Mortgage Brokers

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • Mortgage broker needed

    (5 replies)

    I own a house in Oakland which is currently being rented by a family and the parents living there are interested in buying it. It would be a good idea for both parties to sell it privately so that money could be saved. The parents might not have enough funds for a 20% down payment so it would be important to figure out how to make the purchase possible with creative financing. In order to that we would need a wise and experienced mortgage broker to assist us with some imaginative tactics. If there is someone who can be recommended for this undertaking we would be most grateful. We have a real estate attorney already who is willing to deal with the paperwork for a flat fee. Many thanks.

    Not sure if he specializes in "imaginative tactics," but we had a great experience with Arlo Zoerner at CrossCountry Mortgage during our recent home purchase. He and his team were very supportive and communicative throughout the process.

    I have worked with John Sutherland many times and recommend him!  

    john.sutherland [at]

    I VERY highly recommend Faramarz Moeen-Ziai at CrossCountry Mortgage in Berkeley,

    We did 4 refinances with Faramarz and he is an absolute wizard with financing. I can't recommend him highly enough. Be aware that because he is so amazing, he is in high demand and extremely busy.

    Good luck!

    I know this wonderfully creative and smart problem solving broker, my broker, Evelyn Freitas. I sent your post to her and yes, your scenario is right up her alley.  She has experience with this. Please reach out to her.  Evelyn is trustworthy, hard working and focused. I have found her very strait forward answering all my questions. I am sure you will like working with her. Evelyn Freitas, Residential Mortgage Broker, Guaranteed Rate, 510-254-4674   Evelyn.freitas [at]

    I would highly recommend mortgage broker Zach Griffin: 510-325-1095 (at Guaranteed Rate Affinity in Berkeley.) He and his team were absolutely brilliant during the entire process of home buying. He listened to us, he was always readily available and very communicative since day one. I'd absolutely recommend Zach to anyone looking for a smooth experience and high quality service. He has lots of experience. 

    Reply now »
  • Construction loan / mortgage refi

    (2 replies)

    We are exploring housing options and would like to speak to a loan broker about a construction loan or mortgage refi. Yes, I know this is a terrible time to refinance - which is why we would love to speak to someone who can help us find the least-bad option that is available to us. I don't know how to go about looking for a specialist in this area so appreciate any referrals. Thank you. 

    I suggest you contact Zach Griffin at GRA in Berkeley (510)325-1095. He is a veteran loan broker, who has been in this business for 35 years or so. He knows his stuff. Very knowledgeable and easy to work with, he has handled several loans for me. It’s not easy navigating the mortgage process these days, but he will advise you on your best options and guide you through it. Good luck!

    We were in the same boat (wound up going with a HELOC, which proved to be a good move for us).  Our mortgage broker referred us to Mary Avila at Bank of the West, and she was great.  She ultimately referred us to another person there, Tony Morgan.  But Mary is local, so I would recommend you start with her.  Here's her info:

    Mary L Avila

    Vice President

    Branch Manager NMLS # 637106


     2023 Mountain Blvd

    Oakland Ca 94611

    T (510) 339-8100

    F (510)339-6128               

     Mary.avila [at]

  • Freeing Up Money to Buy in this Crazy Market

    (10 replies)

    Realizing this is very much a first world problem, I wonder if anyone has any insight or mortgage brokers to recommend that can help us get a big mortgage to buy our next house, or ???. We currently are in our "starter home", which we've outgrown physically, but can't afford to buy a new home without selling this one first because our money is tied up in retirement accounts or stocks that would be expensive to liquidate due to capital gains tax. Is there a possibility of a big bridge loan? We have a reasonable amount invested, but the capital gains would be prohibitive to remove $1M at one time. Maybe we borrow against it? We have about $500,000 in a municipal fund that could be liquidated quickly, then another $1.5-$2M in non-retirement vehicles that would be the expensive funds so we don't want to use them other than security. Say about another $400,000 in equity in our starter home, and the houses we'd like to look at are in the $1.5M range. It seems crazy to have more than $2M in assets AND a house BUT not be able to buy a new house! Can anyone shed some light on this - maybe we are missing something obvious! Thanks.

    We are currently in the process of looking to buy a house in the $1.5M range.  We are fortunate that we have about 15% of this in cash/liquid assets (we refi'd our current mortgage to 30 years to save cash).  You can get preapproved I believe even if you have close to 10% (what we did with our first home through Wells Fargo).  We will have to have a jumbo loan but then when we sell we are planning on refi'ing in the new home. We've had no problem getting pre-approved.  Hope this makes sense and good luck!

    We just went through this - a move from a starter home where all three kids were in one room and barely a yard to a much bigger house in Lamorinda. I don't have experience with selling stocks, and we definitely didn't consider liquidating our retirement - the few financial advisors I mentioned the idea to said it was something not to be done. The answer for us, as scary as it was, was that we had to suck it up and sell our first home first and live in a rental while the house was going on the market and for a couple months after the sale (and believe me we put it off for years because of our fear of selling our foothold in this property market and being left high and dry). Yes, there are bridge loans - MPR, our mortgage broker, does them. They are extraordinarily expensive - think $50,000 or so out the door immediately, plus $10,000 or so for each month before you sell your house and pay it off. We thought about going this route but even aside from the cost the big known unknown was how much our house would sell for. It seemed like we were bound on the buy-side to either shoot too low and end up with regrets or shoot too high and end up with bigger regrets. We ended up lucking out and being able to buy contingent on our sale, but the only reason our seller took it seriously was that our house was going on the market 2 days from the date of our offer, with ten days on market, in a very desirable location, so it was all very immediate. And it would have worked out anyway, even if we'd not gotten the house we have, but that took some of the fear off as we went on market. It's definitely a first-first-first-world problem, maybe an "only in the Bay area" problem, but it's scary to have a foot on the housing market and relinquish it without knowing for sure if it will all work to get you in again. The good news is that it probably will work out, especially if you were somewhat flexible about your aspirations (our realtor said you should pick two or three things that you really want about your house, but be flexible about the rest). The market is tightest at the lower end, and somewhat worse in Oakland/Berkeley/El Cerrito than in Lamorinda.

    Yes, this is a crazy real estate market, indeed! I would start be making sure you are working with experienced professionals - both realtor and mortgage broker. I would highly recommend Zach Griffin at Guaranteed Rate Affinity, (510)325-1095 for your financing. He has helped me with several loans over the years. He has years of experience, and he is good at coming up with solutions to challenging situations. Good luck with finding your next home! 

    We are in a similar situation.  It sounds like a bridge loan might be your best bet.  My realtor recommended Ted Maniatis.  We havent been able to use the loan yet because of our crazy market.  But I appreciate the work he did for us on the front end.  He was good at answering my questions.

    We just went through this exact situation, as we have some savings but need the equity from our house to put towards a new house. We are moving from the East Bay to the North Bay, and long story short - we are selling our house to get the equity, moving to a short term rental apartment in the meantime, and then house hunting with the cash in hand to put down on the new house combined with our savings.  I’m in no way an expert on this but will just tell you our experience and thought process in case you find it helpful. 
    We tried a down payment bridge loan (you can do that or a bridge loan for the entire price of your home) - it’s extremely expensive (fees, interest and points all added up to a hefty payment) and the monthly interest payment increased our debt to income ratio for the traditional loan we needed to secure (as you don’t pay the bridge loan off until you sell your house) .  So because of all these things we decided against it.  
    Another option was taking out a HELOC on our home but it wouldn’t get us as much equity as we will get once we actually sell. 
    So, we went the route that I mentioned above - the downside is having to move twice, but besides the annoyance, it was our best route to knowing exactly how much we have to put towards our new house which at the end of the day was most important to us, as we are looking for our forever home. We are in the process of getting our house ready to sell and it will go on the market in early August. 

    We had a similar circumstance. We ended up relying on loans from extended family to get us through, but our mortgage person (a broker, not at a traditional bank) did make a bridge lender available to us. Just be aware that the bridge is EXPENSIVE -- like six months ago they were asking for 9% interest. When compared with the fact that your 30 year fixed loan is below 3%, its an outrageous amount of money. We also did liquidate some stocks but mainly because we were ready to take the gains and reallocate the assets into another home purchase. 

    Talk to a lender to see what your options are. If you have a HELOC, home equity line of credit, you can use that as your down payment. Another option is a bridge loan but only some lenders offer it. Another option which is also the least favorable option I can see you doing is move to a temporary housing while you sell your house and look for a new house. 

    Talk to your investment professional. You can margin your non-taxable securities and create your own bridge loan. I would also talk to a mortgage broker before starting to move any money around. You'll need to document everything and create a paper trail. I've used Jill Lyons at CMG Financial personally and I've referred clients to her. (925) 983-3073.

    Morsa Aziz is a wonderful loan broker. Kind and smart. Really knows her stuff! You can tell her Amelia recommended her via BPN.  (510) 685-0461  ≈

    If you have substantial enough investments, you can take a margin loan against your investments. This is usually a very low interest rate because the brokerage is essentially loaning you your own money. Reach out to the brokerage that has all of your investments to inquire about this option. The margin loan is how some people manage to make all cash offers without liquidating their investments & incurring capital gains taxes. 

    If you have substantial enough equity in your house, you can apply for a HELOC and use that. Note that HELOCs will only loan up to around 75% of the LTV for your house, so as an oversimplified example, if your house is worth $1 million and you owe $250k on your current mortgage, the bank will only give you a HELOC for $500k because $500k + $250k = $750k which is 75% of the $1 million value. HELOCs tend to have pretty low interest rates, but higher rates than a standard mortgage. Any mortgage broker can do these.

    A bridge loan is an option, but I believe it has a higher interest rate than either of the above options. 

    You should investigate the above three options. You can also consider some combination of the above options with any cash you already have saved. All have some level of risk, so make sure you can get a mortgage to pay back the loans after closing.

  • Hi....Me and my hubby are trying to purchase a house. We only have $100 K in the bank plus enough to cover closing cost. We don't have pre-approval yet, but we are trying to get one next week. Our realtor suggests that we should use mortgage firm instead of bank. Initially, we are thinking about getting mortgage from our credit union, because they have 80-10-10 product that perfect for us without mortgage insurance, since we have only a bit more than 10%. However, our realtor says that bank can be flaky, and she was trying to suggest her mortgage firm friends, who will charge a bit tad higher rate and mortgage insurance, but not flaky. If we manage to be in contract in this crazy market, we would like to have a reliable lender. Anyone out there can share experience with bank VS mortgage firm when it comes to close a mortgage with less than 20% down? We have excellent credit and decent income (combined $200K), but this is bay area with crazy housing market. Feeling a bit discouraged and we have not even start yet :-(  

    Not the same mortgage situation as you (I did have 20%), but I used Obaid Mohammadi w/ Wells Fargo. In the end, your 'point person' is more important than whether its a bank or credit union or mortgage firm - we were 3-4 weeks from Day 1 to closing, amazingly fast timeline and best rate out there. Worth asking him if he can work with you on the 10%.

    925-457-6994 (Mobile)

    We were using a mortgage firm a friend recommended and ultimately did not get approval from them even though we had more then 20% down and were well qualified as well (they wanted us to fix the roof of the house we were buying which we were doing as part of an extensive renovation after we bought it but they wanted us to get a new roof before they would lend us the money). We ended up going directly with our bank and getting a lower rate and I did not find them flakey at all (Chase bank). That being said, no harm in talking to both before making the final decision!

    Have you checked with San Francisco Federal Credit union?    They have a program called Poppy Loan that finances up to 100%, no insurance. 

    I haven't used it, but it sounds great.  Your broker is probably speaking to the notion that you have to close fast in order to get a home in berkeley, like within 25 days or something.  Many banks can't close that quickly.  Some people use temporary loans (hard money loans at higher int rate) to close and then put a traditional mortgage on later.   that might do the trick, regardless of using a Poppy loan or your credit union.  ask the bankers if you can do this temp loan strategy.  

    Congratulations on starting your homeowners journey.

    Realtors want you to use their mortgage brokers who they feel are most able to push loans to close on time.  Realtors are trying to protect their commission, not to get the best mortgage for you.  Feel free to use the bank or mortgage broker that is best for you.  A lower interest rate and no PMI are big deals.  Banks can be a bit slower on the upfront part of getting preapproval, but they make money when a loan closes, so they have an interest in getting it done on time, too.

