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A Thank You Letter

It’s been a wild ride, but one Rob Garrison and Dave Lehner will remember forever.

As we close out their 25th year in business, they wanted to take a few moments to say, “thank you!” to the many people that made their journey remarkable.

To Our Employees

Rob: When we started this 25 years ago, rates were 10 percent, applications were hand-written and we wore pagers! Some of you guys were here in those early, early days. To you I say thank you for hanging in there when we had no clue what we were doing. Thank you for your loyalty, patience, and confidence that we were on to something good. For the rest of you, thank you for committing your time and talents to help drive us into the future.

Dave: I would like to thank all our current and past employees from day one until now for trusting in us and believing in our vision of this company. Without your hard work and dedication, we would not be where we are at today. There has been a crazy ride over the years, a lot of ups and downs, smiles and tears but our staff is the best and has weathered thru all of it.

To Our Business Partners

Rob: We talk often about relationships and supporting local businesses. We are so grateful for those businesses, Realtors, title companies and appraisers that have supported us over the years and have become not only partners, but friends.

Dave: Twenty-five years ago, I had no idea the relationships I would form and all of the great people that would come into my life from this business. I have so many stories and friends from all involved: realtors, appraisers, inspectors, title companies, insurance people, clients, employees and so many more.

To the Community

Rob: One of our Core Values is Serving Hearts. Included in that mix is always giving back to our community. We love our schools, places of worship, restaurants, and places of recreation. For everything they give us, we are proud to give back to them.

Dave: I love my community and all the people in it! I love that we give back and help guide people home in this community and the surrounding areas. This is the best area in Michigan in my view and my heart is and always will be here.

To Our Families

Rob: A Specific thank you to Jill and Rhonda for guiding us and encouraging every day. We wouldn’t have been able to do this without you. We are blessed beyond measure!

Dave: My family raised me here and taught me values, work ethic and respect to all. Without the support of my family and wife, I would not have been able to do what we have done. They covered me and supported me through the hard times and good times.

To Each Other

Rob: Dave has been the best partner I could image.  So many partnerships fail for myriad of reasons. While we rumble through things quite often, we always remember that this is about clients, partners, and employees. With this philosophy in mind, often we land at the correct decision.

Dave: I am very thankful for Rob! Twenty-five years ago, we both had a vison/goal and together we went for it! Rob, you have been a great partner and together we worked to find common goals and I am so thankful for our friendship.

There are so many people we need to thank!

From the first Realtors that trusted us when we were brand new in the business, to the underwriters who took time to stop and help us figure out the rules, to all the people we leaned on in the business, to our trusty beepers, Nextel flip phone and fax machine.

We are so honored to know all of you and will always remember the journey!

Thank you again from the bottom of our hearts.

The Value of Business Partners

Relationships give meaning to our work.

“Relationships are everything in this business, over the years we have worked to grow our relationships with Realtors, title companies, insurance companies, builders, home inspectors and many other vendors,” Dave Lehner said.

We work together to help guide our clients home. It’s a joint venture.

“It’s all about client experience,” Rob Garrison added. “We want to work with the best so that our clients have the best possible experience possible. That is why we strive to work with the best appraisers, title companies and Real Estate Agents in the business.”

“We want to refer reliable, trustworthy people to our clients because we want them to have a great experience from beginning to end,” Dave said.

“Because clients remember how they FEEL about a transaction it is important that everyone involved is professional, fair, and provides great service,” Rob continued. “If everything goes great during the transaction but something gets tripped up with title or an appraisal or a home inspection it is a reflection on everyone, and the client doesn’t have that exceptional experience that we are hoping for them.”

Together, we aim to go above and beyond for our clients.

Our employees are an integral part of that. Without them, we couldn’t do what we do every day.

“We view our employees, clients, and Realtor partners as our highest priority,” Rob said. “While we always strive to provide the best possible service, it is the relationships that we build as a byproduct of that service that is most meaningful.”

We need to give special recognition to our Realtor partners as well.

“We work with so many great Realtors that go above and beyond to help the client,” Dave said. “They will work early, late and weekends to provide the service needed.”

