It is not always easy for an entrepreneur to balance work and family life. For individuals who have the capabilities of persevering through tough times, in one of the most competitive markets, they realize that balance is imperative to a positive life. JL Llavina, Operations Manager and Entrepreneur of American Loans in Sandy, Utah has mastered the art of balance with family and following his passion.
JL Llavina opened the business as the Principal Lending Manager with American Loans. Over the past three years during the evolution of the business, JL has positioned himself as Operations Manager. He has established strong relationships with a variety of lenders as he engaged and nurtured them in the best interest of all concerned. He coordinates different lender-products and can provide a wide variety of loans. He has focused his energy on helping his client’s get the best rates possible. He excels in the business due to the compassion that he has for his clients.
His passion for the business came from the joy that he shares with his clients when he can assist in avoiding bankruptcy or the loss of a home. He can impact the lives of his client’s in such a positive way.
JL Llavina is a graduate of Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah where he earned his degree in finance.
In his free time, JL enjoys spending time with his wife and children. They are the very proud parents of 6 children. Jose Luis Llavina is an avid fan of outdoor sports. He absolutely loves everything that the Utah landscape has to offer. He enjoys hiking in the mountains, skiing, snowmobiling and visiting Moab in southern Utah. He explained that this is the area where producers of western movies use to film. The area is now used for Rock climbing and four wheeling, two additional hobbies that he enjoys.
How did you get started with American Loans? What inspired you to do so?
A friend of mine used to work for a credit union. He wanted to start a mortgage company. I became very interested in the business. At the time there were new loans available from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). I educated myself on all aspects of the business. My friend went in a different direction, but I pursued it as a viable business opportunity. The business has had to adapt to a changing economy. I have seen many competitors come and go. Our business has stood the test of time. It has not always been easy, but it has been successful for the past twenty-five years.
How long did it take for your firm to become profitable?
We were profitable within the very first year. We serve a very concentrated market in Utah. We found that 90% of our business comes from Ogden, Salt Lake City and Provo. If you go to a bank for a loan, they are inclined to have the same loans to offer that twenty other banks are offering. We provide other loan products that are different. They allow people to qualify for loans who otherwise would not qualify.
When you first started out did you ever doubt that this would work for you? If so, how did you handle it?
The only time I had doubt was at the very start of the business. It was a time when the interest rates were going up, which made it difficult at first. I think the interest rate had just taken a jump to about 7% at the time. We just stood our ground, kept moving forward and now interest rates have gotten better and better ever since. The change in interest rates has allowed people to qualify for bigger loans which provides them with a better home which makes the economy move ahead.
How did you find your first customer?
I was referred to my first customer by a real estate agent acquaintance. We began to build relationships with real estate agents. We also started advertising on our local KSL radio station. Our advertising was a little bit different than the others who were advertising. Our advertising really set us apart from all the others. At the time, businesses would not advertise interest rates. The rates were changing very fast. Our ads spoke of getting a loan at 5.75 with 2 points. It is very expensive in today’s standards. We ended up getting so many calls because we were offering a rate that no one else was telling them that they could get. Other companies were afraid to advertise if the rates would change from one day to the next. We committed to that rate for as long as we advertised the rate even if it cost us money. It worked out well. It started somewhat of a price war for better rates.
We are very sensitive to our clients’ needs and we want them to get the best product. We broker for thirty different lenders. When people are out shopping for the best rates, we let them know that we can do the shopping for them. We have an application where you can enter all your information and it will provide all the products that can be made available to you. It will have the best rates and the best closing costs of the day, which we then broker that to the lender. When we say we give the best rates we mean it and are very aggressive so that the customer gets the best deal.
What is one marketing strategy other than referrals that you use to generate new business?
The best strategy that we use beyond referrals is radio advertising. We have been with our local radio station for over 20 years. We have done T.V. advertising but we get the best rate of return from our advertising dollars from the radio.
What is the toughest decision that you have had to make?
There were many people who got out of this business during the recession of 2007-2008. There were huge loan companies who went under all over the country. It was a very difficult time to stay in business. I considered following the path of Leeman Brothers and Washington Mutual. I was tempted to close as well but instead, we decided to downsize and stayed consistent.
What do you think makes you successful?
I believe that you make fast money, very slowly. Consistency is one of the reasons for my success. Many people do not stick to their business, which makes it difficult, as it is an aspect, they need to become good at it. Stay the course and get better and better at what you do. It still amazes me that some of our competitors don’t have the programs that we have. We have established broker relationships. We have a program where we provide grants for people to buy homes. If you are a first-time home buyer, we will give you up to fourteen thousand dollars to buy your home. It is a grant that does not have to be repaid.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
The most satisfying moments come when we can create such a positive impact on someone’s life as we provide these loans. We have help people who are facing bankruptcy and they don’t know what to do. By rearranging their debt and refinancing their homes we can lower their payments so much that life can become great again. One example is of a woman who came to us on a Friday when she was scheduled to meet with a bankruptcy attorney that following Monday. She was in her late 50’s rather than being able to think of retiring she was facing bankruptcy. We were able to provide her with a loan to pay off all her debts and lower her payments. It changed her life. This is what I like the most about my business.
It was not my dream to be doing mortgages when I first started this business. It was not the vision that I had. But we became very good at what we do. It is amazing when you grow to love what you do.
What does the future hold for you and your firm? What are you most excited about?
We have built many relationships with brokers in the past. We are now speaking with our lenders about doing more loans in other states. We’d like to grow our business. We are not looking to grow too much too fast. We enjoy our time and our families, and we love what we do. We are looking forward to doing some expansion into other states.
What books have inspired would you recommend?
Bonds That Make Us Free by C. Terry Warner.
What is a recent purchase that you have made for your business?
We purchased a new building that is right off the freeway. It is the busiest ramp through the city. It has an enormous amount of traffic and we have a huge digital sign that we display.
What do your clients think about the mortgage industry?
Many times, people ask, what is the future of mortgages? If we reflect on 2007-2008 there was too much regulation placed upon the lending industry. The Obama era over-regulated the market so much that it made it impossible for many people to qualify to purchase a home. It put people in the position where they are at the mercy of a landlord who can raise the rent every year. It made rents higher as well. It is very disruptive for families to have to move because they can’t afford the rent. We can do a 30-year mortgage. It is amazing what can be done with proper regulation rather than over-regulation.