Steve Kabinoff doesn't like to waste time. One of Ditech's most-experienced loan specialists, he's been working in the mortgage industry for nearly two decades, and he knows that before he and a client get down to brass tacks, there's a basic question that has to be answered.
"The main question I want to answer", he says, "is how I can help this homeowner or homebuyer."
Nearly a decade after the financial crisis, Kabinoff still meets customers who are dealing with the reckless lending practices that caused the 2008 recession. The lax lending regulations that predated the recession allowed all sorts of people to get loans they shouldn't have taken out, and Kabinoff is an expert in helping those customers set things right.
To help that person, he asks a series of simple questions. What's the value of the home? How much do you have left on the mortgage? What's your overall equity position? And, most importantly, what's causing you to fall behind?
"When people are hurting," says Kabinoff, "sometimes it isn't the loss of a job, or a divorce situation. Sometimes they got into a mortgage that they really shouldn't have."
One of the most notorious pre-recession lending products was the balloon payment mortgage. Customers would be attracted by extremely low monthly payments—as low as $50 a month, Kabinoff says—without thinking about, or even realizing, that ten or fifteen years down the line, the entire balance would be due all at once.
"I get this all the time," Kabinoff says. He remembers a man in South Carolina who had spent ten years making extremely low payments on a second mortgage, cutting the balance from $60,000 to $50,000, only to learn that in three months, the entire $50,000 was due. If he failed to pay, he would lose his house. Kabinoff was determined not to let that happen.
"I combined both mortgages into one," he says, "and he's on pace to pay them both off. I got him out of that balloon payment and now he has a fixed loan payment and doesn't have to worry about it again."
Since the recession, stricter lending regulations have made such circumstances much rarer, and Kabinoff thinks that's a change for the better.
"Regulation helps the customer out," he says. "It helps us out too. Does it make the process go a little bit slower? Sometimes; but overall, it's a good thing."
Kabinoff often works with first-time home buyers, and one of the most important parts of his job is helping people balance their natural desire to buy a house with the need to save money in the short and long-term.
"All people think is, I want to buy that house,” he says. "They don't think about whether or not they can manage it. Over time, they have kids; they get other debts, and their financial situation changes."
When things change, Kabinoff can help them again, by talking them through a refinancing, so that their new mortgage can suit their new needs.
"I like giving them multiple options," he says. "Here's the shorter term, where you're going to pay it off more quickly. Here's the longer term. You choose."
However they choose, Kabinoff rests secure in the knowledge that he has helped them to make the decision that's right for them.
"It's the best," he says, "to be able to help someone accomplish their goal. When someone's on a fixed income, they don't have a lot of money, they may have credit card debt, and you're able to help them out? That's the greatest feeling in the world."