Jhoanna Jones spent more than a decade working in the financial industry. She thrived on helping small business owners get the lending they needed to buy properties and expand their companies. But sometimes, due to tighter bank regulations, she had the uneasy job of declining a loan to a small business owner.
“That really frustrated me for many years, and I thought, there has to be a better option,” said Jones.
Jones noticed there was no commercial lending brokerage in the Tri-Cities so decided to open a branch on her own in June 2013.
“I got tired of saying ‘No’ to my clients. I wanted to say ‘Yes,’” Jones said. “I needed to find a better option, to bring in other banks that don’t have a footprint in the Tri-Cities.”
Through her company, Los Gatos Lending Group, Jones works with financial institutions across the country. Her contacts allow her to help clients that local banks turn away, either because the loan value is too high or there are property issues that make the loan difficult to underwrite.
“Most banks, they have a (commercial loan) limit, and the limit on average is about $5 million,” she said. “I can do loans as much as $150 million if there’s a need for it,” she said. “So if a client wants to buy a building, they would normally have to go through a difficult process to get approved. With me, you don’t have to go through three different units to get approved.”
Jones said she works with investment banks that sell loans on the secondary market, so the risk tolerance is much higher than local banks. Regulations have forced many financial institutions clamp down on lending if the risk is presumed too high.
Making matters worse, is that often when someone is trying to find a bank to work with, their credit takes a hit in the process because it’s been pulled and reviewed multiple times.
By having the option to work with a commercial lending broker with access to lenders outside of the region, Jones said she’s helping people reach their dreams.
“Tires 4 Less, a small shop in Pasco, couldn’t get a loan locally,” Jones said. “We were able to get them a Small Business Administration loan. It feels good when you drive by a business and you know you made an impact.”
Los Gatos Lending Group doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar building, because Jones makes a point to visit with every one of her clients. Along with getting a facility tour, she’ll sit down with the client to talk about their goals. And when they move into the lending process, she takes any documents that need signatures to the owner—even if it’s outside of traditional business hours.
“I visited a client at 7 a.m. on a Sunday,” she said. “It’s when they needed me. I cater to my clients.”
Jones said because she’s handling loans local banks cannot take on, she’s not in competition with them, and — on the contrary — is a great resource. Many of her clients have come from referrals from her contacts in the local banking industry.
“We meet the gap between the local banks and the community,” she said. “If you go to New York or any large metropolitan area, it’s normal to go to a mortgage broker. So I’ve been educating the community to say, ‘There is a another option for you.’”
And word is certainly getting out. Not only are people learning about her business, commercial real estate prices are going up while office building vacancies are down.
“I’m getting calls every single day,” said Jones, who speaks both English and Spanish, allowing her to serve more clients.
Down the road, she’d like to hire a few individuals as her business grows. Her goal is also to be a correspondent on the bank loan—to sell the loan under her name on the secondary market and have more control on the underwriting process.
“Right now, as the broker, I send the information to different banks, and underwriters will make a decision to approve the loans and for how much. When I become a correspondent, I’ll be doing that, and it will give me faster turn around and more control,” she said. “Being able to make those decisions is crucial, especially when someone says, ‘I’m buying a building, and I need to close soon.’”
Jones knows all too well the stress clients have to endure when they need a loan as quickly as possible. Any hiccups in operations—such as a business having to close until a new location is secured—can cause customers to look elsewhere, and sometimes not return once the business is running again.
“I want them to be successful, because if they’re successful, I’m successful,” said, “And that means the community is successful.”
Los Gatos Lending Group can be reached by calling (415) 902-0619 or visit www.losgatoslendinggroup.com.
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