“Realtors are an important part of who we are and the service we provide,” Rob added. “So many things in life are contentious and viewed as a zero-sum game. We believe that loan transactions can be a win, win for everyone. Realtors are so closely intertwined in the transaction that they can often dictate the tone, pace, and feel of how the transaction will go. Communication is key.  It’s important for us to be aligned with the real estate agents and keep them informed of where the financing stands.”

Our community is so special. We look forward to 25 more years of service!

Dave and Ronda

Married to Mortgages: Ronda Lehner’s Perspective

Dave Lehner has been in the mortgage business for 25 years. He started as a one-man team.

For the past 14 years, his wife, Ronda, has helped navigate every transaction. She’s the love of his life, his best friend, and the glue that holds Team Lehner together.

“When I started working with Dave all of those years ago, I was very unsure about being together Dave and Ronda24/7,” Ronda said. “He talked me into giving it a try and I’m so glad he did! Don’t get me wrong, it was an adjustment for the first couple of years, but we made it work and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.”

“I love what I do and to do it next to my husband and best friend is truly the best,” she said.

For those of you who know Dave, you recognize his dedication and commitment to his clients. He works seven days a week and is always available via phone or email.

“Dave always wants to make sure he has happy clients,” Ronda said. “He has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know. He truly does what is best for his clients. He takes the time with them to make sure they are comfortable with the numbers and the loan process. He is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met…almost to a fault!”

Dave’s work ethic has allowed him to guide more than 5,000 families home. He celebrates at every closing and calls each client to congratulate them on their new purchase. Ronda is so proud to stand beside him through it all.

“To see Dave’s growth over the last 25 years is amazing to me,” she said. “I am so proud of the company that he and Rob have built together. Dave has so many memorable accomplishments, but one I will never forget is his willingness to get involved in the ‘Homes for Heroes’ program (now called Service Rewards and #MMGivesBack).”

“When Dave was approached to be part of this program, he didn’t hesitate. It’s true to Dave’s nature to ‘give back’ so to be involved in this program that gives back to those that give so much was never a question.”

Dave always has other peoples’ best interest at heart.

Rob and Jill Garrison

Married to Mortgages: Jill Garrison’s Perspective

Rob Garrison has been in the mortgage business for 25 years. His wife, Jill, has been by his side for every transaction, milestone, achievement, and celebration.

She truly is his biggest cheerleader.

Rob and Jill Garrison“Working together is one of the best parts of my life,” Jill said. “Rob has such a zest for life, for learning and improving and inspiring others to believe in themselves and their dreams. His growth mindset coupled with his ability to be so present is a gift to me, as it is to our family and our Michigan Mortgage team and our Realtor partners.”

“I love how much he himself gets inspired and excited about working with his amazing team. We both kind of think of ourselves as the Mom and Dad to these amazing humans that we get to work with and have fun with each day.”

At Michigan Mortgage, the work is never done. Rob works nights and weekends to help his clients achieve the American Dream. His cell phone is never far from his hip – he is happy to educate and serve at all times of the day.

We believe his communication and commitment to our mission has helped him guide more than 5,000 clients home.

Rob gets excited about every single client that he and his team have the privilege to serve,” Jill said. “Underlying each mortgage, he has a deep belief that having a home is a foundation that family and security is built on. I think his knowledge and integrity along with his willingness to go to bat and dig deep for each of his clients sets him apart and is the reason he has built such a wonderful, loyal following.”

Rob and Dave have built something really special here at Michigan Mortgage. Jill is the first to recognize the accomplishment and celebrate the achievement. She is so proud of her husband!

“I am proud of Rob for many things looking back on the 25 years he and Dave have been building Michigan Mortgage,” Jill said. “Rob has such a strong desire to make Michigan Mortgage a workplace that provides an incredibly supportive and empowering environment. Maybe more importantly, he is driven to make Michigan Mortgage a place that spills over into our employee’s lives…in a way that enhances their lives at home, with their families, and in the community.”

“I am probably most proud of the team that they have built over the years,” she said. “We seriously have the most amazing humans that come to work with such exuberance, commitment, and enthusiasm for what they do. They all work so hard, are committed to excellence, positivity and serving our clients so that they have an exceptional experience. So, the culture that they have built and continues to grow and cultivate is extraordinary and extra special.”