    Good luck house hunting!

    We used a Mortgage Broker for getting pre-approved, (he helped remove a ding on our credit) and later for re-finacing the loan for rock bottom rates (she shopped like crazy). The brokers were very helpful as there is a great deal of paperwork, and I did not see any evidence of higher costs or rates. Your worst option is to go to a bank, where they will charge for services and you will not get the best rates. Best of luck and remember to keep your eyes on the goal!

    I wouldn't trust a realtor who would guide you to her friends; if you get preapproved, your bank should not be flaky.  You're the one that will be stuck with the higher interest rate for the next 30 years; she and her friends will have their commission and on to the next sale.  I'd do what I can to use the lower interest rate esp if you can use the program that allows for less than 20% down with no PMI.   

    Who your lender is definitely a big deal. Big banks have more red tape and can take longer to close. However, the direct lenders are more expensive. I have had good/bad experiences with both. If your bank is local and is familiar with our market and will know how aggressive they have to be, then you may be in good hands. If the name of the officer is locally known, then you might be ok. Ask them which agents they have worked with and then call those agents and find out what their experience was with them. I think your biggest hurdle though, is your downpayment. Because of this market, removing your appraisal contingency is normally a necessary strategy to win and with 10% down there is no way to responsibly lift that contingency. If your agent hasn't told you this, then you need a new agent, one who is more interested in setting you up to win, rather than dragging you through a slog of offers you will never win.  This market is *tough* and you have to be mentally and emotionally prepared - and who you work with is everything. 

    Hi. We spent years looking for a house and finally purchased one this past year. We started the pre-approval process with our bank, but my husband is self-employed so that added a challenge to the already challenging market. We ended up working with Jill Friedlander at All Western Mortgage. She is exceptional and got us an excellent mortgage at a great rate. Good luck!

    We'd need to know the name of your credit union/bank to be able to say if they are "flaky" (whatever that means) versus the mortgage lending company.  To my understanding, if a lender pre-approves you and the property meets their criteria,  you'll get funding.  I'd suggest looking at online reviews for BOTH, as well as for your realtor.  Plus, ask around. 

    Mortgage insurance is a large expense that only benefits the lending institution, not you.  Better to put that money directly towards the mortgage.

    It is possible your real estate agent is being truthful, but it is possible she is angling for the referral fee from the mortgage lending company.  You need to ask yourself if she really has your best interests at heart.

    We had great experience getting a loan through our credit union--best service ever, a 3 week escrow, and they continue to service the loan. 

    Hello, as someone who just recently purchased, I can relate. A lot depends on timing. I’m not sure what your realtor meant by “flaky”, but credit unions can be slow. Initially we were only casually looking and did not have a preapproval letter. However, we found a house we really liked and within our price point. We realized we should’ve done our homework with the preapproval letter, but at the time, this house came up by surprise. We initially went with a mortgage broker, and they turned around a preapproval letter in less than 48 hours. But their rate was high. Still, we bid and our offer was accepted. Keep in mind a preapproval does not bind you to that lender. So we found another lender after we went under contraxt- a bank- willing to lend to us for more than 1% less than the rate the mortgage broker offered us. But actually, we had already been talking to this bank, so their preapproval came just one day later. I don’t recommend this if you have time and don’t have a house in mind yet because the seller side pushed for a 21-day to closing and threatened going with a cash offer if we didn’t meet their deadline. The risk is that  if you cannot meet the timeline and have proof your loan was approved (this is the approval of the actual loan, not the ‘pre-approval’) then the sale basically can’t go through, unless a very rich uncle can come through for you at the 11th hour. This ended up extremely stressful for everyone because no matter who the lender is, they have their preferred timeline of when they can get things in order, verify you, and come up with the money. You need to make sure your lender is comfortable with the timing of the contract so that by closing, the funds are in escrow. Hope that helps. This is a crazy market, but the most important thing is going with what seems right for you and your family. Feel free to PM me if you’d like.

    This smells fishy to me. Your realtor wants you to go with a more expensive solution that just so happens to be their “friends”?

    It’s possible the concern with your specific credit union proposal or something was entirely valid - I’m sure there are a lot of teaser rate type of things out there - but I would definitely want a neutral second opinion from someone who can get into the weeds/details about your specific situation. Ask the credit union directly about their statistics/reasons for not following through with a mortgage after they preapproved someone.

    (We used a bank for our mortgage with no problem but with different circumstances).

    I've worked with both. I've found that the mortgage brokers are a lot easier to work with because they're a lot more motivated. You get your docs to them and they shop around and find the best loan for you. If you go to a bank you'll only find out what terms that one bank will offer. When I was working directly with the bank the person who I was working with would do nothing without multiple reminders. She was so slow that the rate lock expired and the bank tried to raise the rate on me. I threw a fit since I had responded to all requests within a day or two and I was appalled that they were trying to penalize me for their own employee's bad performance. The bank did honor the original terms but it still left a very bad taste in my mouth.

    Having said that, this all depends on which mortgage firm or bank you're using and who is assigned to process your loan. I had an okay experience with the first mortgage broker, a terrible experience working directly with the bank on a refinance, and a great experience with a second mortgage broker. The second broker was so good that we're working with him again. 

    Also, whatever you do, don't agree to a mortgage with an adjustable interest rate. Rates are low now and you want to get a 30 year fixed mortgage. Higher commissions are paid on the adjustable rate loans than the fixed rate loans so you'll probably have one pushed on you. The person will try to show you how much more of a house you could buy with an adjustable rate loan to trick you into getting it. They'll tell you that everyone refinances their loans or moves so it won't matter. But this is how people lost their homes in 2008/2009. Property values went down, mortgage costs went up, people couldn't pay their mortgages or sell their houses. Hold firm. Rates are going up quickly and they're probably going to keep going up under the current administration. As long as you can afford your mortgage payment and don't have to move, it doesn't matter if the value of your house goes down (we were way underwater at one point but kept making our payments and ended up selling our condo for $200,000 more than we paid for it).

    Good luck with your purchase! My family members and I bank at credit unions and have never had problems using credit unions for mortgages (in my case, USE Credit Union). You could talk directly to your credit union mortgage person to see if you feel comfortable going that route.


    Thank you for all responses. Just want to let everybody knows that the credit union is Patelco. My realtor gave me a couple of mortgage firm instead of just one that she initially referred. She liked the first mortgage firm, because she had a good personal experience. We did get preapproval with both, but the second firm is more responsive with their information. The rate that we get is 4.75% with no PMI, but we have to put 15% down, so we have to borrow some from in law or 401 K. With this firm, we can remove loan contingency with 20 days closing. Meanwhile my loan officer at Patelco was not proactive. We just submitted an offer with 2nd mortgage firm, but per my realtor the house will be sold much higher than our offer, so in our offer, we also moved our appraisal contingency. 

  • Great Mortgage Broker Needed

    (4 replies)

    My spouse and I have decided to divorce, and we both want me to stay in the house so our son can remain with me for most of the time.  I need an experienced mortgage broker who can advise me on how I can take on the mortgage on myself prior to filing for divorce.  Someone bright, innovative and compassionate may be a tall order but it is what I am looking for. Might prefer a female, as well.  My income is not high, we have debts to settle, and so on.  I know much of this is done online now, but are there brokers that will sit down with you these days?  We live in North Berkeley but willing to go out to Contra Costa if need be.  Thank you! 

    Dianne Crosby is extremely experienced and has all sort of strategies she's used with people. We used for a mortgage one time, and looking forward to another. I think she can also relate to the need to stay in the home after a divorce. Give her a try:

    I highly recommend Melissa Milton.  She assisted me in a divorce buyout.  Melissa met with me in person and was very helpful and patient answering all my questions at the initial meeting and through the process.

    I've known Evelyn Freitas of Envoy Mortgage through her work with friends, and had an opportunity to benefit from her work myself last year. When my equity line of credit ended I found the bank did not want to extend further credit as I was self-employed (just as I had been initially and all along). Evelyn came up with a variety of solutions and handled the most difficult situations with ease. Her willingness to communicate and explain things alleviated much of my stress. 

    Evelyn [at]   426 6742

    If you're looking for trustworthy, efficient, knowledgeable mortgage broker I highly recommend Nur Saglam in North Berkeley. We bought our house with her success. There were some obstacles, but with her efficiency and perfect timing we were able to get what we want. House price, loan rate, down payment, etc...She goes above and beyond to obtain a process in a very professional way. I can't say enough about how wonderful Nur is to work with. I definitely suggest to call Nur. You can reach her at 510- 508 9548

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Mortgage Broker Reviews Questions Related Pages

2011 - 2013 Reviews

Looking for a mortgage broker or loan officer

Sept 2013

Hey BPN, I live in Piedmont and am looking for a mortgage person. My last mortgage broker retired. I am looking to refinance now that I have things in order. Could you please give me a few good people? Thank you, anonymous

Monica DiPerna is fantastic. I have used her for home purchases and refi's 7 times now and she is consistently fantastic. We have obtained great rates on mortgages with our complex situation:self employed, jumbos, non-owner occupied, etc. She is thorough in identifying the standard info we have to gather and then anticipates what the underwriters may possibly want for our situation and gives us time to gather the info before it is requested and becomes a rush. She is patient and calm in a stressful business and we have never closed past our original escrow date. Most of these mortgages were obtained through her after we moved to southern California and it was smooth every time. Her company is also a direct lender. The last rate we got on a rental property was equal to or better than the going market rate for an owner occupied home. She called me when she saw it and we locked immediately. Monica DiPerna Guarantee Mortgage 415-710-0354 mdiperna [at] -Karen
We recently refinanced with Shellie Seeger of Westcorp Capital (818-225-8499, Shellie [at] We tried several names from the BPN archives, and Shellie was immediately available, helpful, knowledgeable and on it. She was incredibly perseverent with our loan work, trying numerous avenues as various options weren't open to us for one reason or another. Once our loan was approved her team handled all the paperwork expertly and efficiently over email, fax etc. Shellie and her team are friendly, professional and got the job done-- when our three local banks had all told us ''no'' after a brief phone call. I highly recommend her! Happily refinanced
I highly recommend Kenny Leather in Berkeley. He helped me, my mother, and my brother refinance our loans (my mom and brother have gone to Kenny for refinancing several times over the years). He is professional, knowledgeable, and walks you through the process step by step (plus he is a really nice down to earth guy). I had a different loan officer for my initial loan and she was absolutely awful. Kenny made the process so simple. -happy with my refinance
Joe Acker who can be reached at jacker [at] or 510-339-5933. Fantastic guy. Helped us a couple times with refi. Very hard working and responsive. He went above and beyond for us. Tina
Having tried a few, I highly recommend my mortgage broker, Dianne Crosby, of RPM Financial in Orinda. Competitive rates, great service. Dianne was the top performer at Lasalle Financial in Montclair for many years before moving to Orinda, so she knows the local market. 925-743-3501 Michael
Hi-I can very highly recommend David Gunning -he is an extremely helpful and professional mortgage broker . David offers the best advice/solutions with no pressure, and he always has your best interest in mind. You can reach David at: phone 510-406-6958 email david [at] SF Professional Mom
I can highly recommend Julia Demeter of Commerce Mortgage to the person who wants a mortgage broker. She is honest, patient and willing to take that extra time to explain the ''fine print'' to you. She's wonderful! Camille

Mortgage broker/ speaker talk about buying a home

Aug 2013

I'm looking for a mortgage broker and/or a financial counselor who can come speak at an informal seminar on buying a home in the bay area. This event would be hosted by several special interest groups at my organization, not directly by my employer. While the event will be open to everyone at my workplace, the targeted audience is young professionals and employees with family obligations. Any recommendations for someone who can provide our group with an overview of the financial planning needed to buy a house now, or in 5-10 years? Thanks! Rebecca

I have an excellent recommendation for a mortgage broker that I have been working with for the last 20+ years. She has clients all over the bay area. Here is her information: Suzanne Diliberto Guarantee Mortgage 750 Lindaro Street, Suite 350 San Rafael, CA 94901 Ph: 415-925-2873 Cell: 415-710-0396 Fax: 415-461-4009 sdiliberto [at] NMLS #286438 DRE #00991022 GM NMLS #2527 GM DRE #01370741
Hi Rebecca, I'm not sure my recommendation would be the perfect mortgage person for you, but she is a great speaker and very knowledgeable. You might want to take a look at her website and get to get an idea of who she is and then have a conversation with her if she's seems like what your looking for. Her name is Evelyn Freitas Rogerson of C2 Financial and her website is Evelyn also has a great relationship with a financial counselor and can refer you to someone else if she doesn't fit the bill. Sydney

Lender & Realtor for 203(k) FHA Purchase in Berk.

