Don’s a Mortgage Advisor out of our Newport Beach, CA location. On a clear day or night – which are most in southern California – he can see Catalina Island from his office. For someone with his adventurous spirit, this seems perfectly appropriate.
We had a chat with Don, who spent 15 years in the mortgage industry before joining the Commerce Home Mortgage team, to explore his passion in the mortgage field and well beyond.
CHM: Why are you interested in the Home Mortgage business?
Don: I got my real estate license when I was 18 years old. My first job was working for a friend’s dad, who was a bail bondsman. Shortly after learning that business, I realized that people often put up their homes for collateral when raising bail for their loved ones. I saw an opportunity the help these people by lowering their interest rates and refinancing their home loans. I fell in love with the process of helping people through connecting them to the right mortgage products for their needs.
I went from bail bonds to running a company of nearly 50 employees, to becoming Zillow’s largest non-institutional advertiser, then on to becoming a mortgage banker at Jayco Capital Mortgage. Over all of those years my goal remained the same – to provide awesome loans and service to my clients.
I found Commerce Home Mortgage in 2014. I knew by joining this outstanding team, I’d be able to provide bigger & better products and new opportunities to my clients.
CHM: What do you do for fun?
Don: I’m a private pilot. My wife and I like to travel. I manage a get-away about every 6 weeks or so. Most recently we flew to Zion National Park in Utah. We also love to scuba dive. We’ve been to some spectacular places, like Egypt. We’ve done wreck diving, shark diving, and even deep diving – down to 160 feet.
CHM: That seems both interesting and dangerous.
Don: It’s both. I’m a Certified Emergency Responder. When you’re involved in diving or flying, I feel it’s important to stay calm when things go wrong. Early in our marriage, my wife and I went heli-snowboarding near the Whistler ski resort in British Columbia, Canada. We got lost. As heavy weather was closing in, we reached a Sheriff on our cell phone. We described the nearby peaks and he gave us directions to get ourselves out. Turns out we were in an avalanche area. Even if a rescue helicopter could come for us (impossible due to the approaching storm), it would likely set off an avalanche. It took us 8 hours and we had to descend 6,000 feet to get out. I learned from that incident the importance of acting in a way that minimizes further danger when you find yourself in a bad situation.
CHM: How do your side interests inform the work that you do at Commerce Home Mortgage?
Don: Being a pilot helps me in the origination process. Both are about detailed checklists. Any mistake can alter the outcome. A pilot has a large responsibility. You have to be perfect 10 out of 10 times. You need to understand the full extent of the capabilities of the plane. I use checklists the same way in diving as well. I check off each box and make sure that everything’s in good working order.
Good communication is also important when flying. You’re talking to other people, on the ground, in other planes, and in your plane. It’s essential that all communications be clear and concise. What both sides are expecting has to be understood. It keeps everyone safe. It’s the same when I’m working with mortgages. I have to be sure that people are 100% clear about rates, fees, etc. I stay with them from the beginning of the experience to the end. Over the years, I’ve developed a variety of ways to explain complex financial processes in simple terms. That keeps everyone’s expectations lined up.
CHM: Anything else you feel is important for people to know about you or your approach to mortgages?
Don: I see every loan as a puzzle to be solved. I love challenges. My favorite loan is for the self-employed borrower. They don’t fit into the typical boxes and I sometimes have check multiple boxes to get it done for them. It’s the most rewarding part of my job. I really dig into the research. What’s more fun than really using your knowledge and experience? I constantly study different investors and guidelines. I’m not afraid to navigate the entire mortgage world to find the best way to get something done.
CHM: World navigator – That’s Don Stolan.