“Everything was hands on to build relationships and that’s stuck with me,” Rhonda D’Bene says of her beginnings in mortgage lending 35 years ago. “Now technology is strong and savvy, but people still want to know that somebody cares.”
D’Bene’s relational approach to mortgage lending led to the opening in September of Virginia’s first branch of Mortgage Network, Inc. (MNET).
Growing up in Newport News with two sisters, D’Bene graduated from Warwick High School. Her career spans real estate office work, mortgage loan filing, law firm loan closing and crafting the closing department at Norwest Corporation, which eventually merged with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage (WFHM).
“That’s where I felt that satisfying feeling I was looking for in helping people, seeing their emotions and the excitement of closing on something that was theirs: a home.”
Though she found her niche and worked at WFHM for several years, MNET had been working to recruit D’Bene.
MNET is one of the largest independent mortgage lenders in the eastern United States, with 45-plus branches in 27 states. Based in Danvers, Massachusetts, the company was founded in 1988 by Robert McInnes after he and his wife experienced a nightmare mortgage application experience as a young couple.
“You have the customer focus we’re looking for,” McInnes told her when he offered her the branch manager position.
“His entire concept is customer service driven, which drew me here,” D’Bene says.
“I educate customers on what’s best for them,” D’Bene says. “It’s not all about getting the deal right now. It’s about what’s best for the customer whether now, tomorrow or next year.”
D’Bene attends all of her customers’ closings to facilitate the process.
“If they have questions, who better to ask than their mortgage person?” she says. “I want to be there in the excitement of getting keys and signing final paperwork. I would love to grow a branch of successful loan officers who want to see somebody get into a house more than they care about their paycheck.”
David Bruckheimer, MA, Ed.S., a client with AccuCheck Services LLC, says, “During the 25 years I’ve known Rhonda, she has demonstrated professional communication skills, which are guiding me through another successful closing. What sets her apart from her peers is her openness and ability to effectively communicate.”
Leanne Crist, mortgage loan officer working alongside D’Bene, worked for WFHM for nine years and left to join her at MNET.
“Over the nine years we’ve worked together, Rhonda’s integrity, sincerity, enthusiasm and drive combine for an unparalleled professionalism, inspiring me and creating positive results for her business and life,” Crist says.
Mortgage Network offers programs that help co-brand and market its realtor partners, including newsletters, open house flyers and more. It was named one of the 50 Best Companies to Work For by Mortgage Executive magazine in 2018 and recognized by PROGRESS in Lending Association with an Innovation Award in 2017 for its online borrower portal.
“Rhonda’s genuine approach makes a difference when we work with and educate clients,” Crystal Sullivan, Virginia Coast Realty Group broker, says. “When we find a partner as sincere as Rhonda, we can confidently guide our clients to closing on their home.”
“My goal is to be your mortgage lender for life,” D’Bene says.” If you have a question before, during or after the process, I want you to feel comfortable to call and let me help.”
D’Bene and Crist volunteer at a soup kitchen for So All May Eat at Hampton Baptist Church and work with Habitat for Humanity. Annually, D’Bene travels to Haiti as part of Bethel Baptist Church’s Haiti Mission Team and sings in the choir.
D’Bene’s husband Keith owns D’Bene Travel. The couple has a daughter and son, and loves spending time with their three grandchildren.
“My goal is not how much money I can make this year. It’s how many customers I can get in a home,” D’Bene says.
TO THE POINT:
Mortgage Network, Inc.
Address: 11815 Fountain Way, Ste. 300, Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Rhonda D’Bene