Jan 2013

We need recommendations for lenders and realtors experienced with 203(k) FHA loans for purchase and rehab of a home in Berkeley. Thanks. Future Homeowner

Hi, This is Eric, I am responding to your post on a good 203k loan. I have worked with Heather Headly of Mason McDuffie Morgatage in Berkeley. Office: 510-339-5939 Email: [email protected] She will def. take care of you, and she really goes a few extra miles to get it all right! She is Local, (1400 Shattuck Ave. #14) and really knows her stuff! The 203K seems to be the perfect way to go with the purchase of a house that needs work, things get done fast, and very little money to put up for the project. She is good at these types of loans! I think you would be happy to work with her. Eric S

Mortgage broker for refinancing with < 20% equity

Sept 2012

I'm seeking for ethical and knowledgeable broker to refinance my mortgage. I may not have enough equity in the house and don't want to just randomly apply and only to find out at the end that the appraised value is too low. So I'm hoping the broker would help finding a way to estimate the value or have other options for refinancing. Any recommendations or advises will be greatly appreciated. Michelle

Two months ago, mortgage consultant Evelyn Freitas Rogerson basically saved our backsides. The bank randomly cut off our revolving credit line. With a remodel scheduled, we didn't know what to do. Evelyn stepped in, did research, wrote a letter to the bank and sent it with appropriate attachments. Two days later, our credit line was restored! She said not to worry, she'd handle it and she did it beautifully and quickly. Evelyn works with C2 Financial Corp. Her phone # is 372 4864 and cell # is 501 8473. Or email Evelyn.Rogerson [at] We could not be more pleased.
We didn't use a realtor when we bought our duplex from our landlord. Instead we relied on our mortgage broker Don Gates of Metrocities Mortgage (925) 708-7088 to steer us through the process. Two years later he helped us refinance our house at a lower rate. He's great, absolutely great. - Berkeley Home Owner
We were very happy recently (Mar 2012) with Pacific Western Mortgage Group (Ms. C. Tran was great). They were very ethical and spent a lot of time going over our options/needs with us. Following a bad experience trying to refinance through our bank (where we were offered a bad rate/poor service) we were very pleased with the time and energy that Ms. Tran spent in finding us a really good rate and finding a loan that met our requirements. I am not sure about your specific situation, but I can highly recommend PWMG / Ms. C. Tran. at (510) 654-2200 or based on our great experience with them this year. Happy PWMG Customer

Looking for Knowledgeable Mortgage Broker

May 2012

We are hoping to move to Berkeley from Vallejo. We need a mortgage broker knowledgeable in situations where the first house will be either kept to be a rental or ''short-sold'' (is that the past tense for short-sale?!) We would love someone who is efficient as time is of the essence. Thank you!

Julia Demeter with International City Mortgage in Montclair is wonderful. She will educate you about the loan process, rather than try to sell you on it. She has great integrity and makes sure that you are well-prepared for every possible contingency. Her number is 510-356-2718. Camille

VA Loan Mortgage Broker

March 2011

My husband and I are looking for a mortgage broker who is truly experienced in VA and CalVets loans. We've spoken to several brokers who claim to know about them and then turn out that they've done one or two. These loans are specialized and we need someone who really understands the ins and outs of using them. Thanks so much for any suggestions. Hoping to be a homeowner

We went through the same thing last year with several mortgage brokers who claimed to know VA loans but really didn't. We ended up going with Wells Fargo, specifically Nina Jones in Oakland and she was fabulous. When I called the VA help center directly, they mentioned that Wells Fargo does the highest volume of VA loans in the country, so even if not so many are done here in the Bay Area, they have a whole department to fall back onto for advice. I would definitely give Nina a call, 510-267-1309. Good luck. DP
I would urge you to contact AJ Nisen, Sr. Mortgage Loan Officer at B of A. AJ brings a results focused, ''can do'' attitude to each meeting. He has integrity, listens to your needs and most important - been a pleasure to work with! If you're looking for someone who will deliver results, you should contact AJ. 925-677-4169 - work. aj.nisen [at] Kathy

Need mortgage broker for refi

Jan 2011

We're trying to refi our mortgage and need broker recommendations please. We deal with two already and they are both disappointing in service. Thank you. zipcount

Karen Ward is fantastic. She has helped us with two loans, and we have referred many friends and family to her. Everyone has been happy with her work, and several have said they saved thousands through lower interest rates. Karen [at] (510) 559-4000 R.E. Loan Mortgage 1300 Solano Avenue Albany, CA 94706 Happy Homeowner
There's only one broker I will ever use again: Shellie Seeger President/Broker Ph: 818-225-8499 Xt.223 Fax: 818-225-0153 shellie [at] We got turned down FOUR times by banks last year when we tried to buy our house (for reasons that had to do with the house, a fixer-upper, not our finances) -- twice we were led on and down by Holmgren in Montclair, to the point where they just stopped answering our calls -- NEVER use these guys! Shellie not just got us the loan, and not just got us an incredible interest rate, but this year she refinanced our house at an UNBELIEVABLE interest rate! She rocks! Happy Client
Regarding a mortgage adviser, Dave DiVecchio of CMG Mortgage has done great by my wife and I. I have professionally and personally worked with several mortgage brokers and he by far provided us the best service and clarity. Mortgage advisers have so many more hoops to jump through now with the overreaction in legislation since the housing meltdown which means a lot more is required of those looking to get a new loan or refinanced. He will make the process much more bearable and is professional and friendly. His number is 925-595-9194. Just let him know I sent you his way chris
I really like Julia Demeter 510-339-4450 x204. She is patient, knowledgeable, and friendly. She never made me feel stupid for not knowing things, she always called us back or answered her phone, and I trust her. talia
Jim Aron of Pacific Western Mortgage Group just completed our refinance. Jim's whole shtick is transparency in lending, educating a potential customer about where the money goes, what all the alternatives are- points, no points, rates, etc. Thorough, masterful, and a great sense of humor besides. 510.654.2200 The office is at Watergate in Emeryville. Easy on and off the freeway, easy parking. Peter
I highly recommend Ted Maniatis with MPR Financial ( He helped us with the mortgages on our first home purchase four years ago and worked us though refinancing last year. He's incredibly helpful and really knows his stuff! Good luck! Suzanne
Russell Doi 510.305.9476. We have been working with him for a year on a new home purchase(it's taking us that long to find a place) and can HIGHLY recommend him. He's detail oriented, responsive, and takes the time to explain things so you understand what you're getting into. anon

2009 - 2010 Reviews

Mortgage broker to help with refinance

Oct 2010

Looking for someone to help us get into a better financial position with our home mortgage. We are part of the many affected by the housing crisis where our loan is nearly the same amount as the value of our house. It just kills me that I can't take advantage of these amazing mortgage rates right now by refinancing so I just want to speak with anyone to see if they can help. Please let me know if you are aware of any mortgage brokers who can help in this situation. Thank you!

John Schaff at Republic Mortgage will listen to your story and find the best solution for you. you can reach him at 916-289-1816 over my head too
I can't say enough about Dianne Crosby at LaSalle Financial in Montclair. She is professional, fast and friendly. I have heard many success stories about her because my husband is a realtor and has sent many clients her way with positive outcomes. You can also look her up on Yelp to read more reviews about her. Her contact info is: Dianne Crosby Senior Loan Consultant LaSalle Financial Services 6201 Antioch St., Suite 200 Oakland, CA 94611 Mobile: 510.541.1662 Office: 510.339.4300 x104 Fax: 866.789.1122 License # 01348308 Email: dianne [at] Laura
Jana Lane of Prospect Mortgage is an experienced and understanding mortgage broker. She'll assess your situation amd make recommendations without pressuring you. We worked with her and found that she really puts her client's interest first. I also remember seeing her recommended by another BPN member. Jana's phone number is 415-425-0857. Her webpage is Julie

FHA broker recommendation

Feb 2010

Hi, we've been looking into FHA mortgages and have talked to one person who told us that we would be paying mortgage insurance until we had 80% equity. I'm wondering if this is standard, and if others have had this experience? Also, we'd like to check with at least one other FHA broker for comparison purposes. If others have someone to recommend, that would be great. Thanks.

We had a great experience with Mathew Carson of First Capital Group. He was referred to us by our friends who recently purchased their home using an FHA loan and loved the service /knowledge that he provided. He came over to our house and went over the pros and cons of FHA - doing a 'regular' loan, which we really appreciated. We had been told by other people that FHA was a nightmare and difficult to do, but for us it was a breeze. Granted we have nothing to compare it to as we were first time buyers but apart from signing a mountain of papers the experience was great ! You can reach him at 415-440-5626 or mcarson [at] paul
Try Mathew Carson at First Capital Group. We used him when we purchased our home and again recently when we refinanced. While we did not go the FHA route I'm pretty sure he does them as it came up in our recent conversation. He's a great guy and takes the time to really explain the process and what you can expect. You can reach him at 415-606-4252 or mcarson [at] sally h
Sept 2009

We want to refinance (or at least look into it), and our original mortgage broker through BofA has left due to illness. He was such a great guy - friendly, trustworthy, conscientious, helpful, responsive to our many questions without ever making us feel as clueless as we were. He's really the main reason we went with BofA to begin with. Now that we're there, we'd like to stay for a variety of reasons, and are looking for another trustworthy, friendly person. The guy who took over for our original broker leaves a lot to be desired. Can someone recommend a BofA broker to us? Jenny

got the guy for you! Marc Loeber marc.loeber [at] 415-464-3167 good luck
I just bought a house and used Michael Adams, he lives out of the area, but was very helpful and responsive- always available by phone. I was very comfortable with him, and would recommend using him. His phone number is 530-842-1740, or 925-989-5329. Lisa
I do not know a broker at Bank of America but we used a great guy from First Capital Group. His name is Mathew Carson. We were first time buyers and he really helped us understand the process and was very clear about all the fees associated with the purchase. We have refinanced with him recently and referred other friends to him, all who seem to be very happy with both the service he provided and the interest rate they got. becca
Sept 2009

Currently, we have our first mortgage with Wells Fargo (WF). It's a 5 year-ARM, which is set to adjust next year. We contacted WF 2 months ago and began the process of refinancing, trying to get a 30-yr fixed mortgage. Our house appraised for the same amount we bought it for 4 years ago. Now, WF is saying they won't honor their commitment letter because both mortgages would be for more than 90% of the appraised value (even though they're only financing the 1st mortgage and not assuming any more risk than they have now). Our credit is perfect. Our income has doubled over the last 4 years. And our neighborhood is very stable. We're current on our payments and there is little risk that we'll fall behind. What do we do now? We've heard rumor of people who advocate on your behalf with the bank to get you refinanced - not mortgage brokers. Do such people exist? How successful are they? Should we contact a mortgage broker? Any suggestions? Looking for a ''fix''

Avoid WF at all costs!

We've owned 4 homes over the last 13 years, and 7 mortgages and refi combined. During that time, we've ALWAYS used brokers and were very satisfied with their service and rates they were able to find us.

With this last house, we bought it in July 2008, and when rates went down, we wanted to refi. Our current mortgage was with WF, so given the craziness of refi rules, we opted to go directly to WF for the refi. It was the WORST decision we ever made. Firstly, it took twice as long as any other refi we've ever done with a broker. Secondly, they did the ole' ''bait and switch.'' We specified our requirements (didn't want to pay points), and needs. So for over 6 weeks, we were led to believe we were getting one rate with x points. It was good, which is why we were so patient, but again, took much longer than any other time.

When the paper work was delivered for us to sign, it was for a low rate but paying over $7k in fees/points!! this was not what we agreed upon. Long story short, bait and switch. I would like to believe it was the inexperience of WF mortgage guy. But with all the financial snakes freely taking advantage of working class, I tend to believe it was more sleezy than inexperience.