Thomas Siuda

Success Story: Thomas Siuda

Change is hard – change following a national pandemic is even harder.

Thomas and his children set out to purchase a new home earlier this year following his divorce. COVID-19 and low interest rates made it more difficult than expected.

Inventory was extremely low and offers faced unprecedented competition, but Dave Lehner and his team at Michigan Mortgage were ready to help guide Thomas as soon as he found the right home.

“I made offers on four homes during my search,” Thomas said. “I missed out on each one, but that was in no way a reflection of Dave and his team. In each of these offers I made, I had estimates of what my closing costs and monthly payments would be.”

Thomas SiudaAfter four rejected offers, an offer was accepted, and Dave and his team went to work.

“The purchase itself was very simple due to the expert advice and team that I was working with,” Thomas said. “I had no hiccups along the way.”

“Right from the start, Jill was great to work with and set the tone for the entire process,” he said. “Everyone that I came in contact with from Dave’s team was friendly, easy to work with and was truly happy that my three kids and I found a home that we love.”

“Everyone from Dave to Jill to the entire team was welcoming, helpful and made my experience truly seamless.  It was simple and easy to follow what I needed to do and when.”

With the help of Pro Snap, most of the work was done via cell phone. Thomas applied via the app, securely scanned and uploaded the necessary documents and communicated with Team Lehner whenever needed.

“I enjoyed the whole experience from beginning to end,” Thomas said. “I was actually a little sad when I closed. I knew I would miss the communication with the team at Michigan Mortgage, but I did receive congratulations from everyone on our home.”

Thank you for trusting us to guide you home, Thomas! We enjoyed working with you.

Kitchen

The Cost of Selling Your Home Yourself

It sounds easy, doesn’t it, selling your house on your own.

How hard can it be, right? Clean up the yard, take a few pictures, list the house on Zillow, then wait for the offers to roll in.

You’ve heard that houses are selling like hotcakes these days. If you sell by owner, you figure you can keep all the proceeds yourself. Money for nothin’…

The only hard part might be the paperwork at the end. But you presume there’s a website that takes care of all that.

It all sounds so easy, right?  Maybe not.

KitchenAs with anything, the devil is in the details. There are costs involved, along with the risk that you might shortchange yourself by not getting top dollar for your home.

Thinking of selling by owner? Here are some realities to be aware of.

Selling a Home by Owner Is Not Free and Easy

Selling a house by owner does not come without its costs. Among the financial costs many sell-by-owners don’t anticipate are the following.

Escrow fees: Escrow fees cover property taxes paid in advance to the lender that are held  in escrow. Escrow fees are usually split between the buyer and seller. They generally equate to 1% to 2% of the final selling price.

Title fees: These include a title search to verify the seller actually owns the property being sold and that there are not any conflicting liens on the property. Title fees can range from $300 to $1,500.

Reconveyance fees: Once your mortgage is paid off, you need to obtain a reconveyance deed to prove it. The cost for this can range from $50 to $65.

Recording fees: After obtaining a reconveyance deed, the transaction is recorded so it becomes a matter of public record. Recording fees are generally charged by the county where the transaction takes place, since the county maintains records of all property purchases and sales.  Recording fee costs differ from county to county. The national average for recording fees is $125, according to the Home Buying Institute.

Transfer taxes: These taxes are imposed by the city, county, or state to transfer title and register change ownership of the property. They are either calculated as a percentage of the sales price or as a flat fee. In Michigan, the transfer tax rate, as written into law, “is levied at the rate of $3.75 for each $500.00 or fraction of $500.00 of the total value of the property being transferred.” On a $250,000 home, the transfer tax is $1,875.

Attorney fees: If you have an attorney represent you at closing, you’ll pay for the attorney fees. They attorney may charge by the hour or they may charge a flat fee for a specific set of document preparation or review services.

