By: Tom Duggan – September, 2009
First Integrity Mortgage, located in Sal’s riverwalk, has become a local favorite among those purchasing or refinancing their homes. In fact, they were voted Methuen, Lawrence, and the Andover’s “Best Mortgage Company” for 2008 by Market Surveys of America.
owners Anne Marie Concemi and Steven Sirmaian, both life-long residents of the Merrimack Valley, credit this to one thing – exemplary customer service – which, according to Sirmaian, has been no easy task given the recent mortgage foreclosure crisis and it’s negative publicity for banks and mortgage companies.
“We have had to work 10 times harder for 10 times less business. Borrowers are frightened of dishonest banks and mortgage companies. our reputation, however, both individually and as a company, has kept us going. our clients just keep on referring their friends and family because they know we will treat them with the honesty and respect they deserve.”
Both Concemi and Sirmaian began their banking careers right out of college in 1987.
They have written thousands of loans and pride themselves with having an almost nonexistent foreclosure rate. Anne Marie Concemi, First Integrity’s Chief Mortgage Planner, attributes this to years of conscientious origination techniques, as well as careful explanation of loan programs.
“I never mislead a borrower into thinking a bad loan program was good for them. As much as the Banks wanted to push certain deals by offering higher commissions to loan officers, I could never, in good conscience, subject my borrowers to something that could only hurt them in the end. If a borrower insisted that they wanted the program, then I made darn sure they understood every aspect of it.”
Concemi admits that this wasn’t always easy, as borrowers would sometimes do anything to purchase the home of their dreams.
And there was plenty of competition willing to give borrowers what they wanted.
“I knew so many mortgage people in 2003, most with a fraction of my experience, making money faster than they could spend it by pushing bad loan programs. Kind of made you think twice about just jumping on that band wagon to make a killing. But having survived the crashes of the 80’s and early 90’s, I knew that their careers were short lived because they would never build up a trusted client base like I had. So I just kept on doing business the way I always had and it paid off.”
And pay off it has. Loan originations are still down, however, there are significantly less banks and mortgage companies competing for the business. And all mortgage loan officers must now be individually licensed – something Sirmaian feels has been a long time coming. “The licensing process is very strict. Each year our personal credit is analyzed and we are required to undergo a CorI (criminal background) check. Any credit lates better have a good explanation, and any criminal activity is not tolerated.
The good news is that the number of loan officers has dropped drastically and, unless someone is experienced in the mortgage field, they will be hard pressed to get licensed. This has eliminated the “part-timers” and “good-time Charlies” who jump into the business when the market is good.”
By comparison to some other mortgage companies, First Integrity is considered rela tively small. This is just fine for Concemi and Sirmaian. States Concemi, “We are always thinking about customer satisfaction.
We don’t spend tons of money on radio ads, catchy jingles, or telemarketing. Instead, we concentrate on personal relationships and the referrals they bring. This allows us to spend more time with our customers whose referrals keep our phones ringing even during the toughest of times.”
Concemi and Sirmaian have carefully hand-picked their individual mortgage consultants. “With all of the banks and mortgage companies shutting down in the past few years, we have seen a slew of mortgage originators seeking out companies to work for,” comments Sirmaian. “once again, bigger isn’t better. I would rather have 10 solid, honest, and experienced loan officers than 100 people that I can’t trust to represent our company properly.”
Notable veteran First Integrity mortgage consultants include Bill Englehardt of Bradford as well as Judy Maselli, Alan Rosen and Donna Weinberg, all of Andover.
Bob Irving of Lawrence and Bob Sharpe of Salem, NH head up the reverse Mortgage team. Concemi and Sirmaian often joke that most of their loan consultants started in the business before fax machines were even invented. Processors include Florence Toto and Louisa Bailey, each with over 10 years of mortgage processing experience.
First Integrity is licensed in Mass. NH, and Maine with plans to open a satellite office in Southern NH by spring, 2010. “It’s now time to do some expansion,” states Sirmaian. “We proved that we can withstand some really tough market conditions and that makes us feel pretty darn good about what we have accomplished.”
First Integrity Mortgage is located in Sal’s Riverwalk, 354 Merrimack St., Lawrence, Ma. (978) 685-9700. www.firstinteg.com