Go to a broker. They can shop around for you, have access to many lenders, you can negotiate their fee (WF charges the same fee as we've paid with a broker), and they'll bust their tail for you, so that you're a return customer. good luck. trusting noone

Hello, I would highly recommend having a mortgage broker. We have used Karen Ward at RE Loan on Solano Ave. twice and my parents also recently bought a house with her very sound, patient and excellent service. I feel strongly that using a reliable, trusted broker can alleviate any stress in the whole process of refinancing. And get you a better deal. With your credit and job history I can't imagine there being a problem. Karen Ward's business is Residential & Commercial Real Estate Loans Karen [at] (510) 559-4000 R.E. Loan Mortgage 1300 Solano Avenue Albany, CA 94706 Good luck! Monica
You might want to consider a different lender. We have financed and re-financed directly with Fremont Bank using their no interest loans several times over the years. You deal directly with the bank so you don't have to pay mortgage broker fees and they have been great to work with.

Good luck! It is good that you are starting early. Nikki

I worked with a great mortgage broker, Mathew Carson, from First capital Group in San Francisco, 415 440-5626. He came to our house and went over every detail with us which really helped us understand the process. Highly recommend him. becca
Dear Looking for a Fix,

As someone who has just finished refinancing myself, I highly recommend that you avoid going to your own bank (there is no benefit to them if you refinance for a lower interest rate, so why should they try and help you?). Try working with a mortgage broker, who will be able to work with you, and shop around to find a smaller lending institution who will give you a lower rate.

I used Rick Williams (email rickrew123 [at] who happens to be up in Sonoma, but it doesn't matter where your mortgage broker is from. They can get much, much better rates that we can, just walking in off the street. I double checked his rates (including the broker fees, closing costs, in addition to the APR 4.25% for a 15-year fixed) and he was actually cheaper than every bank I checked - Wells, B of A, Mechanic's Bank, Chase, Citibank (I had my mortgage with Citi originally, and they weren't interested in refinancing by more than a quarter of a point less than my original rate - sheesh!)

Email Rick - he just switched from the firm he had been with to a new one, so I don't have his new phone #) and see what he can do for you. You've already got your appraisal, so that's a plus. Our refi went through a small finance company, Provident Lending, and within three weeks was re-sold on the secondary market and purchased by, get this -- Wells Fargo. So, the bank that wouldn't refinance my home for less than 5.25% purchased my mortgage from Provident for 4.25%. Go figure.

We rolled in the cost of the refinance into the loan amount (closing costs were about $5k on a loan of $250K), so we had no upfront costs at all except the appraisal fee, which is paid directly to the appraisal company.

Good luck, and I hope Rick can help you. He will be down in Berkeley on Oct. 8th at one of the City of Berkeley's home energy workshops (I think at St. John's on College, 7-8:30 pm) so you can meet him there in person. Alice in Berkeley

Aug 2009

Can anyone please recommend a reverse mortgage broker or consultant in the Berkeley area (or nearby) who is experienced and reliable/trustworthy? If there is someone you have had a bad experience with, we would also appreciate the warning. Trying to help my aging parents Does anyone know of a credit union in the Bay Area that is offering reverse mortgages? We're trying to keep the start-up costs down. Seeking reasonable rate on reverse mortgage

Laura Levy of Holmgren Assoc. 510-521-6265 is both knowledgable and very caring. I wholeheartedly recommend her. Isadora
I have done a couple of reverse mortgages for clients with similar situations as yours and used conventional lenders with some success. There is also a company by the name of Nestworth that offers only reverse mortgages. The advantage is they are a private company so do not have to follow the government guidlines that conventional lenders are required to. That being said, I am slightly skeptical about the program and would suggest you do your due diligence before hand. ie how long is their capital going to last? mathew
I recommend you talk with Laura Levy about reverse mortgages -- she specializes in them. She's very knowledgeable, experienced, and kind. Her office is (510)521-6465 and cell (510) 219-4997. E-mail is laura [at] I arranged a reverse mortgage for my elderly mother (not through Laura -- my mom is in the Southeast), and it was the only possible way for her to remain in her home. We are realistic though, and don't expect to have any equity left by the time she is no longer able to live there and the loan is due. It's an expensive loan, but you can amortize the costs over time and minimize your risk with mortgage insurance (I believe it's required). Good luck. Anon
Marge Bottari from All California Mortgage has helped a lot of my friends parents. She is fabulous and knows her stuff. 415 464 8209 415 305 3425 mbottari [at] rachel
April 2009

My husband and I are looking to buy our first home. We both work for non-profits so are priced out of many Berkeley and Oakland neighborhoods. That said we'd like to find a trustworthy person to help us get into a neighborhood we feel good about while making sure we're getting a solid loan. Recommendations for brokers who have been successful in the current market would be particularly useful. anon.

I have only great things to say about our mortgage broker, Robert Jackson, at BayCal Financial. We bought our first home with him in 2001, have refinanced twice, and are currently looking to buy again with him. He returns phone calls promptly and is patient with the many, many questions that I ask. He is traveling at the moment, so he may be unavailable for another week or so. His number is 888-884-6668 x21. Adrienne
Jim Aron with Pacific Western Mortgage helped me buy a first home years ago. I say ''helped'' because I really wouldn't have been able to buy a home at that time without his assistance and knowledge. Since then, we've used him several times. Jim is a smart guy who knows about all the different programs with different lenders. We've known him for years and wouldn't dream of using anyone else. His phone number is 654-2200. Happy to recommend Jim
I would highly recommend Christine Nadeau of Bank of America at 415-438-5079. Her office is in San Francisco, but she lives in the East Bay so I've met with her here in the East Bay. She has over 20 years experience and has an excellent record for not giving out the loans that have gone bust. She may scrutinize your finances a bit more, but its because she wants to make sure the loan is a good fit for your family situation. I would give her a call. Sue
My husband and I have worked with Zach Griffin for many years. He is honest, reliable and straight forward. We purchased our first home with him and have worked with him over the years on other investments and refinancing. In addition to being patient and understanding - he is always available to answer questions and we have found him to be accessible and knowledgeable. He is with La Salle Financial in Oakland - his number is 510-339-4300 x117 or you can email him at loans [at] margaret
We just bought our first home 1 month ago using Paul Lackovic. He didn't help us find a home or discover neighborhoods (that was all our Realtor, Jackie Gallanagh - she's amazing), but he was great with the fanancials. We found an inexpensive (for the Bay Area) house in a really cute part of San Leandro that already had an offer on it. The seller chose our offer over the other one, in part because the seller felt very secure about our ''numbers'' after talking directly to Paul. Paul also was really good about giving us accurate estimates - he didn't lowball the numbers in the beginning in order to reel us in. We actually ended up having a slightly smaller monthly payment than he had projected. Paul got us a good bank and a good rate, and we got a great house... we're happy! Paul Lackovic, RPM Mortgage - 408.813.5611 paul [at] - Good luck to you! - sara
Greg Herman at Holmgren and Associates on Mountain Blvd. in Montclair (Oakland) recently helped us buy our first home. We bought in Oakland in this down economy. I work for a nonprofit as well and don't earn much and my husband is a recent immigrant with no credit history and we were able to get a great rate, good terms, and solid 30 year fixed mortgage through Greg based only on my income and credit history. He was good at explaining the process and a generally good guy about explaining how the real estate industry works. He came recommended to us from a different realtor we'd worked with. We had some issues with her but we liked him and he had no issues about continuing to help us with no animosity toward us despite our split with the first realtor. He even helped recommend a variety of other realtors and we did go with one he suggested after getting recommendations from others on this list for some of the same people he recommended. Overall, very good experience with him.! Greg Herman, 510-339-4450 or greg [at] Rebecca the happy homeowner
We really like our broker, Pete Garcia. He helped us tremendously in our refinance just as things were starting to go nutty. Thank god he somehow managed to make it work as we are now in a 30-year-fixed!! I believe he has lots more good reviews and contact info on yelp. Read more details of our experience with him there, too. Highly recommended. Good luck! Shoshana
For the poster looking for a trustworthy mortgage broker, I highly recommend Wayne Chin @ ERA Vision Mortgage. If there is a lower rate out there, he'll balance out the cost and tell you if it's worth getting or not. All the ''points'' and ''fees'' talk was very confusing to me, but he explains it in a straight forward way. There are a lot of brokers (especially on the radio commercials) that are total scams, but Wayne will not put anyone into a bad loan. His website is: and his phone number is 510-813-1379. Hope that helps! Satisfied Client
I highly recommend Cecil Dunlap. He works at 1st Western Home Loans in Danville (Blackhawk). He is very knowledgeable, efficient and has a great sense of humor. He answered every question honestly and to the point. We were first time home buyers and he helped us tremendously. We had done a lot of research on home buying but we still needed someone to move us in the right direction. Cecil was there every step of the way. He always returned our correspondence and answered every little question and detail if not more. Our case was a little complicated but through diligence and guidance, Cecile got us through the entire process painlessly. We cannot say enough positive things about our experience with him. - V. Davis Cecil's contact information: PROSPECT MORTGAGE -1910 Olympic Blvd. Walnut Creek, Ca (925) 984-6472 (updated Dec 2011)
We also used Mathew Carson from 1st Capital. Nice guy, funny and sharp. He came over to our house one evening and went over in great detail all the options we had and what he thought would be best for us. We were first time buyers and really had no idea about the process but Mathew was very patient with me and all my questions. So, to make a short story long, he was wonderful and found us a loan with a great rate. I highly recommend him. becca
April 2009

We bought our house almost a year ago, and are now looking at whether or not we should refinance at the lower rates available. We've looked at online calculators, etc., and it seems like it might be advantageous, depending on the fees. Unfortunately, we felt like the mortgage broker we used last year was not keeping up with the changing market, and was not available when we had questions. So we're looking for a recommendation of a mortgage broker who would be willing to help us figure out whether a refinance is right for us or not, even though that means they might end up without a commission. If we do decide to refinance, we want someone who is willing to walk us through the process. Any ideas? Possible refinance?

We just re-fi'd with Ellice Kaminsky of Thousand Oaks Financial, on Solano in Albany. This was our second re-fi with Ellice, and she's always been great to work with. She walks you through all the paperwork (if you want that level of detail), knows how to watch the rates before locking in, returns calls promptly, etc. I highly recommend her: 559-3330 Jeff
I recommend Alan Baskin of KLA Mortgage, Albany as an excellent mortgage broker: (510) 559-6830. He is very proactive and knowledgable. We have used his services twice for refinancing and were very satisfied. Anon
I feel confident recommending Richard Sintchak at Wells Fargo. Richard shepherded us through our first time home-buying experience with much information and patience and no pressure. We know of many other first time homebuyers who have used Richard both before and after us, and all loved working with him. We are refinancing with Richard at the moment also. Richard Sintchak Sales Manager Wells Fargo Home Mortgage 3214 Fillmore Street San Francisco, CA 94123 (415) 396-7970 Tel (866) 922-5125 eFax (415) 867-1519 Mobile Email: richard.m.sintchak [at] Website: anon
The northern California mortgage broker ''whiz'' is Sue Thomas at La Salle Financial in Montclair. She was recommended to us by our accountant, and we have used her services three times in the past eight years. She knows what's happening this minute, and has a good relationship with the banks and other lenders. She is kind of a fast talker, and can do the math in her head, but she is easy to understand, and helpful all the way through. I highly recommend her. Diana
I highly, highly recommend Vincenzo Scalisi for your refinance. We went to Vincenzo in December of 2008 and he found us a fabulous rate for our refinance. We are literally saving thousands each month. He is easy to work with, knowledgeable about current trends and responsive. He is in San Francisco, but came to us in Walnut Creek. Contact him at vscalisi [at] Good luck! Lauren
I just closed on a re-fi in January, and used Vincenzo Scalisi as my mortgage broker. Vincenzo quickly found an excellent interest rate, was very service-oriented, responsive, organized, and great at the details. The closing was very easy and smooth. Overall, it was as good an experience as one could have with this sort of thing. Vincenzo's number is 925 354 3100. Very happy with my re-fi!
March 2009

Can anyone recommend an experienced, honest, reliable reverse mortgage broker? I am looking to get a mortgage on my parents' house in LA, but I'm having a hard time finding recommendations/reviews/testimonials of reverse mortgage professionals. I want to work with someone with knows exactly what he/she is doing, who can educate me as to the process and outcomes, and who can make it all happen FAST. Please, if you know of anyone, reply with their contact info and let me know WHY you love them! Thanks BPNers - sara