Seller concessions: Seller concessions are closing costs the seller agrees to pay. They can make a home more affordable for the buyer, and they can help the seller close the deal. These concessions are negotiated between the two parties. On some loan types, there’s a cap on seller concessions. For example, on FHA loans, seller concessions are limited to six percent of the sale price of the home.

Mortgage pay off: As part of the sale, sellers must pay off the remainder of the loan on their home.

Holding costs: As the seller, you will pay holding costs (also called carrying costs), in between the time you accept an offer and the sale closes. You will continue to pay the monthly mortgage payment, taxes, insurance, association dues and utility bills during that time.

Other Potential Costs

In addition to the costs above, other possible costs involved in selling your home include:

Home appraisal: To determine the right selling price, some sellers hire an appraiser to determine the home’s fair market value. The national average for an appraisal is $355.

Multiple listing service (MLS) listing fee: MLS is the listing service professional realtors use, but anyone can list a home there. MLS will syndicate your listing to the major online listing sites. Fees for listing on MLS range from $50 to $500.

Professional listing photos: You might think you can get professional photos on your cell phone, but let’s be honest, you can’t. If you hire a professional real estate photographer to take photos and videos of your home, expect to pay several hundred dollars.

Advertising. Yard signs and a free listing on Craigslist sound great, but to reach a broad audience you’d need to run ads elsewhere. Expect to pay upwards of $200 for a month or two of ads on social media sites. Add in a few more dollars for posters or brochures.

Pre-listing home inspection. A pre-listing home inspection can give buyers confidence. Expect to pay upwards of $400 for an inspection.

Property survey. Again, to help reassure buyers, some sellers get a property survey. The national average for a survey is $550.

Open house expenses. If you decide to hold open houses to show off your home and generate foot traffic, there are costs related to promoting the open house, providing food and drinks (optional) and possibly staging the open house. There’s also the cost of your time to host the event.

Staging. Sellers in some markets hire professional stagers to make their house look the best it can be. Professionals are pricey, charging several thousand dollars. Even if you stage it yourself, there are costs associated with new furniture and other decorations.

The Biggest Risk: Shortchanging Yourself

The biggest hidden cost of selling by yourself is the risk of not pricing your home correctly or not getting as much as you can, especially in today’s competitive market.

Statistics from the National Association of Realtors indicate that For Sale By Owner homes sell for 11% less than homes sold by agents. Similarly, an analysis by the real estate technology firm HomeLight shows that top real estate agents help sellers get 10% more for their homes than average. 

If you are selling by yourself to save a few percentage points in Realtor fees, but you end up getting ten percent less for the house, where’s the financial wisdom in that?

The Value of a Realtor

We work with Realtors on a daily basis and know the value they provide.

Realtors help ensure sellers get top dollar for their homes. They also make sure the seller’s interests are protected. Realtors know experts in the industry like appraisers, surveyors, title companies, attorneys and more. They also get more foot traffic to the home. People often forget that agents work with other agents in their office who represent buyers and can get dozens if not hundreds of showings to a house in a matter of days.

If you need a Realtor referral, don’t hesitate to reach out. We work with some of the best in West Michigan.

This blog post was written by experts at Mortgage 1 and originally appeared on www.mortgageone.com. Michigan Mortgage is a DBA of Mortgage 1. 

Rob and Dave

Celebrating 25 Years of Success in the Business

When Dave Lehner and Rob Garrison teamed up to service West Michigan’s mortgage needs 25 years ago, they developed a plan to be the best in the business.

Their goal: focus on customer service to build trust with borrowers and business partners.

We dug through our archives and found the “How to Obtain Business” plan Dave created in 1994. It is safe to say they achieved their goal and so much more.

Rob and DaveHere are a few excerpts from the plan that highlight exactly who Rob and Dave are as Mortgage Lenders and Leaders.

Service: Service is the most important tool you will have. By taking care of the people that are using you, you will build a trust. Letting them know that when you say or set an appointment you will be there.

Returned Phone Calls and Pages: This goes along with service. When you are just starting out in the business, you must “Break Through.” One of the ways to break through is to call the person RIGHT BACK within 15 minutes! It doesn’t matter what it is regarding – always call back.

