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Lake Oswego-based mortgage broker helps vets overcome lending obstacles

Treatment of returning Vietnam vets prompted Dick Maurer to learn the ins and outs of VA loans


REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Dick Maurer admits he felt a little guilty for not having to face the same hardships as the veterans of his generation. But within those mixed feelings, the Lake Oswego broker says, he found his calling. Dick Maurer remembers the time when veterans returning from overseas weren't regarded as heroes, but rather as villains in an unpopular war. They were his peers if the Vietnam era, and many needed a boost in their attempt to return to civilian life.

Many still do.

"We had some guys coming home who were very mistreated by the public, coming off the planes in airports and being spit on and screamed at, all kinds of stuff," Maurer remembers. "It was a very difficult time for them."

Having avoided military service himself due to a pre-existing health condition, Maurer — an Oregon native who attended Oregon State University — admits he felt a little guilty for not having to face the same hardships as the veterans of his generation. But within those mixed feelings, he found his calling.

Already a licensed mortgage broker, Maurer began studying the guidelines for administering home loans through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Over time, he became an expert at helping military veterans take advantage of one of the best benefits of their service.

Now based in Lake Oswego as a broker with ENG Lending, Maurer can cite countless examples of how his knowledge of the VA rulebook helped veterans navigate past many of the difficulties they've faced in trying to secure a home loan.

"I closed my first loan in January 1973, and I've been doing VA loans ever since," Maurer says.

Now as often as ever, Maurer says, veterans are turning to him for help in overcoming obstacles on the path to home ownership.

"With the most recent economic downturn, the VA loan program has been tremendous," he says. "The VA is in place for the benefit of the veteran, and because we know how to work with the VA, we can take veterans who others want nothing to do with — good people and good risks who just ran into some trouble with the economy.

"Maybe the mill shut down, or he had an illness, something he didn't have any control over," Maurer says. "That's not the same as the guy who has bad payment habits and overspent on all his credit cards. That guy's a bad risk. We know how to sort of winnow that out."

Maurer says he has learned how to work with the VA to show when a veteran "is more a victim and not a perpetrator, so to speak. These veterans deserve the opportunity to get on with their life and not simply be compared to some computer file, which is what lots of lenders want to do."

Rick Pulskamp is one such veteran. When his wife lost her job after suffering medical problems that left her unable to work, the couple lost their home in Phoenix and became renters. In 2008, the couple moved to Oregon and Pulskamp, who served in the U.S. Army, took a job as a teacher in the Portland area.

The Pulskamps rented different places throughout the metro area, but say they always ran into trouble when inquiring about a loan and a return to home ownership.

"Nobody wants to talk to you unless you're five-star rated," Pulskamp says. "We had actually given up, because no one will talk to you when you have multiple dings on your credit. We thought we would rent forever. But when we read about what Dick was doing, we met him in Lake Oswego and told him our story."

When Maurer realized that most of the couple's financial troubles came from medical problems, he saw them as a good risk and knew what to do. He helped the couple navigate their way to a loan through the VA, and now the couple owns a home in Southeast Portland.

"He was our advocate from Day 1," Pulskamp says. "I'm still amazed he pulled it off."

Maurere isn't surprised, though.

"We have people who have lost their house in a short sale, but they had never missed a house payment, never missed a payment on their credit cards, their cars, their boat," Maurer says. "The only mark on their credit is their mortgage account, and they're punished for it."

Maurer said the key to securing VA loans for his clients is combining his knowledge of the VA Lenders Handbook with his experience in dealing with different VA offices from around the country.

"It's a huge amount to know, but it is not absolutely definitive," he says. "The guidelines talk about what you need to look at and be concerned about, but oftentimes there's a little bit of wiggle room for an exceptional circumstance or mitigating factor.

"But if you don't have the experience, you don't know there are things that you can bring to bear on one loan that may have played out in another," he says. "Without the experience, you wouldn't see where you could go with it."

He says he keeps a journal of each case to document the circumstances and track how VA loan offices around the country react to different criteria. "I'm sure I'm not the only one who does it," he says, "but I probably have a more extensive network and a list of responses than anyone else."

Combining his experience with the details of each lending proposal, Maurer builds a case for why he thinks a client is a good risk for a federally back VA loan.

"It's like the closing argument in a trial," he says. "I present the facts that are pertinent and show how they conform to VA standards."

Now folks from all over the country are contacting Maurer, usually after running into the same roadblocks his other clients have managed to overcome.

Locally, Maurer says veterans are discovering VA loans as an excellent way to refinance their homes or move up to a more expensive home.

"VA loans will very typically have a cheaper rate, especially when you get into the jumbo loans," he says. "The high-dollar-amount loans have excellent terms on them. The reason for that is not only does the VA guarantee the lender portion of it, but the rates are also guaranteed.

"Some folks think you can only use the benefit one time or that their eligibility expires. But VA loans can be used again and again," Maurer says. "We have a large population of baby-boomer vets who bought their first house with it, but they can certainly still benefit from a VA loan today because they're still eligible. They just don't know it."

Steve Rosling, a local Realtor and principal broker with Beaverton-based Park Place Real Estate, has guided many of his clients to Maurer based on the results achieved in his network.

"The experience of working with Dick and his team is always great," he said. "He explains things to my customers in clear terms. You can tell he really cares about getting the best rate and the best experience. They've really had nothing but great things to say and have been impressed with his service."

For Maurer, satisfaction comes not just from helping clients overcome the frustrations of the mortgage-lending process, but also from helping them take that next step toward creating a better life for themselves.

"I get a commission for doing these loans," he says, "but I get paid a lot more than that."

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