Marge Bottari from All California Mortgage is fabulous- really listens, and will do everything in her power to help. 415 464 8209 (direct) 415 305 3425 (cell) mbottari [at] rachel
I highly recommend Liz Litea. Liz is smart, experienced, and a really nice person who will happily take the time to explain everything you need to know. Here is her contact info: Liz Litaea Windsor Capital Mortgage Corporation (415) 748-2626/dir liz.litaea [at] My Blog: ariel
Jan 2009

Hi there, We really need a referral to mortgage person. We had to do improvements to our house a while back and refied-- now our mortgage is killing us. With current rates so low we're hoping to refi our way back to sanity. We've got two little ones and I've had to go back to work full-time just to pay the mort! thanks for any advice~~ house-poor Mama

We've used Alex Zarkoub to refinance, now for the second time. He's very responsible and we've never found better rates. He does what he says he'll do when he says it. I can't say if he can help refinance out of a bad situation (which it sounded like the poster might be in) -- the banks are very picky right now. But, if you're a viable candidate for a mortgage, he seems to do a fine job. Alex Zarkoub alex [at] work (650) 571-5792 Cell (650) 520-0895 Fax (650) 571-7414 anne
we have used Zach Griffin for the last 15 years - great guy - great office and always gave us the best recommendations. Tell him Hi from the Deuber's Stefanie
I can recommend Richard Pavao at California Real Estate Finance in Alameda, (510)521-0300. During the big credit crunch crisis last Fall I did a no-cost refi with him and everything went great. He's easy to work with, his rates were competitive and there were no surprises at the loan doc signing. I'll probably refi again with him if rates keep going down. His website is Dan
I highly recommend Alan Baskin at KLA Mortgage on 4th Street in Berkeley. He is very honest, friendly, and will work very hard to make sure you are happy with the outcome. His number is 510-704-1050. Peggy
We refinanced with Rick Weber of California Real Estate Finance in Alameda a while ago and, since rates are lower, we're refinancing with him again because he's saved us so much money. Rick doesn't mind when you ask dumb questions and, more important, he doesn't mind when you ask the same dumb questions repeatedly! (You'd think I'd have this down by now.) He is able to back up his opinions about the market and time has proven him to be correct about many of his predictions--this is comforting for someone who's not savvy about the financial world. He lays out all your options, makes sure you understand them, and then he's not pushy when you begin to make your decisions. Rick is willing to wait for you to do what's right for you, but he is conscientious enough to let you know how timing might be a factor in certain situations so you are totally informed. He is transparent in his process so there are no surprises. Rick is simultaneously creative and practical when it com! es to meeting your needs, and I wish we had used him when we bought the house in the first place. He is able to I couldn't recommend him more. Please e-mail me at chris.chun (at) gmail (d0t) com if you want more information. His information is as follows: 510-521-0300 x270 (Work) 510-521-6340 (Fax) 510-301-4281 (Cell) rwloans [at] Chris

2007 - 2008 Reviews

Dec 2008

Things seem to be changing so quickly economically right now. We are looking for a really good mortgage broker who can keep up with what's going on & help us find the best deal on a loan. Some of the brokers we have already contacted don't seem very good at communicating with us & updating us on changing rates and loan packages. Have you worked with anyone you liked a lot when obtaining a mortgage?

Try Sam Krueger with RPM on Solano Avenue above La Farine. He can be reached at 510-559-3881. He is really good at explaining things and has a lot of patience too. You can email him also at sam [at] catherine
We're currently working with Mike Vodnoy at Fishman Financial on Solano. Mike knows that we're on the fence about buying right now due to the economy and the fact that we're a single-income family, but that doesn't stop him from providing us with good information, answering our many questions, and updating us on interest rates, etc. He will meet you pretty much any time. Our first appointment was at the crack of dawn on a Sunday. He'll make you all the coffee you want and will stay and talk with you until you feel you are armed with everything you need to know. Mike is professional and not pushy in any way.
I can highly recommend Rhoda Paul who is residential mortgage broker with Holmgren + Associates. I've been impressed by her expertise as well as her integrity. She's extremely easy to work with. You can email Rhoda at rhoda [at] or phone 510.330.3690. David
I just advised a poster in BPN's Advice Wanted newsletter to call our mortgage broker. I'll recommend him again: Call our mortgage broker, Zach Griffin. He is the best. We were in a financing pickle last year and he saved out butts. We have worked with him on a few different houses and the attendant mortgages and lines of credit for over 10 years now. He is nice, smart, and creative. He is on top of everything and always gives us good advice. I know many other people who have worked with him and will go nowhere else now. Zach Griffin Loan Consultant Direct: 510.339.4300 117 Fax: 510.339.4311 Email: loans [at] Mary
Try Tom Nitsan. He was referred to us by our Coldwell Banker real estate agent back in 2000 when we bought our house. He is very knowledgeable and has been in the business for a long time. He is generally pretty busy though so it would be good to have your questions ready. He communicates well via e-mail. I don't have his number handy but his office is on Solano. Best of luck. Berkeley Buyer
Jane Glendenning at Holmgren and Associates in Montclair is THE person. She is very honest and good at what she does. dawn
Cindy Smith of Vintage Mortgage Group (925-227-8914, cindy [at] in the East Bay has been in the business for 30 years, and she knows her stuff. Cindy helped us refinance six years ago, and is looking into a possible second refinance (but she is also forthcoming about NOT recommending a refinance if she doesn't think it would benefit a prospective borrower). In addition, Cindy understands the ins-and-outs of the mortgage credit certificate program, a nice little tax break for some first-time home buyers and people who haven't owned a home in three years (, but a topic that not all mortgage brokers even know about. Melanie
I went to Julia Demeter when I needed a mortgage, and she was helpful, informative, prompt, friendly, patient, and able to explain things to a lay person. I highly recommend her. She's with Holmgren & Assoc in Montclair. 888-420-0111 Talia
Try Melissa Milton at LaSalle Financial. She is an excellent mortgage broker, very trustworthy and spends a lot of time educating her clients and really finding the right loan for their needs. I worked with her on a recent mortgage and had a very good experience - much better than experiences in the past with other mortgage brokers. 510-339-4300 mmilton [at] Tammy
July 2007

I've already checked the archives and am looking for some current mortgage broker recommendations. We're thinking about buying another house and need some creative advice on the best options. Clueless

Mary Lou Till from LaMorinda Funding Group is the person for you! She's VERY creative, and deeply devoted to her clients. She's one of the top producers nationally and does that by repeat business. Her clients just love her. Call her at (925) 282-6015. Her e-mail is marylou[at] Julie G
For a superior mortgage broker specialist who can help you find the best options for your loan, call Jim Aron at (510) 644-2205. He knows things that most of us aren't even aware of and he's very honest and easy to talk to. He's the best. Lynch.larry
I very highly recommend Gwen Hoople. Over the years, she's helped me with 2 home purchases, refinancing as well as setting up a home equity line. She's very knowledgeable, very thorough and absolutely a wonderful person to deal with. She will give sound advice and would never talk anyone into any risky arrangements. I'd never choose anyone else for my mortgage and related needs. You can reach her at (510) 301-3037 or at gwen [at] Good luck! Rosie
Jenny Shore of Alternative Mortgage Sources is incredibly knowledgeable, resourceful and personable. I can give her my highest recommendation. Her phone is 652-7900, or email her at jenny[at] David
I highly recommend Zach Griffin of La Salle Financial Services. We have used him a few times and know other people who have used him. They all rave about him, as do we. He is smart, creative, and very nice. When we bought our first home more than 10 years ago, we didn't have much money. He helped us find great loans and avoid PMI. He later helped us with an equity line of credit on that house. Then, for our most recent home purchase, he worked extremely quickly to help us make an offer a house...when we weren't even shopping for a house! We saw a house, decided then and there we wanted to move, called Zach to help us get a letter together to go with the offer that was due in a few days. Then he helped us get our loan for the new house. All immediate, no lag, no hassle. He just handles everything efficiently and well. I can't say enough good things about him and his support staff. I *hate* financial dealings with a passion, but I never mind dealing with him. He makes it so easy. Zach Griffin La Salle Financial Services Direct: 510.339.4300 x 117 His office is in the Montclair district of Oakland. good luck!
Evelyn Rogerson, who works with Atticus Mortgage Group is a great broker. Not only is she filled with knowledge and good at getting you the mortgage you need, but she can explain it so it makes sense. Her number is 510 501 8473 or evelyn[at] Sydney M
I cannot recommend Ken West highly enough. I am a single mom and Ken was very creative--he helped me buy and refinance my home (twice) and he has helped several friends do the same. He was recommended to me by two friends who have worked with him for 10 years. He is exactly what you want. When I told him I needed to make repairs and could I refi, he pulled my credit report while we talked, took notes and told me when the rates were favorable, he would give me a call. Several weeks later, he called and followed through with the refi. Plus, he is a great human being and will travel to you. I have never seen the inside of his office. Ken can be reached at 415.383.9203. Tell him Michelle A says hi. Best of luck. michelle
i very highly recommend jenny shore. i'm a single mom with an under the table job and Jenny was able to get a no-doc loan and 100% financing so that i could buy a duplex. she is extremely creative and very helpful. she even helped me figure out that it was not a good idea to buy a place that i had been interested before i saw mine even though it would have been in her self interest to have me buy the place. she is very smart, very personable and and is able to explain all the money stuff...even to me, and i hate numbers! jenny shore 510-652-7900 jenny[at] happy homeowner
Our favorite mortgage broker is Jenny Shore of Alternative Mortgages. We've used Jenny for a couple of refinances on our old home and then very recently on the purchase for our new home. She is so thoughtful and easy to talk to, and she possesses a tremendous sense of integrity. She found several solutions for some potentially tricky scenarios for us, and worked very closely with us to find the best loan for our needs. Nothing seems impossible for her, and she is so careful to make sure the whole process is as un-stressful as possible, even though all mortgages are stressful from my perspective (although nobody else seems to get as stressed-out about such things as much as I do). If it's possible to enjoy such a process, then Jenny is the one to make that happen! Her office is in Emeryville, but we often met where it was most convenient for us. She's very flexible that way. We also really appreciate that she's on the cutting edge of finding ways to ''Green'' the mortgage business and works with all kinds of creative buyers and properties. Her number is 510-652-7900. You should at least call her and find out if she's a good fit. Your mortgage broker is somebody who you should totally be able to trust and connect with. We highly recommend Jenny. Good luck! Julia
Hello! Here is a great person for a discussion of what your needs are concerning a mortgage. She is trustworthy, she will listen and give you want you want. Here is her name Julia Demeter at 520-9700. email is: julia[at] Karen K
I am a former mortgage broker and know many loan people - lots of mediocre and bad ones; every now and then a real professional. Here are two that you can trust to guide you through any scenario: Rise Myers, 925-838-4820 risemyers[at]

Nathan Petrowsky, 510-541-7382 or 925-465-7105 nathan.petrowsky[at]

We have worked with Jenny Shore of Alternative Mortgage Services (510) 652-7900. I can not say enough about how helpful she has been. She has been smart, proactive, available and caring in her efforts to help us buy our next home. My wife and I have bought three houses, but we always seem to have to re-learn everything each time. Jenny is a patient and skilled teacher and support as well as being very astute about her business. Plus, she is a genuine person and a delight to be around. A rare combination. I cannot recommend her more highly. David
I recommend Rick Weber to any one looking for a mortgage broker. Whether you are a first time home owner or looking to refinance your existing home loan rate, we had an uncomplicated experience with Rick Weber at California Real Estate Finance. We had an ARM that was climbing every month. Rick calmly walked us through the daunted steps of our re-fi making the whole process quite smooth and informed. He refinanced our home with no closing costs and reduced our monthly payments by 00! Rick provides a variety of loan options including refinances with no closing costs, and has programs that can help first-time homebuyers, as well as those who face challenges in getting a loan. Rick Weber can be contacted at California Real Estate Finance, 2363 Mariner Square Drive Ste 141, Alameda, CA 94501 (510)521-0300 (Work), (510)301-4281 (Cell), rwloans [at] (email). mg
Hello, In response to a mortgage broker recommendation, I would like to recommend Rick Weber, who helped up find a great rate. Rick is very professional and helpful, regardless of what kind of loan you are looking for. No pressure sales pitch, just the facts explained in a straightforward way. He is very patient and honest and made sure that we understood the options before we found and selected our mortgage. I recommend him without hesitation! Rick works at California Real Estate Finance in Alameda 510-521-0300 x270 510-301-4281 cell 510-521-6430 fax email: rwloans [at] website: *** Ann-Marie
May 2007