People Buying from People: Do not try to be a salesperson. Relax and be yourself. You do not have to always talk about work

Habit: They say it takes 90 days to make something a habit. If you keep going every day, even though at times it is very frustrating, you will notice that things will start happening. You must have faith, desire, and commitment. “Thick skin” is essential in this business. You have got to put your fears or emotions away! It takes four no’s to get one yes, so every time someone tells you “no” you’re that much closer to a “yes.”

Salesmanship: This is a tough thing to teach. You are not going to know everything in this business. Some people think they have to know everything before they can talk to a customer because they are afraid they will be embarrassed. Just get in there and get the deal, you will learn as you go. Being a good salesperson (not a liar) has to do with being sincere and truthful. Do not try to be a chameleon changing your colors to fit in, people will see right through you and will not trust you. It takes time and understanding of people. Always try to remember to put yourself in their shoes when you are talking to people and be straightforward and business will grow.

These words ring true today, 25 years after they were originally written (except for the mention of returning pages, of course). If our team can continue to focus on customer service, we will see success for many years to come.

Adriana Stevens

Second Michigan Mortgage Service Scholarship Winner Announced

In conjunction with our #MMGivesBack and Service Rewards programs, we’ve launched the Michigan Mortgage Service Scholarship in hopes of recognizing High School Seniors with dreams of pursuing a career in service.

Careers Include:

  • Military
  • Teachers & Educators
  • Government & Politics
  • Police
  • Firefighters
  • First Responders
  • Doctors & Nurses

We received over 50 applicants and examined each one closely. We learned about their goals and aspirations, the community service they completed and impacts they made in West Michigan and how they plan to give back to those that need it most.

We assembled a Scholarship Committee to select our 2021 winners. Two West Michigan graduates will receive $1,000 to further their education.

Adriana StevensAfter much consideration, Michigan Mortgage is pleased to announce Adriana Stevens, a 2021 Coopersville High School Graduate, as a winner of this year’s Michigan Mortgage Service Scholarship.

She said the following in her application.

“To me, service is more than just a word, but rather an action of kindness and love. Service is the idea of giving back to others voluntarily. Service can be in a form as caring as raking someone’s yard to as generous as helping at a local food truck — both of which I have done and enjoyed. Service includes hundreds of different actions that benefit the world as a whole. To me, when I pass out food at my local food truck or when I clean up my local baseball field, I know I am benefiting my community and the world as a whole. The small steps that everyone takes in their community are the steps that lead to positive change in our world and I’m glad to be a part of that change.”

“In the future, I hope to impact our local community in numerous ways. I would like to bring positivity throughout our community and bring everyone together. By bringing my community together, we can all see each other as individuals, rather than being divided into different social classes and ethnic groups. I want my community to be happy. People have taken steps to make our community as wholesome and great as it is today, so I want my community to be at the greatest point it has ever been at. By taking the steps I am taking today, by volunteering and being involved, I am already on my way to make my community better every day and in the future.”

Adriana plans to attend the University of Michigan to work towards her bachelor’s degree in Movement Science. She will minor in Spanish and hopes to become an OB/GYN in the future.

“I am excited to see what the future holds for me and I am beyond grateful to be selected as a scholarship recipient,” she said.

Congratulations, Adriana! You are so deserving of this recognition.

Olivia Woodring

First Michigan Mortgage Service Scholarship Winner Announced

In conjunction with our #MMGivesBack and Service Rewards programs, we launched the Michigan Mortgage Service Scholarship in hopes of recognizing High School Seniors with dreams of pursuing a career in service.

Careers Include:

  • Military
  • Teachers & Educators
  • Government & Politics
  • Police
  • Firefighters
  • First Responders
  • Doctors & Nurses

We received over 50 applicants and examined each one closely. We learned about their goals and aspirations, the community service they completed and impacts they made in West Michigan and how they plan to give back to those that need it most.

We assembled a Scholarship Committee to select our 2021 winners. Two West Michigan graduates will receive $1,000 to further their education.

Olivia WoodringAfter much consideration, Michigan Mortgage is pleased to announce Olivia Woodring, a 2021 Ravenna High School Graduate, as a winner of this year’s Michigan Mortgage Service Scholarship.

