“We’re small but we have access to everything out there. If you need a large loan, we can lend you the money, and having everything under one roof makes it all easier. Many larger companies might have to reach outside of the local office for answers to questions. Here we can close the door and find the answer to any question. We can resolve any problem right here in our office,” says Allen Barber, president of Johnson Mortgage Company, LLC.
Barber was playing golf professionally in 1986 when he met Morris Johnson, president of the company at that time. He was offered a job and has been in the mortgage business ever since. Bobby Wharton joined the company 10 years ago, after having devoted nearly all of his time to launching the well-known Crab Shack restaurant at the foot of the James River Bridge. “I had known Allen and Morris for many years. I had a finance background and I’d always wanted to do something like that, but the restaurant took over my world for a while,” Wharton says.
Although Johnson Mortgage Company was not heavily affected by the 2008 housing crisis, Barber confirms that the housing market and mortgage business have fully recovered, adding that this is a great time for buyers. “Things got crazy in the world of housing and mortgages,” he says. “There were problems with sub prime loans, stated income, bad credit. It got out of hand and it busted, but we still did fine because we went back to what we had always done. In general, things are much different these days; everything is fully documented.”
Barber adds that the economy is better today than when the crisis hit a decade ago.
The strong local economy and job market make this a great home for Johnson Mortgage Company. “I feel that with the Shipyard being strong, students graduating and the military in our area, it really helps the local market,” says Wharton. Barber adds, “We do a lot of V.A. lending, plus we have a strong job market here. This is a great area for us to do business.”
Barber says that while the market has recovered, there have been important changes. “Everything we do is touched by technology; computers have significantly changed the way we do business,” he says. “We used to send letters to employers to verify people’s income information. These days we can go online to check income information with the I.R.S.”
Wharton points out that other technology can help people who are seeking a loan, “There are tools for helping people boost their credit score. These tools can calculate the amount of money someone might need to apply to a certain debt to raise his or her credit score,” Wharton says.
Barber believes that if there’s one thing people should know about the process of buying a home, it would be the importance of their credit. “People don’t have a very good feel for credit and its effect on the mortgage process,” he says. At the same time he emphasizes that having perfect credit is not necessary. “There’s a perception that after the crash of 2008, you have to have perfect credit and that’s not true.” Barber encourages first-time buyers to take a look at the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA), a not-for-profit organization designed to help Virginians attain affordable housing. “There are all kinds of outstanding programs, really low down-payment loans. There are even grants available for down payments.”
Barber and Wharton both emphasize that what makes Johnson Mortgage unique is its small size and its close relationship with brokers. “If you want to see the guy who runs Johnson Mortgage, you just knock on the door,” Barber says. “You don’t get that at some of these larger companies.”
Wharton adds, “Agents like to work with a lender with whom they have a relationship. I talked with several agents this past weekend, and they know they can call me anytime. That’s important because the weekends are an important time for them, as people are off work and looking at homes.”
When not working, Barber and Wharton both enjoy spending time with their families and playing golf. Barber just returned from a golf trip to Canada, where he was able to play several courses.
TO THE POINT:
Johnson Mortgage Company, LLC
Address: 739 Thimble Shoals Blvd., Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Allen Barber, president