Desiree C. Vavak, 41, started her mortgage and real estate business 14 years ago after her own difficult experience with the industry.
“I was working with a terrible realtor at the time, who really didn’t guide me well so I felt really taken advantage of,” she said.
Vavak had an adjustable rate mortgage that failed, which led her to foreclosure by 2007. By then, she had finished her business marketing degree at Cal State Fullerton. With a potential career ready to be built, and a bad experience that so many others were also experiencing at the time, Vavak decided to become a realtor.
Since then, she’s been building her business, North American Realty & Mortgage. As a small business owner in an industry with a troubled past, Vavak’s path to success has relied on her ability to build trust with her clients. That doesn’t mean it’s been easy for her.
“When you’re self employed and work on your own like I do, you go through waves of doubt. Like ‘Am I going to make it through this? Am I in the right industry?’ There’s some very stressful situations that come with finance, of course.” she said.
But all of that doubt disappears when she is able to make a difference in her client’s life.
Last year, she received a call from one of her clients. The client was already in escrow, but she was feeling insecure about her loan, so she called Vavak. Turns out, the client qualified for a better loan type that had a lower rate and about $10k less in fees.
“I couldn’t understand why. It was either the lack of knowledge of the loan officer, or they were selling her on this loan type because they know she had to refinance out of it later, trying to double hit her with fees.”
“When I get to help someone not get taken advantage of, that for me is a great reward. It’s a feeling of, I’m in the right place. This is what I was here to do,” she said.
Vavak said that instead of focusing on closing as many loans as possible, she works on developing her relationships with her clients. Instead of a rushed process, her clients receive a daily call walking them through everything.
Her caring approach also means working with those clients that are in a home crisis. When she first started her career in the midst of the market crash, many of her clients were losing their home. Loss mitigation became another one of her skills, where she worked out options between borrowers and mortgage lenders.
Vavak suspects that loss mitigation might be something she might see again in the future. The COVID relief act has established mortgage forbearance, but it won’t last forever.
“When forbearance ends, some will find a way to get back into the normal payment plan again. But not everyone has the same income as it was before the pandemic,” she said.
“I get to help people in that matter. That means a lot to me because it’s a unique skill. I always tell my homeowners, ‘You’re never going to lose that house on my watch.’ I’m the one with the Rolodex of options.”
Vavak’s personal experience has shaped the way she helps her clients. As a mortgage loan originator, she knows the ins and outs of the lending process. As a realtor, she’s also helping her clients find the perfect property. That knowledge comes from being a lifelong Long Beach resident.
After having her two sons, she briefly considered moving elsewhere, but decided that she loved Long Beach too much to leave.
“It’s just something about the people in Long Beach that I just adore. It’s fun here, It’s entertaining,” she said.
The decision to stay was further strengthened when she won the Best Mortgage Broker/Lender in Long Beach. The award, presented by LB Home + Living, was part of the Best of Long Beach Awards 2020.
“To get the recognition from LB Home + Living, I could cry about it. I’m never the top producer, the one winning awards and all that. So to get that from my community, there’s the biggest solidification I’ve ever had of where I’m supposed to be,” she said.