She said the following in her application.

“While in high school, it is difficult to see the value of service past “volunteer hours.” Upon realizing this, I have grown to see service not as a tool, like how it is sometimes portrayed, but as a meaningful goal all on its own. I hope that my greatest priority throughout life is to put others before myself. I am aware of the privilege I have had throughout my life, and to me, ‘service’ means to use the resources I have been given throughout my life to give to others.”

“One of Michigan’s greatest assets is its lakes, and West Michigan is no exception. As someone who has taken advantage of outdoor recreation in West Michigan, I would love to play a role in preserving our freshwater ecosystems, whether it be through my career or through volunteering. I also hope that I can show enough compassion and kindness toward others in my community so that these qualities may be passed on, creating a more caring and inclusive environment for future generations.”

Olivia will be a student in the LSA Honors Program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in the fall. She plans to major in International Studies and minor in Science, Technology, & Society.

Melanie Block, an educator at Ravenna High School, had nothing but remarkable things to say about Olivia and her work ethic. Olivia is an invaluable asset to the Ravenna community and hopes to impact her small town for many generations to come.

“I am so thankful for the generous scholarship awarded by Michigan Mortgage, and I am excited to use this financial aid to further my education,” she said.

Congratulations, Olivia! You are so deserving of this recognition.

Staff Photo

An Employee’s Perspective: Growth & Change

Throughout 2021, we are celebrating Dave and Rob’s 25th year together in business. As their longest standing staff member, I’m reflecting on how our staff and office have changed over those years.

I started with the company in 2002. Our office was downtown Muskegon in the Noble Building on W. Western Avenue, which is now home to Pigeon Hill Brewery. Now, when you’re sitting the brewery enjoying a beer, that’s where our desks used to be. It’s a cool facility now, but back then it was…not as ideal.

Staff PhotoWe had a shared bathroom with the entire first floor, and the bathroom also served as our kitchen for washing dishes. When Dave’s long time processor Tiffanie started with us in 2003, we made an office space for her in what was previously a broom closet. The walls may have been moldy, but luckily, she stuck with us.

We moved into our current location on Harvey Street back in 2004, which I believe is the only full location change we’ve had. Our sign has changed a few times though, as we moved through a few different company names. We had some growing pains finding the right fit, but as Michigan Mortgage we have seen an incredible level of success and growth and are here to stay for many years to come.

Our staff has been the most notable area of growth. Back when I started, I was one of only two staff members. At the time we also had about five Loan Officers (plus Rob and Dave). You don’t always realize how much we’ve grown until we look at group photos. Getting a photo of the entire staff went from 4….to well over 24!

Rob and Dave realized early on that growing their teams with additional support staff was a successful business model, versus attempting to add and support more loan officers. I say without a doubt that the staff we have now in 2021 is the best staff we have ever had. Our focus for each job position is laser sharp, our closing and marketing departments exists where they didn’t before, and the best part — we all genuinely enjoy each other and the work we do for our community.

We also have five staff members who have been with us for over 10 years (myself, Tiffanie, Joslyn, Ronda, and Hayley). When we talk about the growth of our staff, part of that means adding staff. But perhaps the best part is seeing the growth of the staff members themselves.

Joslyn started as a teenager, and now runs the entire office as our Operations Manager. Tiffanie and Ronda have perfected the loan process as part of Team Lehner, and their clients rave about them. And Hayley transitioned from a valued Loan Officer Assistant to an incredibly successful Loan Officer in Holland.

Opening an office in Holland was one of the biggest steps we made toward growth. Adding a location can be a risky decision: going into an unknown market, adding additional office expenses, transitioning two full time staff members to loan officers, etc.

From day one, there was no doubt Amy and Hayley were going to be successful in leading our Holland branch, and they certainly have been. They are both President’s Club members (loan officers who close at least 100 units each year) for two years running and have garnered many Best of the Best Awards in the Holland market.

It can be mind-boggling to imagine where Michigan Mortgage will be 25 years from today. I have no doubt that our trajectory will continue to upwards, and we’ll continue to serve the West Michigan community for a long time to come.