I am seeking a loan to renovate an apartment in a building that I co-own in NYC in order to bring it to market value. The building has two apartments, and a restaurant below. The building is paid for in full. I do not want to refinance my residence in CA (for various reasons), but am having a difficult time finding a lender due to the issue of 'mixed-use''. Does anyone have any advice or a broker to recommend for this? I am looking for a loan of approx. 150K and would like to repay within 5-7 years. Thank you in advance for your assistance. Anon

I, too, found it impossible to find a lender for a small mixed-use building. My solution was to get a $250k equity loan on my residence. If you have $150k equity in your home, you might shop around for an equity loan. Joann
April 2007

Does anyone know of any good mortgage brokers to help me with a refinance of my property? I've got a variable interest rate that's going way too high and I don't want to just go with any lender, worrying that they could go belly up. Ideally I'd like to go with an interest only loan, but then I would probably want to do an addition to my property in order to afford the higher payment. So someone who has experience with costruction loans would be good too. thanks, Nader N

I think Zack Griffin of La Salle is the best. We have worked with him a few times over the past 10 years. Several other people we know have also used his services and rave about him. He is on top of everything,very creative, and great about seeking out the best loans. I cannot recommend him highly enough. I HATE anything finance-related, but it is never confusing or scary when I'm dealing with him. For example, we were planning a remodel and weren't even shopping for a house. We saw a house we liked and decided to bail on the remodel and make an offer, which was due in two days...after a weekend. We called Zach and he hopped to it, got a letter together for us and got loan paperwork started, and we got the house. I don't know if any other loan officer would have worked that hard that quickly. I feel he definitely made a difference for us. Here is his info: Zach Griffin Loan Consultant
The person you ought to contact is Jenny Shore of Alternative Mortgage. She is one of the brightest people I know. She thoroughly knows the mortgage market and all the products out there. I could not recommend anyone more highly. You can call Jenny at 652-7900, or email her: jenny [at] David
I have a great mortgage broker who has helped us with two refinancings and, more recently, with buying a new house. He's very knowledgeable and a nice guy. His name is Roger Smith at LaSalle Financial in Montclair. Phone: 510-339-4300 Cathy
Rose Sherzai at Holmgren Associates (510-339-2121)is the absolute best. She actually hears and keeps in mind your specific goals instead of just shoehorning you into a package. She's right on top of every detail and has a wonderful manner with clients. I really can't recommend her highly enough. Brenda

2005 - 2006 Reviews

Sept 2006

Excellent Mortgage Consultant
I've been meaning to write this for the past month (since we moved into our new home in N. Berkeley). For anyone looking to finance the purchase of a home or to refinance your current mortgage, I highly recommend Brian Moggan at Princeton Capital (his office is on La Salle in Montclair Village). He is very friendly and knowledgable, explains things extremely well, stayed one step ahead during the entire escrow process, and obtain a very competitive rate for us. Even more than that: he would come to our home for meetings since we had to meet in the evening and our baby would be going down for bedtime. We never had to meet at his office, arrange for a sitter, miss any work, etc. We didn't even have to ask him to do this, when he found out we had a 5 month old (when we first spoke on the phone), he offered to have the meeting at our house. When we had an issue arise at the last moment before closing (an issue really the fault of the title company), he didn't present us with a problem and make us scramble; he informed us of the problem and already had a solution as well. He was great, and I can't recommend him highly enough. His contact information is: Brian Moggan, Princeton Capital, phone: 510 -339-4719, email: brianmoggan [at] Melody

Nov 2005

Excellent Mortgage Broker
I highly recommend Brian Corey as a mortgage broker. My wife and I worked with him recently because we were considering a refinance or a second mortgage to get cash for a remodel. Although we thought we knew what we wanted when we contacted him (a refinance), Brian spent a lot of time helping us understand different options, even though all of them would bring him less income than a refinance. He ultimately helped us decide that a home equity line of credit would be best for us, although that is his least profitable option. After doing a lot of work on our behalf, he finally suggested that we simply ask our bank to improve the rate on our existing line (meaning he made nothing from the deal). Brian was quick to respond to e-mails and phone calls, and was very friendly. We could not have been happier with our experience with Brian. You can reach Brian at bcorey[at]

April 2005

Hello. I'd like recommendations for a trustworthy mortgage broker who works with clients with bad credit who are not too knowledgable about the mortgage process. My husband is trying to get the family home from his name into his brother's name so that it is no longer a liability for him. His brother wants the house and wants to assume the outstanding mortgage balance. However, he has terrible credit and has not been proactive in doing things like obtaining his credit report. I ordered it for him but he needed to send in info clarifying that his address was a residential address and not commercial and he hasn't followed up and sent that in yet. I want to take the next step and find him a mortgage broker to move this process along. Also, interest rates are rising. Any good recommendations are welcome! THANKS!!

Jason Russell of Rob Wolf & Associates is a fantastic broker who always gets the deal done. He has worked with clients with 100% financing, poor credit, self-employed, no verified assets, etc. Unlike many brokers who sit on the paperwork until the last minute, Jason gets things out the door immediately. He has appraisers that he works with to make sure that your appraisal is lined up as quickly as possible, and he really breaks his back getting the deal done in time or even early! It really makes a difference in today's competitive real estate market to have someone who can close your deal in 14 or 21 days, and Jason also has a great reputation among real estate agents. He also promptly responds to emails and returns phone calls and makes himself available to explain all your options. He does not just farm out your work to some lower down broker! He also knows all the little loopholes with the different lenders to help you get the best available rate, and unlike brokers who will sell you on an initial too good to be true rate, what Jason tells you is what you will get - period. We own several properties and have worked with other brokers, and no one can get a deal done like Jason. We started out like you with poor credit, no history of income (because we are self-employed) and no down payment, yet Jason got us our first house and with his help, we now own three properties and are considering a fourth, only two years later! Our net worth has gone up tremendously since we've been able to get in the real estate market. His work made all the difference to us! He and his family also live in the Claremont/Rockridge area, so he knows the East Bay. I highly recommend him! Mike and Jen
Jan 2005

Can you recommend an honest, patient, and intelligent mortgage broker? The archives listing's are over a year old and I'd love to get more recent recommendations. Please let me know how much they charge also. Thanks so much.

Hi, I am looking to buy a home, for the first time... and would like to get some recommendations of trustworthy mortgage brokers. Looks like the last time that the recommendations were updated on the web was 2003. Thank you, Scott
We used Lisa Wagner at KLA Mortgage in Albany. She is a straight shooter, reliable, quick and easy to work with. We actually closed in 15 days and got the lowest possible rate at the time when we bought our home. She made the process easy and was very friendly. She can be reached at (510) 559-6830. We like her so much that we used her for our home equity line. Maya
I highly reccomend our broker his name is Nhan Nguyen and works for Guarantee Mortgage (415) 810-4179 nhanttnguyen AT he is very patience, and sharp. we just purchased our first home and he got us in w/ 100% financing, on a 470,000 house in san leandro. he was willing to meet with u on weekends over coffee to explain details, kept in touch via e-mail about the progress of the loan i really, really loved this guy. and reccomend him, he is here in San francisco, the offices are by the opera house. Claudia
I love my mortgage broker - he's helped us buy two houses. He is the world's nicest guy, too. His name is Bob Casper and his phone no. is 925-932-7403. Fran
We are first time buyers in the process of home shopping and have been THRILLED with our Mortgage Banker and Realtor. We first got a recommendation to our Mortgage Banker through my husband's coworker who was also a first time buyer. We didn't know ANYTHING about buying a house and didn't even know what we should know to know when we were ready. no one would give us simple, black-and-white numbers. We were so frustrated!! We were referred to Marc Geshekter with residential Pacific Mortgage in SF. He sat down with us for 3 hours and explained everything we need to know about purchasing a home from A-Z, including several good faith estimates. Now we know, down to the penny, what we need to not just buy a home, but live in it for the first year. All this advice for free!! his info is:
Senior Mortgage Consultant (415) 354-5162, office (415) 983-0975, fax Residential Pacific Mortgage - SF 633 Battery St., Suite # 110 San Francisco, CA 94111
Jenny is a mortgage broker and member of the Berkeley Parents Network. She is a very caring person who will help you find what you need: Jenny Shore - jenny AT or 510 845-5747 mel
I can wholeheartedly recommend Jim Aron of Pacific Western Mortgage (510-654-2200). His office is conveniently located on the Emeryville peninsula, right off the freeway. He has arranged two great mortgages for us and I believe most of his clients are repeat customers. A satisfied homeowner

2004 & Earlier

Sept 2004

If you are thinking of buying a home, please consider contacting Linda Herrera of Jacinto Mortgage Group ( regarding your financing options (including no-down payment loans...they're available, too). In addition to being a likeable person, Linda is extremely knowledgeable about her business. She took a decidedly complicated situation and made it an invisible and painless process for us. All we had to do was show up in her office at a time of our convenience, bring our necessary documentation and let Linda work her magic. And, magic it was. We began our home search with every confidence that Linda had the situation well in hand. Adding to our comfort, Linda maintained contact with our real estate agent during the home search and contracting process. She made herself available and promptly returned any phone calls for which she was not readily available. For my next home purchase, I will definitely contact Linda first. Her customer service and support more than facilitated what could easily have been a nightmare. My husband and I highly recommend her services. Anne

March 2004

We just refinanced our house and had the most wonderful experience with our broker that I wanted to get his name out on this list: Cory Reid of Fountainhead Mortgage, (based in Emeryville). Cory was so thorough and efficient and good about explaining the process. He went out of his way to get us the best deal, which included negotiating a return of about $800 from the lender on the fees, and then switching lenders halfway through the process when rates went down. The new loan will end up saving us an additional $65/month. The icing on the cake was when we had to come in to sign the papers. Cory knows that my partner and I both work, and we have 2 small kids. He sent a notary to our house and covered the cost himself so that we wouldn't have to lug the whole family out. Cory's office number is 510.547.4111. katrina

Feb. 2003

I'm looking for a good mortgage broker who knows a lot about deals for first time home buyers and someone who is patient and clear and can explain things to someone who doesn't have a mind for numbers. Danielle

I'd like to recommend my great mortgage broker, Aubrey Bartlett, 650-577-5890 office, 415-572-7832 cell, with Pacific Guarantee Mortgage- he works the whole Bay Area. He is very experienced and has all the connections you could possibly need. He quickly found and locked just the mortgage that I needed (twice) and my situation was a bit complicated. And in addition, he is an exceptionally nice person- not pushy & sleazy like the previous broker that I worked with! You can tell him that Cecelia recommended him. Cfl
I ''inherited'' my mortgage broker from my father in law who has worked with him for 20 years. This guy is absolutely great! He helped me buy our house, refinance it, and is now working on a line of equity for my parents. He is very patient, extremely personable, and does a great great job at getting the very best rates. Please let him know I recommended him to you. But be aware - he is a very persistent salesman. So be clear about your decision once you make it. Merton Chun, Nova Mortgage, 2647 21st Avenue, SF CA 94116. (415) 665-3188. He does mortgages all over the Bay Area. Peter
We are currently working with Marjo Shaffer of Residential Pacific Mortgage as we get ready to purchase our next home. She is at 3201 Danville Blvd., Suite 195 in Alamo. Her phone number is 925-831-1855, her e-mail is marjo AT, and her website is I am not good with numbers and I have been very pleased with Marjo and her ability to explain things to me. Lori
We used Mitch Grashin in North Berkeley when we bought our house and we have since done two re-finances with him. What I like about him is he listens carefully to what our needs are, and then suggests different options, giving us the pros and cons of each one. He is very knowledgeable, and is good at explaining all the different advantages and disadvantages to someone who doesn't know much about financing. He is proactive without being pushy, and is a nice guy too, a dad with schoolaged kids in I think El Cerrito. His email address is mitch AT
Dec. 2002

Hi - we're thinking about buying a home and would like a current recommendation for a mortgage broker. I've seen some on the site, but they're all a year or more old. thanks! Stacy

