“The members of the Mortgage 1 Downriver branch are true rock stars, individually and collectively. They are community-oriented, involved in charities at the local level, and always put the customer first.”– Mark Workens, Mortgage 1 CEO
For those who might not know, “Downriver” is the name for a collection of communities in Southeast Michigan along the western shore of the Detroit River.
Downriver has long been home to hard-working families. Auto factories and steel mills dot the landscape. The historic Ford Motor Company River Rouge Complex, part of America’s WWII Arsenal of Democracy, is Downriver.
Downriver is on the rise.
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“The members of the Downriver branch are true rock stars, individually and collectively,” says Mortgage 1 CEO Mark Workens. “They are community-oriented, involved in charities at the local level, and always put the customer first.”
In 2019, Migliaccio received the Rising Star Award from the Michigan Mortgage Lenders Association. This year, the branch was recognized as a “Best of the Best” by readers of The News-Herald newspaper.
Migliaccio grew up and lives Downriver. He knows the neighborhoods and the people.
We asked for his insights on buying and lending trends in the region, the impact of COVID on the real estate market, and his recommendations for how borrowers can make sure they have a positive buying and borrowing experience.
Downriver is experiencing a shortage of houses for sale, as is the case across much of Michigan. This is influencing how buyers behave.
“The entire Downriver area is hot right now. We are seeing bidding wars on properties and that is something that we are not used to seeing in this area.”– Joe Migliaccio
“The entire downriver area is hot right now. We are seeing bidding wars on properties and that is something that we are not used to seeing in this area,” Migliaccio says. “Many buyers are coming in with appraisal guarantees.” (An appraisal guarantee protects the seller if an appraisal comes in below the selling price. The guarantee assures the seller that the buyer will make up the difference at closing so the sale can go through.)
Migliaccio says, as a result of these trends, many buyers who are in need of concessions or down payment assistance are being squeezed out.
Migliaccio says the competitive market is forcing a lot of would-be buyers to stay in their current homes and take advantage of historically low mortgage rates by refinancing.
“Many of these clients had interest rates in the 4 or 5 percent range,” he says. “When those clients can’t find a new home or are having trouble getting offers accepted, we are converting them into closed refinance transactions.”
Ironically, that is exacerbating the housing shortage, as these would-be sellers stay in their current homes instead of putting their homes on the market, meaning there is less housing stock for sale.
At least there is an upside for lenders. “The refinance business is making up for the loss of potential new buyer activity, so it’s all relative,” Migliaccio says.
How has the pandemic impacted lending?
“It has made the process harder for everyone — us and our customers,” Migliaccio says. “We are constantly having to confirm income guidelines with underwriters and request more documentation from our clients up front.”
He says some of the underwriting confusion from the early days of the pandemic has been worked out as everyone has become more familiar with the new rules of the game.
“It’s getting easier to set expectations for the clients up front now,” he says.
The Downriver branch handles many first-time buyer transactions.
“My biggest piece of advice to first-time buyers is to communicate with me and our staff,” Migliaccio advises.
“My biggest piece of advice to first-time buyers is to communicate with me and our staff.”– Joe Migliaccio
“My worst experience in this business was with a younger couple who received a pre-approval letter and weeks later had an offer accepted. The trouble was, not one time did they get in touch with me for what to expect with regards to monthly payment or cash to close.”
The purchase ended up not going through.
“I learned my lesson,” Migliaccio says. “Now, I always tell my clients, ‘before you make that offer, please contact me so we are on the same page with regards to the financial numbers.'”
Migliaccio’s advice for repeat buyers and those moving up is to work with a trusted professional.
“You want to make sure you are not biting off more than you can chew,” he says. “You want to have your finances in order. There are so many moving parts, especially if you currently own a home. It’s a scary thing to think about, but you have to make sure you’re not going to be homeless if the timing is wrong and you sell your existing house before you find a new one.”
“You want to make sure you are not biting off more than you can chew. You want to have your finances in order. There are so many moving parts, especially if you currently own a home.”
– Joe Migliaccio
The demographics are such that many Downriver buyers have trouble qualifying.
“Buying a house is a very stressful situation for them,” Migliaccio says. “We have many people in our area who are on the fence as to whether they qualify or not. We have to be careful about how we pre-approve our clients.”
“I believe in giving clients the expectations at the very beginning and letting them know what we are actually doing for them and how the process will go. People appreciate the honesty.”– Joe Migliaccio
“I believe in giving clients the expectations at the very beginning and letting them know what we are actually doing for them and how the process will go. People appreciate the honesty.”
Being part of Mortgage 1 makes the process easier. “The best thing I can say about Mortgage 1 is the reputation it carries in our communities, as well as across and even outside Michigan. Realtors know if there is a pre-approval with our name on it, the loan is going to close. Buyers and sellers know, too.”
The best thing I can say about Mortgage 1 is the reputation it carries. Realtors know if there is a pre-approval with our name on it, the loan is going to close. Buyers and sellers know, too.”– Joe Migliaccio
The Downriver branch is young and eager and locally focused.
“This is my ninth year in the business and my second year as a Branch Manager,” Migliaccio says. “We are definitely the youngest branch at Mortgage 1. Our full-time Loan Officers Steven Caldwell and Alex Sweet are both in their mid-20s.”
“We are definitely the youngest branch at Mortgage 1. I am very proud of the way we are coming together.”– Joe Migliaccio
To keep his local commitment true, Migliaccio employs others from the Downriver community.
“Loan Officer Rick Kruger is a teacher who was licensed two years ago. He is only part-time with us, but he does quite a bit of business helping local buyers. We also have another officer who is a full-time teacher, as well as one who is a pilot with Delta Airlines.”
Others who are part of the M1 Downriver team include: loan partners Jason Shelton, Santino Saldivar, Zachary Grew, and Ronald Porter; and processors Lora Piatkowski and Christina Gentile.
Migliaccio knows what it means to be part of a team. He played football in college at Saginaw Valley State University.
The team he has assembled is fulfilling its promise. In August 2020, Mortgage 1 Downriver had a record-breaking month with over $10 million in volume.
“I am very proud of the way we are coming together,” says Migliaccio.