Written by Jeffrey R. Armstrong – President/Owner of Armstrong Capital
Your favorite Master Note Buyer – Straightforward, Honest, Fair…
I just got back from a trip to Spokane, Washington to visit Metropolitan Mortgage and Securities, Inc., my favorite funding source for real estate secured notes. I have been doing business with Metropolitan for over twelve years, ever since I started my business way back in 1991. It was a relationship that would only get better over time. Over all the years I have been working with them and singing their praises I had never gone to their offices to personally check out their operation first hand. It would only make me realize even more that they are truly dedicated to being the best in the industry and to supporting the broker network
When I arrived at the airport I was greeted by my long time Contract Buyer, Traci Jo Reed. I had met Traci several times before and she was as warm and pleasant as ever. Even though I knew and talked to many of the people at Metropolitan, sometimes on a daily basis, I was excited and a little nervous, but Traci assured me they wouldn’t bite. First stop was Clinkdagger’s on the Spokane River for a casual dinner with Metropolitan’s Production Team (VP Mark Donoghue, Marnie Schroer and Krysten Jones), and of course Traci Jo. As I started to relax and get more comfortable with them I found out that Traci isn’t much of a green vegetable person and Krysten doesn’t eat any seafood, ever! In between my bass fishing, their softball and Washington University Cougar stories, looking at the river rush by and watching the eclipse of the moon we intermittently talked about business. They had set up an itinerary for me to meet all of the key people at Metropolitan, visit their various departments as well as check out some of Metropolitan’s other operations.
When Mark looked down at his watch he couldn’t believe that it was 10:30. I looked up and we were one of the only people left at the restaurant. We got so involved with talking about the business and bonding with each other we hadn’t noticed that everyone around us had left. We called it a night and Traci Jo dropped me at one of the nicest hotels in Spokane, the Davenport. Recently remodeled, the Davenport was an exquisite hotel with beautiful rooms, oversize shower and, I learned later, the famous Davenport mattresses. After I checked my phone messages and e-mails I crawled into one of the most comfortable hotel beds I have ever been in and went to sleep.
In the morning Traci Jo met me in the lobby and walked with me down the street to the Metropolitan Financial Center, a prominent 17 story building in the center of downtown Spokane. Upon entering Contract Purchasing (formerly the CNC) I was greeted with many hellos and smiles. Traci Jo showed me to her office and then proceeded to introduce me to the entire team. It was wonderful to connect faces to the voices that I have been talking to for years and to visit with some of the people that I only see once or twice a year at conventions. Traci Jo took me through the entire life of a transaction from quoting, credit checks, underwriting, due diligence, and document preparation to closing and funding. The entire production team, contract buyers, coordinators, closers, post-closers, legal staff, underwriters, appraisal reviewers and even the secretary all took a few minutes out of their time to say hello and tell me what their duties were and what they were responsible for. All of them are absolute experts at what they do and it showed. The organization of the entire operation was simply amazing. I asked about one of my current transactions and it was in my hand in under a minute.
I had a nice one on one session with Mark Donoghue and then it was time for lunch. This time in addition to Mark, Traci Jo, Marnie and Krysten we were joined by two of their underwriters Scott Spence and Doug Strand as well as one of their legal staff Paul Carlin. We walked over to the Steamplant Grill and, just as the evening before, had discussed the business in more detail. We talked about what underwriters are looking for when they review a file and what legal issues may come up to disrupt the flow of a transaction or even cause it to be cancelled. Things like finding out as much as possible about a deal before submitting it and actually telling them everything we as brokers know up front as to not waste anyone’s time. The due diligence process is in place to find out every detail about a transaction before they purchase it, and they always find out everything. If a broker knows something up front (such as a separate agreement between the payor and seller, a missing mobile home title or a Single Family Home that has been converted to a duplex, etc.) you should and must inform them of what you know. It would save everyone involved a lot of time, effort and expense.
After a very enlightening lunch it was now time for me to take a tour with VP Mark Donoghue to visit with the heads of some of Metropolitan’s other departments. We started out with the Business Development Manager for their Commercial Lending Division, Charley Bartlett. He informed me that Metropolitan gives short term “bridge” types loans for up to 36 months with interest rates starting at 12% on all sorts of commercial type transactions from $1-15 million and up. He refers to his division as the “non-conformists” of commercial lending and suggested that if I ever come across something that might fit their criteria to give them a call. I mentioned to him that from time to time I get calls from people looking for that type of product and that from now on, instead of telling them that I can’t help them, I would definitely like to send them the business.
Next up on the tour was a visit to Metropolitan Investment Securities to learn more about how Metropolitan Mortgage and Securities, Inc. raises their money. We met with Bruce Bushman and Ron Pellegrino who, in short, discussed with me the different ways the issuer obtains funds. Among the various ways they described to me were selling preferred stocks and bonds. Did you know that Metropolitan Mortgage and Securities, Inc. is listed on the AMEX? Their Preferred Stock’s ticker is (mpd.pr). Western United Holding Company, their life company, is also listed as (wuc.pr).
At the end of my tour we sat together in a conference room with John Van England, President of Western United Life Assurance Company, Tom Turner, President of Summit Securities, and the heads of the production team. They wanted to know from me what changes I had been through in the last few years, how I have lasted so long and how they could help me bring more business to them. After defining my concerns, justifying my reasoning and outlining my visions for the future we exchanged some very meaningful ideas and I was greeted with some honest and sincere feedback. I was honored that they recognized me as a leader in the industry and felt that my experience in the industry and involvement in the broker community (as a veteran broker, Master Broker, Instructor and Speaker) entitled my ideas and opinions to be worthy of consideration. Just sitting in the room and discussing the industry with all of these top professionals was worth the trip in itself. Glancing at the clock on the wall we realized it was 4:45pm and I had a flight to catch at 5:45! I said my goodbyes and Traci Jo took me back to the airport on her way to pick up her daughter from daycare.
I have always preferred to send my transactions to Metropolitan because of their excellent service, flexibility and willingness to do whatever it takes to close a transaction. After visiting them and actually seeing first hand the efficiency, organization and depth of Metropolitan as well the enthusiasm, experience and knowledge of the entire Metropolitan staff I know why they are always my first choice. No wonder this year is their 50th anniversary! I am sure they will be around for at least fifty more.