them. I often text with people like teachers. They can’t check Email during business hours, but a quick text lets them know where things stand or if they need to do something.
CHM: What got you interested in the mortgage business? Starting at the title company, I’ve been part of real estate for 25 years. When my kids were younger, I didn’t want a job that was commission based. I wanted a stable salary with regular hours so I could be available to them and be around when they needed me.
Now my kids are bigger and I was looking for a more lucrative career to help pay for teenagers and college. It was a natural process to go to loans. It was stepping out of my comfort zone, but I knew a lot of people. Still, I don’t have to work many weekends. Maybe once a month I’ll go to an open house. It’s good because I get to be with my family on the weekends.
I’ve been very lucky moving into loans. I’ve had good teachers. I learn quickly and already understood some of this part of the business. That made it easier.
CHM: What gets you stoked about coming into the office each day? It’s the people. I love helping people realize the American dream. I love first time buyers. I’m not a ‘transactional lender” who just “gets ‘em in and out.” I talk to them about their future plans. I might talk to a couple where one just graduated from college and the other is still in. I ask them where they want to be in three to five years. I tell them that I want to be their loan officer for life. I don’t want to just do one transaction and never see them again. In four or five years, when they have kids and need a new home I want to be the first person on their minds. I want to have a relationship so they come back throughout their life.
I’m often counseling people about the next five to ten years. That’s been a great philosophy that’s led to consistent growth. My referral business is up because people tell their friends that I did a great job for them. I talk to them about their future plans. I help them get prepared for the next five years down the road.
CHM: In addition to your three dogs, it seems like you have a lot of other things going on. Family is important to me. My husband and I have been together for 26 years. We have two sons. One is going to graduate in May from college as a double major – history and music. The other is a junior in high school. He wants to go to film school. He’s already doing newscasts at school.
My husband’s an artist, and I’m a musician, so with creative kids can be hypercritical. We just have to remember that we’re coming from a 40 year perspective and they are younger. They’re already getting respect from their peers.
Our older son is going on to a fifth year to get a teaching credential. But he’s already scored a short film for a friend of his. When he comes home, our two sons collaborate on film projects. The younger makes the films and the older scores them.
CHM: So, you’re a musician? How long have you been doing that? I started songwriting when I was 9, but did most of my writing just out of high school. I wanted to write gospel music. But I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Most of the record labels were folding at that time. Still, I got to work with Christian rap and rock trio DC Talk and TobyMac. There was still a lot going on in Christian music on the east coast. I even sang background vocals with the Joe English Band. Joe’s best known as Paul McCartney’s drummer during the Wings years.
I’m a pianist and a singer. It’s what I’m passionate about. As my kids are getting older my husband and are have joked about forming a band with some other local musicians. We say we would call ourselves, The Never Weres because we aren’t has beens. We’d like to put some people together to do little local gigs. We think it would be a ton of fun. If you want to make music or pursue your passions, you have to make time. With our kids getting older we think we can.
CHM: Do you perform now? For 13 years I put together the installation luncheons for the Association of realtors. I’d find the local talent as well as organizing the whole event. I’d perform there. It was a lot of fun and I made some great friends. It took place near Christmas, so we always did some seasonal music.
I’m also part of an audition only chamber choir, the Sequoia Chamber Chorale. It was started by an old director friend of mine who teaches at the local community college. We have about 40 singers. Once you’re out of college the only place to be in a choir is in church. Fewer and fewer churches have choirs. Many have bands. So when I was talking with my director friend, he told me he was dedicated to making this happen.
I also was recently part of a “Pink Tea Luncheon” – a breast cancer awareness event sponsored by our local hospital. I played the piano and sang three songs for the event. It was a lot of fun.
CHM: Do you mostly compose on the piano? Yes. Mostly for myself. I’m a singer-songwriter like Carole King. I write a lot of contemporary Christian music and songs about life. It’s a real release.
On Tuesday nights when I’m singing with the chorale, everything else shuts off. Everyone should have something that they love and spend a couple of hours a week doing it. It’s very enriching.
CHM: Does music influence your work at Commerce? There have been many paths I’ve crossed due to music. This morning a got a call from someone who asked, “Do you remember me from this music thing in 2006? I heard that you’re doing loans and I would love to work with you.” I do things locally, which gets me in front of people. They know I do music and then learn what I do for a living.
People talk a lot about the relationship between math and music. I hated math in school. Once I got into geometry I asked myself, “What am I doing here?” It didn’t apply to my life.
Accounting math is different. It’s logical. It makes sense, like music. My husband recently did a sprinkler system for our house. He had to calculate the diameter of pipe for the water pressure we wanted across the property. I thought, “That’s why people do this type of math.”
I wish that schools taught math with practical applications. I’m involved with the education system, locally. Through the group P.A.S.S. (People Advocating for Student Success), we’ve pushed trying to get this kind of real-world math into math programs.
CHM: Sounds like you have a lot going on. Yes, but we’ve just finished up a major project – our house. We’ve been in our current place for 15 years. It’s become something of a Winchester Mystery House. There’s always something going on – until now. It’s really nice now. We just finished an 800 sq. ft. addition that includes my home office. It’s a good concentrating space where I can get work done early in the day and not be spread across the kitchen table. That’s not to say I’m not in the office. I’m always meeting people there and my team’s there. It’s just nice to have a place to relax when I work at home.
CHM: Anything else you want to share with us? I’m a fortunate and blessed person. I have my husband, two boys, and my menagerie. There’s nothing more motivational than family and kids. They give you great purpose and keep you moving.
CHM: We don’t think Darice is lacking either motivation or a sense of purpose. She seems to have both in ample supply. And we’re really glad that she’s brought her motivation to help people achieve their dreams of home ownership to the Commerce team.
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