Finding the right loan for the home of your dreams doesn’t have to be a long and drawn out ordeal.
Just ask Joe Stefani – one of the hardest working professionals in the Merced Area real estate market.
“I try to be available to my customers around the clock,” he says. “I will meet with them anytime, any day of the week. If a truck driver has to leave town at 5 a.m., I’ll set up a quick meeting at 4:30 a.m. That’s what I do because this whole process is about the home buyer – especially the first-time home buyer – and what’s best for you. After all, this is the biggest purchase any person or couple will ever make in their entire life. “
Stefani is the Branch Manager and Top Loan Officer at American Financial Network (AFN) in Merced. His specialty is helping first time home buyers, but he works with all types of buyers on Conventional Loans, FHA Loans, VA Loans, and USDA Loans. He is also working on refinancing mortgages so customers can get lower interest rates.
AFN is a mortgage lender and Stefani’s team helps with credit processing from the initial stages to loan financing.
“We do everything in-house,” says Stefani. “Our team has been working together for several years. We work well together. And we pride ourselves on customer service and efficiency. Our goal is to make home buying as smooth, seamless, and stress-free as possible for the buyer. “
Stefani works directly with loan processor Mitchell Miller and assistant loan processor Tristen Pulido to meet customer needs and get them “home ownership”.
“There is no consultation fee, no registration fee,” says Stefani. “I don’t charge my clients a penny until we complete their loan.”
First-time home buyers can go to their Merced office and start an interview process. Stefani helps fill out the application details to move on to “pre-approval”.
“Putting together a home loan is like putting together a puzzle,” he says. “We put all the pieces on the table and create a financial picture.”
It is entirely possible that a person or couple could get pre-approved in an hour and buy a home the same day. Once the buyer has signed a contract with the seller, Stefani’s team can work on the actual credit process. And nowadays things can happen quickly.
“We currently close loans in less than three weeks, or in some cases as little as 15 days,” says Stefani.
New homeowners Ricky Garcia, 31, and Belen Hernandez, 29, were pleasantly surprised at how quickly everything went after talking to Stefani about looking for a house in Merced.
“We had a house in mind,” Ricky Garcia told the Times. “We were on tour and wanted to make an offer. Our broker said our previous credit estimates may not have been as good as they could be and suggested we speak to Joe. We met on the same day and were pre-approved for a better loan on the same day. We made an offer for the house but we didn’t get this property due to current competition. However, we continued to work with Joe and soon got an offer for another home. Joe was very friendly, very competent and very open in everything. Joe, Tristen, Mitchell and everyone was easy going with us and that made it all good for us. It was easy to work with. And I could really reach him at any time. It seemed like they were working overtime. I even got a text reply from Joe on Easter Sunday. “
Stefani said credit and income are among the top concerns for first-time home buyers due to soaring house prices. He points out that local buyers face stiff competition from deep pocket Bay Area residents looking for a change from the pandemic here in the Central Valley.
“Usually,” he says, “credit isn’t the main problem.” There are ways to pay off credit cards or other forms of debt. … And the next big problem with first-time buyers is the monthly payment. Note, however, that the monthly payment for a house these days is comparable to renting. “
The loan officer also believes that people are trying to “lead” the market with the idea that they are waiting for house prices to fall. “What I always tell people is that there is never a bad time to buy a home when you have been around for the long term – and especially if this is your first time home buyer. I mean, you get a 30 year fixed rate mortgage. There will be ups and downs in the market. That said, real estate has always been appreciated.
Joe Stefani was born and raised in Merced. He is the son of Bob and Bonnie Stefani. Longtime residents may remember Bob was a real estate agent in town and Bonnie was a real estate agent and mortgage lender.
Joe definitely grew up in business.
He graduated from Merced High School in the 1988 class and served the nation in the Marine Corps.
About 20 years ago, at the start of the new millennium, Stefani got into the credit business himself and returned to the Merced area to serve the community.
“It’s something I like to do,” he says. “I know it sounds clichéd, but I enjoy helping people more than the jobs I do for it. This is one of the most rewarding jobs a person can have – helping people buy houses. “By 2006 he was a partner in three network offices in Atwater, Merced and Chowchilla.
Stefani began working as a loan officer for house smart home loans under the leadership of Rick Seymour and Ernesto Cortez. Then he worked his way up and became a partner in a Netto branch, also known as the corporate branch of a large mortgage company. Until 2006, Stefani was a partner in three Netto branches of Mason-McDuffie Mortgage Corporation in Atwater, Merced and Chowchilla.
During the economic downturn that began in 2008, Stefani helped promote government-insured home renovation loans to spark a tough real estate market in the Merced area. With so many homes available in the Merced market at the time – either bank owned or short sale – the renovation loans or 203,000 loans provided the capital for necessary repairs and improvements that could be consolidated into a first mortgage.
In 2018, Stefani joined American Financial Network as a branch manager. Today AFN has offices in Atwater and Merced.
Stefani is also the father of two young men – Justin and Hunter – who live in Merced, and he is the brother of Mary Camper, a local realtor and president of the Merced County Association of Realtors.
Joe Stefani and American Financial Network are located at 3337 G Street, Suite C, on El Portal Plaza, Merced. The office is directly across from the Jantz Restaurant and next to the Central Valley Community Bank. Call (209) 580-4464 or Joe’s cell at (209) 564-8641. E-mail: [email protected]