However, the biggest cornerstone of her venture into the C-suite came when she joined American Financial Resources (AFR) in 2007 to launch its wholesale division. Founded in 1997, AFR is an organization of trusted, responsive, and innovative mortgage professionals whose focus is to simplify the lending process using a hands-on approach. Recounting her experience in the early years with AFR, Laura shares, “When I joined AFR, the country was facing the worst mortgage crisis in its history. We ran toward the fire, while everyone else was running away. While other companies were failing, we took the opportunity to build. I was given a phone, a computer, and a desk. I took on the challenge to build a mortgage business while the housing market was crashing. The reputation of lenders was suffering, people were losing their jobs, and I decided to seize the opportunity to work with trustworthy mortgage brokers to help provide home financing to families. I became an AFR partner in 2009, followed by ascending to Executive Vice President, then Chief Operations Officer, and now I serve the company as President. I am proud that AFR has grown into a national leader in specialized programs during my tenure.”
Evolution of AFR
Initially, when Laura started working with AFR, the entire wholesale division was built on one product i.e. FHA loans. By 2010, AFR started expanding its portfolio and adding other products. Laura shares, “We focused on one niche at a time and accumulated the right talent to service the business. Homeowners were struggling, and we opened our arms to specialize in unique financing programs – “we’re here to help you” – which still rings true at AFR today.” Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, AFR’s main purpose is to bring families home. Hence, it strives to deliver innovative and unique residential financing solutions to thousands of homeowners, buyers, mortgage brokers, bankers, lenders, realtors, and contractors all across the nation.
Their specialties include Renovation (203(k) & Homestyle) Loans, Manufactured Home Loans, VA Loans, and One-time-close or single-close loans, which allow a borrower to finance all their needs related to the purchase from site improvements to construction of a new, manufactured or site-built home through a single loan. Their MH programs include FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac financing options, as well as VA and USDA loans that further helps the borrower capitalize on the growing manufactured housing market. Looking back, AFR has evolved in a big way by adding both B2B (AFR Wholesale) and B2C (eLEND and MHL) residential mortgage divisions, and currently serves as a full-service mortgage lender in 50 states. Even during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, AFR has not just successfully transitioned to working remotely without negatively impacting business, but has closed twice as many loans in half the time, and continues to enjoy a record-setting pipeline. Speaking of how they managed to stay afloat even in this crucial time, Laura shares, “Like many other companies, there has been a vast increase in the number of Zoom meetings and video calls at AFR. It’s allowed all of us to learn more about other members of our team, including cameo visits from kids and pets. We recently hosted a birthday party on Zoom, to celebrate 13 years of AFR Wholesale with cake, company trivia, and prizes. It was such a hit; we are now going to host a monthly social event to keep up the morale and continue to motivate the team.”