Hi, We just refinanced (about to close) our mortgage and used Gary Paul at Chase in Walnut Creek. His phone number is 925-256-4120 x208 and his email is Gary.S.Paul at We got great rates, and he was very responsive. Let him know I referred you, if you use him. Michael
My sister and I recently bought a house together and we used Lisa Wagner from KLA Mortgage 558 -6830, on Solano Ave. in Albany. She's wonderful, she got us a great loan and fabulous interest rate with our not-so-great credit, and at the last minute, our deal was about to drop through due to a mistake at our title co., and she stayed late to make sure that everything got straightened out. She knows tons about everything- including tax, and she explains anything you want. She's great. Brenda
I can recommend a fellow PTA board member who runs a mortgage brokerage. The following is the contact information: Thomas Tankka NORTHERN CALIFORNIA HOME MORTGAGE Tel/Fax: 510.338.1078 Email: norcal-mtg AT Maria
to the poster interested in finding a mortgage broker. i highly recommend bezhad zandi - 415- 892 - 2006. I did my original mortgage, and several refinancings, with him. Great service and good rates. margo
For a great mortgage broker, try Gwen Hoople at 559-4005. She is smart, conscientious, and very hardworking. You can count on her to get you a great deal and to make the process as smooth as possible. Betsy
I would like to recommend Glenn de Cicco (cell # 510-414-GLEN). He arranged our mortgage when we bought our house and is now helping us re-finance it. I have found I needed to nag other brokers to get estimates/responses from them, but Glenn has always answered promptly to our calls. Also, we shopped around with different lenders, and he defintely got us the best deal. Regards. EP
Hi. We just refinanced with Jim Park at Park Place Financial and I got his name off the Parents Network. He's nice, knowledgeable, and the refi was really quick - 4 weeks from start to finish. His number is 925-399-6315. He's in Pleasanton but we did everything by fax, fedex, phone and then at the end he sent the notary public out to our house. How easy is that?! Happy Refi Customer
Nov. 2002

We are refinancing our house after doing major renovations and additions and have been working with a mortgage broker who is very responsive and helpful (unlike our prior broker). However, he is asking for a commission/fee of 1% of the total loan, which is a good-sized chunk of cash. This seems high to me, but I'm having trouble finding comparisons. What is the usual fee for such services? Joe

I worked at a mortgage firm before my baby was born. Broker normally charges anywhere from 0.5-3%. But since the interest rate is quite low at this time, you may ask for no point no fee. Which means you don't have to pay for any commission or any other closing fees. You can always cancel your loan (before signing your loan doc) if you are not happy with the fees that you need to pay for. I am not sure how far are you in the process of getting this loan, but it will be wise if you can shop around more. Now is a perfect time to do a refinancing. If you have anymore questions, feel free to ask me. sam
Sept. 2002

Has anyone refinanced their mortgage in the recent month or two? Any recommendations on where to start--who has a good rate, low (or no) points, etc? What about taking out a home equity line of credit? Is it better to just take the cash out with the refinance, or do a separate home equity line of credit (especially if the remodeling won't be done right away)? How does that work? Any advice would be helpful. Thanks. Signed, Not Very Financially Savvy

For your refinancing needs and questions, I can recommend Denise Davis at Key Mortgage. Her email address is denise.davis at and her phone number is 415/446-1879. She was excruciatingly patient with me to get me up to speed on the pluses/minuses of refinancing and when it makes sense to do so. I've had friends call her, who after Denise crunched the numbers, said it really didn't make sense for them to refinance at this time. So, that indicated to me, she's just not out for the sale. Please give her a call and tell her Patty sent you. Patty
I just recently got my 2nd Home Equity Line of Credit. This type of financing was a better fit for me than refinancing because it's like having money in a bank account. You only pay on what you use. For instance, if you get a HELOC for 70,000 but end up only using 30,000 or not using all of it right away that's what your payments are based on. The first time I went on line to because every convential bank turned me down. I got offers from 3 different sources including Wells Fargo, and chose the one that I liked the best. There were no points, no hidden costs, no closing fees and an incredible 4.5 interest rate. When I wanted the 2nd HELOC I went directly to that bank online and got a response in a couple of minutes. The notary comes to you at your convenience 24-7 to sign the papers. It's incredibly easy and obviously I highly recommend it. If you have any other questions please ask. Rachel
If you are looking to lower your interest rate and/or want to consolidate other loans (that would include auto loans, education loans, credit card debts or any other debt that you have), it might be better to refinance and take out a line of credit. But if you are only looking at getting money to remodel, a line of credit might be the way to go. If you need more advice or help, feel free to call me, I am actually a loan agent! 510-334-5358
Dear Not Very Financially Savvy ;-) The place to start is to decide what type of loan you need. A home equity line is usually what's wanted for a remodeling project that will be paid for over an extended time, because you don't borrow (and make payments on) the money until you need it. But equity lines generally have variable interest rates and annual fees, so in some circumstances a plain fixed-rate mortgage refi which gives you cash out can be a better choice. If you want both remodeling money and a lower interest rate, you might do *both* - refinance your current mortgage with a lower-rate mortgage in just the amount of your current balance, plus get an equity line, from the same or a different lender. By closing both at the same time you could save some costs. You might want to meet with a mortgage broker or accountant for some help determining what's right for you.

Next, you have to shop for the best deal. One place to start is on the Internet. There are a lot of web sites that allow you to compare different loan packages and see what the prevailing rates are. Another place to start is with your current lender. If you're happy with them and you've been a good customer, they may be willing to refinance and/or set up an equity line for you with very minimal costs (because they don't need to extensively re-underwrite you or your house). And yet another option is to meet with an in-person mortgage broker, who can offer you the best deal among many lenders. If you have any credit problems, a broker is usually the best choice because he or she can search out the best package you can qualify for - and generally, brokers' fees are paid by the lender, not the borrower, so it doesn't cost you anything extra. Good luck! Holly

I would like to recommend Russell Doi of First Residential Funding. He's on Solano Avenue in Berkeley, and his phone number is 526-6554. He's very knowledgable, but not a high pressure sales type. Kim
I've used the services of Sue Thomas at LaSalle Financial for the past several years. I guess I've had about transactions which involved purchasing or refinancing. I think that she and her staff are excellent. The phone number is 339-4300. Indigo
I can give a glowing recommendation to Jill Friedlander! She helped us get great loans on 100% financing (yes, we were desperate). We had been working with a different mortage broker before Jill and the other was awful -- very sales oriented, very cheesy, and ethically challenged (lied, ignored messages from us, and almost lost our chance at getting our house). We were wary of mortgage brokers after that experience and were plesantly surprised when Jill turned out to be friendly, helpful, and very professional. She works in Novato but don't let that bother you -- we moved from San Jose and she was very accomodating. Her contact information is (415) 506-0200 or JillLoans AT Tell her Laurel and Jack sent you because I think she works on referrals mostly. laurel
We used Tom Nitsan of MPR financial 510-527-6146. I never actually met him but dealt with all business over the phone and by email. We found good rates with him and found him to be be responsive and professional. Good luck. Loraine
I can highly recommend Denise Davis at Key Mortgage. She has been very creative in finding the right loan to fit our lifestyle and repayment needs. Her email address is denise.davis AT and her phone number is 415/446-1879. Tell her that Patty sent you. Good luck! Patty
Tom Nitsan is a great mortgage broker. He's with MPR Financial (apparently, they're all great in that office.) 510-527-6146. Refinancing is very very easy when Tom's on the case. I did a lot of research on my own and came up with nothing that could compare with what Tom was offering. We chose the no-cost mortgage, which was absolutely painless. Now our interest rate is 6.75% and we save about $150/month. Jodi
I highly recommend Tom Nitsan at MPR Financial... phone 510- 527-6146 or email tom at We worked with him when we bought our house originally and he's helped us with 2 refinances. He's really great about providing different options (rates, costs, points) and explaining them. We've always found him helpful and really easy to work with. Kana
I worked with Ian Cartan of Western American Mortgage both for my initial house purchase and for my refinance. He is wonderful--thorough, knowledgeable, and proactive. He's also very personable. 510/339-4070, in Montclair. Jennie
Hi, you are welcome to call me at 510-558-3192 (home) or 510-334-5358 (cell). I work with a mortgage company called Tri-Bay Financial Group, it's located in the city and offers excellent service. You can visit their link at amymike8199 AT
My partner and I have refinanced several times in the past two years, and we highly recommend Jackie Muzio of Metro Mortgage. She has been efficient, forthright, and patient with our many questions. We have refinanced on a no-fee basis, getting a slightly higher rate, but bearing no cost for the transaction. Jackie can be reached at (707)527-6744 or metromortgage AT Avi
I have the MOST FANTASTIC mortgage broker: He gets great rates on NO COST, NO FEE mortgages (and I mean REALLY no cost -- nothing!), he makes the paperwork super simple, he sends a notary to you if you need it so you don't need to EVER go into his office, AND he'll contact you every 90 days if rates go down so you can re-fi (again at no cost, no fee). He really has been fantastic -- after using another mortgage broker on my original purchase, I've used this guy to refinance twice now, and he's brought my rate down over 2 percentage points, very painlessly. His name is Jim Muglie at Preferred Financial. His number is (925)820-5557. If you use him, PLEASE give him my name and let him know that I referred you, as he keeps track of referrals, etc. Good luck! And feel free to contact me by email if you have any questions. Sharon
I have a WONDERFUL broker - Marsha Corbett Walker at CMG Mortgage. She helped us buy our first home and refinanced our second. We went with another broker for the purchase of our second home and were VERY sorry. Marsha will do backflips for you and she is very low-pressure. My mom considered refinancing and needed some questions answered. Marsha has been patiently answering questions for months and has never pressured my mom at all. I can't say enough good things about her! 800-881-5463 Her office is in Walnut Creek, but she does everything by mail, fax or phone as needed. Jaime
We have refinanced 3 times in the last 2 years with Sam Fishman of Fishman Financial on Solano Ave. and haven't paid a penny to refinance. Sam was our mortgage broker when we bought, and he was easy to work with then too. He can be very chatty which might bother some people, and he sometimes assumes that you know all the ins and outs, but we have always had a good experience overall. I think his style is very ''gentlemanly.'' In fact, HE CALLS US when interest rates go down enough to make it worth refinancing, with some line like ''it's time to rock and roll!'' With every refinance transaction, our monthly goes down about $100. I think the process is well worth it. Fishman Financial is 528-2255. Claire
Our mortgage broker, Jeffrey Arnold, we've used for over 7 years for 3 refinances and 3 mortgages. We've been very happy with his service, he's very knowledgeable about mortgages as well as general finance and investments issues, and has always found us incredible deals. He is based in Orinda but travels far and wide. His number is: 925 254 5569 e-mail: jeffreydarnold AT Naomi
July 2002

Can anyone recommend a place to get a home equity loan? Is there any advantage in going to the bank where I've had my accounts for 10+ years? My first mortgage is with the previous owners, so I've never gotten a commercial mortgage. I've been going on various websites but I'm a little overwhelmed by the range of possibilities so would like to hear some success stories or warnings of who to avoid. Melinda

I highly recommend Larry Martinez at Chase Manhattan. His phone number is 800-570-5701 ext. 213. He has helped us and other family members with a number of different types of loans. Chase's rates are competitive and the closing costs have been less than what we would have paid through a mortgage broker. Larry is very knowledgeable, reliable and responsive. We think he's great. If you happen to be an attorney, Chase also offers a State Bar discount on the interest rate. amy
To the subscriber looking for a home equity loan......... I would strongly recommend Behzad Zandi, sorry I can't remember the name of the mortgage brokerage he works for but his phone number is 415- 892 - 2006. I have refinanced my house three times with him in the last two years, at no cost to me because they build in a spread. However my rates have absolutely been comparable to, and hve tracked, the market as interest rates have fallen. He also facilitated my home equity line........ Margo Kimball. mbkimball
Bayridge Realty helped me refinance my house and take out some equity. The loan process went quickly and smoothly. Steve Zager, the owner was super helpful, clear, nice and prompt. The office is in Berkeley at 1345 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, across from Fat Apples (tel. 524-3333).
We got our home equity loan through Lending They are supposed to contact different banks with your information and then the banks contact you and make an offer. Supposedly, because they know other banks want your business, you will get good offers, but we were only contacted by one bank, but our interest rate is pretty good, so it's OK. Toby
We got our home equity line through our regional bank Mt. Diablo Bank (Danville branch). They may have a branch in Orinda. In December, the rate was prime rate + 0%. An exceptional rate as the prime rate went down to 4.50% right after we signed (and has stayed there). Of course you're always at risk of the prime rate moving up. No prepayment penalty. Don't know if they still offer this rate, but I learned it's well worth looking regionally, as the big banks couldn't come close. We also got a number of other great contacts from the local bank, such as a contractor for our remodel who has turned out to be exceptional. ndaetz
March 2002

