Four candidates are vying for three open spots on the Columbia Public Schools Board of Education. Ahead of the election on April 4, CBT caught up...
From humble beginnings in Columbia to expanding to offices across Missouri, Flat Branch Home Loans has made great strides since its birth in 2005. What started off as one office space with two employees has grown to a company with 17 offices and 115 people in Columbia, Ft. Leonard Wood, Jefferson City, Joplin, Marshall, Springfield and St. Louis.
The home loan company officially celebrated its 10th birthday on May 1 and offers a variety of services including refinance loans, down-payment assistance, a first-time homebuyer program, conventional loans, FHA loans, FHA streamline refinance, USDA loans, VA loans and the HARP 2.0 program. President Jim Yankee says the company has been able to stay afloat during the economic downturn by always growing and looking toward the future.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to hire really good people and grow through the downturn,” Yankee says. “You can’t do the mortgage business small anymore; you have to be big. We’ve grown and been able to do it. Since we’ve grown, we’ve been able to survive.”
Yankee founded Flat Branch Home Loans in 2005 after working at Wells Fargo with the help of Delton Jacobs. He always knew he wanted to own his own business, and it was the perfect time to start a mortgage company.
“It was really easy to start a mortgage company 10 years ago, but now it’s nearly impossible,” Yankee says. “I got in when it was easy. as we’ve grown, we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to stay alive and keep growing and building. I started doing mortgages while I was in college, so it’s kind of always what I’ve done.”
According to Yankee, the way to run a successful home loans business is through the lasting relationships you build with customers. Many of the people who come into their officers are first-time homebuyers, so it’s often a nerve-wracking experience.
“It’s a great experience,” Yankee says. “People like that just need someone to talk to and hold their hand through the process. We have really knowledgeable loan officers that have been in the business for a long time. We have the best of the best. It’s great to be able to help them and give them your full attention and your full effort.”
Eric Hemmer, a mortgage banker at Flat Branch since 2008, says he enjoys helping other people and seeing the look on their faces when he is able to assist them.
“[It’s rewarding] to see the excitement on our customers’ faces when they close on their new home,” Hemmer says. “It is by far the best part of what we do.”
“We all have the same mindset of doing our best every day and doing what’s best for the customer,” says Kelle Walters, a mortgage banker at the Columbia office. “It’s a really good collaboration. There’s a real teamwork approach of helping each other.”
“We just always focus on the customer,” Yankee says. “As long as we do the right thing for the customer, it seems like everything kind of follows it.”
Although the company is always growing, the staff at the Columbia branch remains a tight-knit bunch. Yankee says he thinks of his fellow employees as family and has even dubbed the clan “Flatbranchers.”
“People really love working here,” Yankee says. “It’s a great culture and a great group of people.”
“The work environment here is great,” Hemmer says. “It is relaxed and fun, but at the same time, we all are very serious about what we do. It makes it easy to come to work when you are working with your friends.”
Owning a home loan business is not always easy. Yankee says in real estate, you really never know what you’ll encounter on a day-to-day basis. Some days the market is up; other days the market is on a down- turn. Through it all, Yankee says he wouldn’t change a thing.
“Owning my own business… I love it,” Yankee says. “I wouldn’t want to do anything else. growing up, I didn’t know what I wanted to get into, but I always knew I wanted to own my own business and be my own boss. I really do love it.”