Nick Barta, a division president at Security First Financial, has been playing the mortgage lending game for 33 years, and he’s a modest mouse when you ask him the reasons why he’s stuck with it for so long. “Oh, I was tired of it like two years in,” he says, laughing. “But I don’t know how to do anything else. I’m not good at anything else, so here I am, still at it.”
He’s joking, of course, and while there’s certainly other things Barta is good at, he’s proven his excellence in mortgage lending. Case in point: Scotsman Guide’s 2021 Top Originators rankings, where he placed 34th in Most Loans Closed with 1,246 — good for nearly $236.9 million in dollar volume. His bread and butter is Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, of which he had the top dollar volume ($172.5 million) in the country.
Barta and his team have fine-tuned an approach based on collaboration with the borrower. This stands in contrast with the traditional image of a banker holding the purse strings tight.
“I think one of the things we try to do right from the start is let them know that we’re their partner in this,” Barta said. “You know, this isn’t, ‘Convince me that you deserve a loan.’ This is, ‘Hey, how can we make this as pain-free and easy as we can, and still comply with all the regulations we have to comply with?’ We try to let them know upfront that, hey, it’s a partnership, and we’re here to help them and make it as simple as possible.”
That’s the kind of attitude that may seem cliché in the mortgage lending world. But for Barta, it really is personal, stemming from the days of his youth.
“I grew up on a farm in the middle of Nebraska,” he recalled. “And my dad was kind of this big, burly guy. But every year, he would have to go into the bank to renegotiate his farm note. And I think I was probably like 10 or 11, and I remember watching my dad be so nervous and uptight about it going in. He’d have to do a show and come back out, and it’d be, ‘Well, I got financing for another year.’
“I remember thinking — and I think I even told my dad — that I would never be that guy. I want to be on the other side. I want to be the banker that’s making that decision and I want to do it right. … I felt like, if somebody came in and they met all the qualifications, they should get the loan and they shouldn’t feel like it was this big, harsh, stressful, agonizing thing. I didn’t ever want somebody that I was working with to have that same anxiety that my dad had.”
That is what keeps him coming back day in and day out. Despite his jokes about tiring of the grind, Barta said, there’s simply nothing that beats helping people achieve their dreams of homeownership.
“At the end of the day, I still love being a mortgage guy,” he said. “We do the downpayment-assistance loans and things like that, the housing-bond loans that some other lenders don’t like to do. And even though there’s a little less money in them and they’re a little harder to do, it creates an opportunity for us to create relationships and those opportunities are golden.
“And there’s still nothing like seeing somebody get their first home or having somebody cry at the closing table because they never thought they could own a home. Things like that still get you up in the morning and get you moving.” ●