Would anyone recommend a mortgage broker to help us refinance? Someone ethical, smart, well-informed and organized, and preferably in the Berkeley area. Melanie

We were really pleased with Lauren Dunlap, who is a mortgage broker with Nova, 540-7911. She works in Berkeley. My neighbor recommended her to us; she took care of our paperwork promptly (came over on a Sunday!); gave us all the information we needed; kept us informed; great service-we couldn't have been happier. Kathy
We've worked with a mortgage broker in Alameda a couple of times (for initial purchases and recently refinance). Several friends have also used him and been very happy. Gets great rates, very good at helping get your application approved in a reasonable period and handles all the details. His name is Richard Pavao, and his company is California Real Estate Finance, which you should be able to get from information, since I'm not sure where I've put his number. Vali
This is recommend Sam Fishman (528-2255) as a mortgage broker. He takes the time to look at your needs, to evaluate the options, and to offer you choices on finding a mortgage to fit your pocketbook. His office staff is responsive, efficient, and nice to work with. His office is on Solano, across from Safeway. Merry
I just refinanced and consolidated my mortgages (1st+2nd) with E-loan with an excellent rate, no points and low cost. The process was fast, smooth, pleasurable, not to mention the United Miles that come along with it. All exchanges were by phone/e-mail and the notary came to my office for the signatures. Perhaps it was easy because I am an ''easy loan'' (high credit scores and loan-to-value) and I happend to get a very personable service rep, but I would strongly recommend them.
I highly recommend the mortgage broker, Joseph Nichols, with Schnell Investments in Berkeley, 525,4050. He worked with us a long time through many house bids and always provided very sensible advice (when asked.) When we finally got into contract, he managed to help us close in less than 30 days, even during crazy refinancing times. My real estate agent said that Joseph was a miracle worker. Miracles or not, I found him to be very organized and ethical. Sherri
Fabulous mortgage broker in Albany: Karen Ward at RE Loan Mortgage (her business). She can be reached at 510-559-4004 or 4000 I've worked with her for years. She's very ethical, bright and fun to work with. Good luck. Wendy
November 2001

These low interest rates have started us thinking about buying a house, despite our very modest incomes. Can anyone recommend some type of financial planner who is knowledgeable about real estate (we'd be first time buyers) who could help us evaluate the pros and cons of buying, and help us find out about financing options? It might be nice if this person could also do future taxes (we've always done our own) and could help evaluate a potential purchase with tax implications in mind. The financial planner recommendations on the web don't mention anyone with expertise in real estate. Berkeley/Oakland is preferable, but a good match is more important than location.

Karen Ward is a mortgage broker in Albany who is very service oriented and knowledgable about tax implications etc. of purchasing - especially the first home. You can reach her at 510-559-4000 Good Luck, Sharon
September 2001

Can anyone recommend a place that will refinance a second mortgage only? Lots of brokers want to combine the first and second to refinance, but we don't want to touch our first mortgage. Any recommendations would be appreciated. Thanks. Patty

Call Joe Acker from Partners Mortgage in Montclair at 339-4450. He will be happy to talk to you and propose some options. He has been very helpful with re-financing our first mortgage, getting us a second (separate from our first) mortgage and we are now looking to refinance the second mortgage only. He has excellent relationphips with many lenders and has so far always gotten us an excellent deal. Jana

For the person looking for a financial broker contact Fishmen Financial Services on Solano Avenue, Berkeley. The owner Sam Fishmen provides excellent customer service. C

I highly recommend Jon Riccardi at MPR Financial located at 1320 Solano Avenue in Albany. The phone # is 510-527-6146. We used a mortgage broker 6 years ago with our first house and swore we'd never use one again after all the shenanigans that got played on us. We financed our second home directly through a bank. In January we wanted to refinance and got quotes from all the banks which I felt were too high. Jon came highly recommended from our financial planner so we went back on our promise and used him. I couldn't have been happier. His business makes its money on volume not junk fees and broker fees. Up front he tells you what the costs will be and that's what they are when you go to sign the papers.Kathy
Nov 1998

i recently refinanced my house through Partners Mortgage in Pleasanton (Julie) I had a first time home buyers loan initially and you weren't able to refinance until now and it was a little complex, but they were fast, knowledgable and helpful Andrea

We used Holmgren and Associates for the purchase of our first house and the refinance of the house recently. Our broker is Zach Griffin who has been quite good. He got us a cheap refinance with no points and fees and reappraised our house so that we got rid of the PMI (mortgage insurance). Their phone is 339-2121. My mother in law, who is a real estate agent recommended them, and she's seen lots of mortgage brokers. Myriam
I recommend Joe Nichols with Schnell Investment Co., 1517 5th St., Berkeley, 525-4050. He has worked with us on two refinances and secured the loan for our current home. Our financial situation was unusual and complicated and Joe proved to be resourceful and persistent. We have benefited from his sound, balanced advice on several related matters. He is very pleasant to deal with, as is the receptionist in the office. Rachel
The man who earned every penny: Joseph Nichols of Schnell Investment Co. 525-4050 (5th St. in Berkeley. I'm pretty sure that's their current number.) Also I've heard very good things about Fishman Financial Group on Solano. Leah
My tenant-in-common/downstairs-neighbor and I were very pleased with Schnell Investment Co. on Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley, both for our initial purchase eleven years ago and a refinance about 5 years ago. And we were not exactly a standard situation: we were two single women buying a duplex, where she had 75% of the down payment and I had about 60% of the income. I think it was Joseph Schnell we worked with most.

Does mortgage lender need to be local?

Sept 2008

My Berkeley realtor is telling me that if I don't use one of her approved local brokers that I might jeopardize my ability to offer a competitive bid on a house--either the seller's agent won't trust my lender, or an out of town loan agent might pose a slower close b/c s/he may have questions re the appraisal. I've talked to 2 mortgage brokers in Berkeley, and 1 loan agent for Countrywide in Napa (referred to me by my banker--who's not w/ BofA). The Countrywide loan agent is offering the best mortgage loan of the 3. Is my realtor right in saying that she doesn't trust Countrywide, and if the loan agent is not from Berkeley that my bid might not be accepted or that closing might be delayed? mortgage seeking mom

Hi - We got the same advice when we were in the market but that was 3 years ago when times were different! Remember this is about having a pre-approval letter, not about the actual mortgage. Get a pre-approval letter from one of her ''approved lenders'' but get one from your preferred vendor as well. When you find a house, give them both but remember, once the offer is accepted, you can get financing from any legitimate source you want! Best of luck, fellow home buyer
This statement... ''if I don't use one of her approved local brokers that I might jeopardize my ability to offer a competitive bid on a house'' wrong.

Did you possibly misunderstand her? In other words, does your agent work better with her recommended loan brokers (don't know what she means by ''approved'') or does her experience with them show her that they can deliver?

What she might mean is that you won't be competitive with a buer who knows that they can actually get a loan - one who has been approved for an amount, and with an agent who can deliver the loan by the close date.

Also, when you say that Countrywide is offering the best loan, there are so many factors in a loan. Are you comparing apples to apples? Has each of the agents qualified you and given you quotes on loans you can get? We're in a credit crunch right now.

Personally, I would not go with Countrywide. I would choose a good loan broker bc that person has access to many more sources than Countrywide and can give you a Countrywide loan. Here is a superb one: Liz Litaea liz.litaea [at] 415-748-2626 (she's in East Bay and covers our area even though area code for her cell is 415) jessica

Wow. That sounds outrageous to me. Frankly, you'd be unwise to stick only to local folks when searching for a mortgage--too limiting. It strikes me as irresponsible for your real estate agent to discourage you from shopping around. We own 2 homes and searched all over online for the best rates. Neither mortgage was very local & no one cared. And we bought when there was a ton of competition. Frankly, I'd get a new real estate agent because I wouldn't trust that person. anon
Using a local lender for a pre approval letter can be very helpful if you are faced with a competitve bidding situation. I have over 15yrs of experience in the Berkeley housing market and have seen many offers be dismmissd due to an out of town pre approval letter. The real estate community here is small and in the past some out of town lenders have proven to be unreliable.

I should mention however that in no way should pay a higher rate to use a local lender. Your best bet is to get pre approved both locally and out of town and to use the local pre approval letter with your offer. Once your offer is accepted you can than choose to work with the lender you are most comfortable with. By no means are you obligated to use a lender due to a pre approval letter.

You should also not be paying any fees for pre approval so getting pre approved in both places should not be a problem or cost you anything. Tom

No your mortgage lender does not have to be local, and no Country wide does not take longer than other lenders. I had them, and always found them good. But I am not sure how good their reputation is.

Are you sure you want to keep your Realtor? She sounds like she's high pressure. You are the buyer, this is your market. There are a lot of great realtors in this area, make sure you are happy with yours. Good luck

I am a mortgage broker in Alameda, not Berkeley. You should be able to use whoever you want, someone you trust, who is giving you the best possible loan and rate. In a tight bidding situation though, you may be better off using someone the agents know who has a proven track record of successfully closing loans, as long as they are offering you a comparable deal. It's good that you are talking to more than one mortgage broker. Choose the one who seems the most honest and gives you enough information so that you know exactly what you are getting. Compare closing costs. Try to get the broker to submit your loan to the lender for a pre-approval and give you a copy of the pre-approval underwriting determination so that the listing agent can see that you have financing in place. You can have your agent recommend a local appraiser if using an out-of town loan broker. As for Countrywide, there has been a lot of negative press, so just make sure that what you are being told is the real deal. I'm sure there are many reputable people working at Countrywide, just be careful. Rick W
NOPE! with emails and fax, you don't have to have a local lender. you can even go with a strictly online company, though it is very nice to have the service of a broker you're in contact with. (i've done both ways.) your agent probably feels comfortable working with the person she knows. it's all about how responsive your lender's contact is with your agent and the escrow officer.

i'd assume seeing a better interest rate will make your offer more attractive - the backup offer on our house was the same price as ours, but we had the better financing and probably the lower interest rate because the seller's agent said there's no way we'd be able to get such a good rate and even allowed wiggle room for the rate.

as for countrywide, given the housing crisis right now, i don't know if it's any worse than just about any financial institutions. given that countrywide went through their blowup last year, hopefully they're managing better these days. good luck!! - lover of emails and fax

I think your agent is giving you incorrect information. I read a study that said using a broker actually cost $300 more than approaching the bank yourself. I bought a house in February -- started the process in November -- I called Wells Fargo-- the ''preferred'' lender for UC Berkeley -- supposedly. I gave all info over the phone while shopping at TJ's. Joshua Szarke Home Mortgage Consultant Wells Fargo Home Mortgage MAC X9902-027 2801 4th Ave South Minneapolis, MN 55467 800.525.3880 x75040 Toll-free 866.705.8590 Fax WF Employees: 800.777.9888 x75040 Relocating Clients: 800-452-9988 x75040 joshua.szarke [at] Anonymous
We bought a house this spring. Our offer was lower than the other offer but the listing agent recommended to the sellers that they take our offer since our pre-approval letter was from BofA. We had not planned on getting financing through them given their really high interest rates. So we refinanced with American Enterprise Bank of Florida one month after we closed with BofA.

BofA's service was miserable and we had to get an extension to release the finance contingency but their no closing cost loan made this tactic financially feasible. We went from a 8% ARM with BofA to 6.25% fixed with AEB.

I've heard a lot of real estate deals have fallen apart over the last year due to lenders changing the rules and not funding loans to people they had previously given pre-approval letters to. anon

We've bought a couple of houses and in both occasions the lender was someone who worked with the realtor. The second time we tried to use an out of town lender that we had previously used to refinance our first house, but we were highly discouraged from our realtor to do so. It seems that, administratively and legally, it is OK to do it, but realtors really prefer to work with their own lenders. My suggestion would be to show the rates you got with Countrywide to your realtor's lender and ask them to match them. EP