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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Fisher is a Banker with Heart

Oct 31, 2012 02:07PM ● By Jon D’Auria

Karen Fisher

Not only does Nova Homes ’ Senior Loan Officer Karen Fisher give her clients expert professional service and advice, she also volunteers her time teaching in the community about smart budgeting and how to navigate the complex process of home buying.

The economy has been a hot topic since the 2007 recession, and while many Americans are becoming more mindful of budgeting their spending and income, there are still many confusing elements that are unclear to those not so savvy in the ways of the market.

Some are taking advantage of the sloping prices in real estate and are buying houses that have been relegated to short sales, foreclosures or government seizures, but even with investments that seem sound, such as real estate, there are many uncertainties and unknowns that can hurt a potential buyer rather than help them. Luckily for those that need a hand in the world of home loans, it is the Fisher’s mission to help Tucsonans make the best decisions in taking the steps towards home ownership.

Fisher got her start in 1983 as a real estate agent with a penchant for taking exceptional care of her clients, from their budding interest in a home to the day when they received their keys and began their new lives. But after working as a Realtor for 17 years, she had a realization that would permanently change her career path. “When I first began in real estate, the interest rates were 18 percent, and people thought that when the rates dropped to 14.5 percent, those would be the lowest they’d ever be in our lifetime,” says Fisher.

“I worked in the metro Phoenix area from 1983 to 1994. My husband accepted a position here in Tucson, so we moved down here in ’94,” she adds. “Then I woke up one evening in March of 2000 at 4:30 in the morning and I knew that I didn’t want to do that anymore. So I switched the ladder over to doing the lending side of things. I chose to move forward with Nova and have been loving it ever since.”

Fisher realized she had made the right decision as things fell into place for her at Nova and she began building a large clientele of loyalcustomers that appreciated her extra steps in walking them through the process of a home loan. Most first-time buyers aren’t familiar with the procedures that go into receiving a loan, which are much more tedious than most would assume.

“Just in the first step of getting a loan, there are 75 people that touch a borrower’s file in one way or another. If you’re dealing with new construction, add 100 to that number,” explains Fisher. “The first step to buying or refinancing is for me to take your basic financial vital signs. I pull an in-file tri-merged credit report. People always ask what our interest rate is, but those are determined by so many factors, it’s never just a set number for everybody—there are more than 15 factors to each individual rate.”

Of course, having a good credit score makes the process much easier for a potential buyer, but because credit is an evolving system, creating a good score takes careful monitoring and smart decision-making. “I always tell people that there are three numbers that matter to your credit score: two, 31 and seven. It takes two years to build your credit, 31 days to destroy it and seven years to clean it up,” says Fisher.

“People assume their credit is good because they pay their bills on time, but simply doing that and having a good FICO score have nothing to do with each other,” she adds. “Information that people receive, even a year ago, on how to have a good credit score changes so drastically that they are likely to be different if they checked now. They are always tweaking the algorithms of their system, so things that are true now were probably not true a year ago—or even a year from now. People need coaching to help them get a good credit score.”

Fisher takes great care in educating her clients while she works with them so that they can continue to flourish financially even beyond their time working with her. With a wealth of knowledge to share, she believes that her smart money principles will ensure more financial security for those that follow them. “The first step is that I want to give my clients the total picture. You don’t just put someone into a loan; you want to create successful home ownership. You want to own a house; you don’t want to be owned by a house,” says Fisher.

“Secondly, I advise not to buy a house that is the maximum amount that you qualify for,” she explains. “That does not leave you any wiggle room. I used to see that all the time prior to the crash. A good rule of thumb is that you should buy 25 percent less house than you qualify for. If you’re living for the house, that’s not a good plan. Luckily, the purchasing power that you have right now is absolutely huge. The interest rate for a 30-year fixed rate home is in the 3.5 percent range. We’re in a very unique timeframe where you can buy a home for less than you’d be able to rent a home for.”

Fisher also has spending and saving advice for her clients to keep them afloat through everyday life. “People get into trouble by not giving themselves a cash cushion. All of these things that happen to people are called life—they happen to everyone. You should give yourself a $1,000 cash cushion. Get 10–$100 bills and stick them behind a picture frame or in a cup in the freezer, anything you have to do. That way, if you have to get new tires, it’s handled. If you have to go to the emergency room, it’s handled. Most people are unconscious consumers. We buy things constantly, whether we know it or not. And if you use a debit card, it’s statistically proven that you’ll spend 57 percent more than if you used cash. It’s okay to be marketed to, as long as you understand that. They don’t even have price tags on things at the grocery store anymore, so you don’t even know what you’re paying for. You have to be aware. Truly, it’s not what you make; it’s what you keep,” says Fisher.

Fisher became the managing director of eWoman Network, and volunteers time through the Tucson Association of Realtors Housing Education Committee to teach financial responsibility to teenagers and college students. That service is in much demand. “I love teaching these principles to young adults.” She says. “At the high school level, we teach budgeting, saving, credit, renting and successful home ownership. At the college level, we teach through Pima and the Eller College about student loans and the trouble they can get into with them, as well as the other topics we discuss with our high school students. It’s really making a huge difference for these kids who attend these. It’s not often that kids get taught this stuff, and they can get into tremendous trouble at a young age with money. As soon as you get your hands on a credit card or a student loan and simply sign it, you are at risk of endangering your credit for the future. It’s very rewarding to be able to teach these topics.”

Almost 30 years into her career of assisting those looking for a place to call home, Fisher approaches each day with as much vigor and dedication as she did when she first embarked on her journey of giving help where it is sorely needed. “This is truly gratifying work. I get thank-yous all the time, but one of my clients said it in a way that truly touched my heart. She said, ‘You bring light to the possibility of home ownership.’ My clients keep me going. I’m always here for my clients and I continually try to prove that with each day of working for them.”

Karen Fisher can be contacted at 520-745-0050 or Karen.Fisher@nova