When homebuyers apply for financing, many of them choose the giants of the industry – companies like Wells Fargo and Bank of America – but Shelter Mortgage Company, LLC, a smaller Milwaukee-based lender, has a definitive edge over the competition: it focuses on partnerships.  Founded in 1923, Shelter Mortgage is an operating subsidiary of federally-chartered Guaranty Bank.  Today it has over 170 branch locations nationwide and over 200 different loan options available to consumers.  Because of its focus on partnerships with builders, real estate organizations and relocation companies, Shelter Mortgage has created a streamlined home buying and financing process.

This one-stop shop approach to lending has paid off; Shelter Mortgage has forged over 40 partnerships nationwide since the program’s inception in 1984, and has earned a reputation for closing its deals.  Several of these partnerships exist in Florida, and one of them led to the development of the Central Processing Center that now exists in Melbourne.

Where It Began

“Holiday Builders was our first partner in the local area,” explains Natasha Cartagena, Vice President and Branch Manager of Shelter Mortgage’s Florida Operations.  “We have been working with them since August 2000, and their business is what actually brought us here to Brevard.”

Shelter Mortgage’s work with Holiday Builders increased over the past decade, and the lending company won other area partnerships too, like the one they maintain with Viera Builders.

Today, the Melbourne branch office serves as the Central Processing Center for all business across the state of Florida and for business at two satellite offices in South Carolina and Texas. Even though the bulk of their new loans come from Texas, this branch of Shelter Mortgage plans to remain on the Space Coast.  “I love it here in Brevard County,” says Cartagena, “I believe in the growth and development that is happening here, and I feel it is a good area to be in right now.”

Finding the Focus

While the location-based percentages of their new business may change over time, Shelter Mortgage’s Florida Operations has kept consistent product percentages.  Cartagena estimates that about 33{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2} of its business is USDA, 12{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2} conventional and 55{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2} FHA and VA financing. However, unlike its competitors, Shelter Mortgage has always participated in the state-sponsored Down Payment Assistance Programs, and 28{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2} of all of its closed deals utilize this assistance funding.

“We do not broker anything,” Cartagena explains.  “Guaranty Bank is our lender, and because we do not operate retail locations, we are not in competition for business.  We are truly focused on the homebuyers and homeowners.”

Cartagena herself is passionate about both the businesses and homebuyers with whom she works. Her background as a RE/MAX Realtor and a Dellwood Mortgage underwriter has provided her with a wealth of information on all aspects of the real estate business.  In addition, she has worked in different locations throughout the state, so she knows how the different housing authorities operate.

Thriving Not Surviving

Cartagena has been with Shelter Mortgage for a decade now.  Her promotion to vice president occurred right when the housing bubble exploded, and she has led her local branch through the subprime mortgage crisis.

“Guaranty Bank, our financial institution, is very fiscally conservative,” explains Cartagena, “so they were not taking the same risks with subprime and ARM mortgages that other banks were taking back in 2005 when homes were appreciated far past their actual value.”

“When the bubble burst,” she continues, “our branch was hit across three separate states because we do business in South Carolina and Texas as well.  But, we have remained stable, and are currently in a good place right now; we are actively seeking new business and are looking forward to the new market.”

Shelter Mortgage is part of a growing industry trend: mortgage companies are once again confident in their own businesses, and have spent the past five consecutive quarters expanding their positive outlook (University of Florida Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies).

“The people we are seeing now… they are real homebuyers,” adds Cartagena.  “They are buying a home to live in, not leverage.  They are humble, they know how to save their money and they are willing to listen to advice on both their credit and lending.”

“We [lenders] needed the regulation,” she reflects.  “We needed to get out of the ‘faux market.’  Appreciation like that… it was not real.  I mean, here in Florida, homes were over 80{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2} appreciated…that is not realistic.  The real estate market should not be a transaction market like it was.”

“I believe the mortgage industry will make it,” Cartagena concludes.  “Shelter Mortgage will still be here in five years, and we will still be expanding our footprint.”