Meet The Fernandez Mortgage Team: Sara Fernandez and Dixie Hoerner
For Mortgage Loan Officer and Vice President of Mortgage Lending Sara Fernandez, helping clients secure financing for their dream homes has been a long-held passion spanning 3 decades.
It’s been a fruitful one, too.
Sara’s lending team, based in Gulf Coast Bank’s Harvey branch, is a regular leader in monthly closed loan volume within the bank’s ranks.
Her journey has been a ride, one in which she says she has “seen it all” – particularly in the context of rising and falling mortgage interest rates and vastly evolving market conditions.
And though she has observed much change in the industry, Sara says a lot has remained the same.
Namely, she points to:
(1) The importance of building a deep rapport with clients, so much so that you often become a ‘lender for life’ of sorts for many customers.
(2) The value in serving as a mentor and friendly listening ear and shoulder for fellow colleagues as well as the next generation of mortgage professionals.
A New Home and New Team at Gulf Coast Bank
Sara joined Gulf Coast Bank as a loan officer in 2007 after working for over 10 years in mortgage at an executive level with a large southern regional bank. Five years into her position, she asked former banking colleague, Dixie Hoerner, to join her, this was the first step in what turned out to be a “top producing lending team”.
Dixie had served as Sara’s branch manager at her previous bank for 20 years. She was excited to jump into the opportunity to team up with Sara – whom she affectionately refers to as “her complete mentor in every aspect of life” – and learn the mortgage side of things.
Today, they’re a high-volume, lending team that thrives with the help of 3 dedicated loan partners.
“We also do a lot of debunking of mortgage myths and offer as much guidance as possible for our clients,” she said. This aspect often leads to some very happy clients, who might have not realized they could qualify for a home loan with, for example, a smaller down payment – a little-known truth in mortgage – so many people believe that a large down payment is necessary, and so often that just isn’t the case.
“They realize they might have even qualified years ago had they understood the specifics,” Dixie says. “We work with them, get them pre-qualified, and help them realize that the stars may actually align for their home purchase. It’s a very rewarding job.”
A Lender Team for Life
After so many years handling loans for clients, Sara soon reached a point where she noticed that roughly 30% of the team’s business were second- and third-time loans. Her team has, in a sense, become ‘lifetime loan officers’ for a number of families in New Orleans.
In addition to working hard to build rapport and trust with clients, both Sara and Dixie – lifelong West Bankers (pun intended) – attribute their success to, well, New Orleans.
“Our city and the people here are unlike those in any other part of this country,” Dixie says. “We are a family and eventually you reach a point where clients call you because ‘their Mama told them to call you.’”
Sara adds: “As a loan officer, you have to be able to build trust with a client and for them to know and understand you’re going to do the right thing for their personal situation. We do that and that’s what we believe keeps them coming back to us.”
New Construction Trends Today
Among the loan programs Sara and her team work with most frequently, are new construction loans. Sara notes that new construction loans have taken off in the past year, particularly on the West Bank.
“There is such a low inventory of homes right now and buyers are not always finding what they want,” Sara says. “There’s room to grow on the West Bank, so oftentimes, buyers are building homes instead of buying.”
Sara has forged decades-long relationships with a few builders in the area and has become known as a loan officer specializing in new construction financing.
Gulf Coast Bank has a competitive and flexible construction loan program, It offers one- or two-time close transactions, fixed rate interest rates, and an interest rate float down option that allows a buyer to float down to a potentially lower available interest rate at the end of the transaction.
Family and Work-Life Balance
For Sara and Dixie, life in mortgages and the rearing of their families over the years has been an exercise in juggling – and a rewarding one nonetheless. The pandemic made it possible to work remote – successfully – more than they ever had before. They’ve also been able to find the sweet spot of work-life balance as Moms and as women in mortgage.
Sara has two grown sons and 7 grandchildren ranging in age from 24 to 8 years old. Some of her time is spent traveling to Texas, where many in her extended family live, these are cherished visits – and a time for cheering on the Saints.
Dixie has three small children – 13, 9, and 4 – and a flurry of activities to which she lovingly carpools her kids around the West Bank to be sure they stay involved and active.
Sara adds: “I live a full life and I’m very blessed. Working at Gulf Coast Bank has really given me the opportunity to thrive and succeed.”
The two had a banner year in 2020 and they look forward to another successful year of helping home buyers purchase or build their dream homes in 2021.
Contact Sara Fernandez and Dixie Hoerner To Make Your Dream Home a Reality!
Sara Fernandez and Dixie Hoerner can help you finance the purchase of your dream home or build new in the Greater New Orleans region. You can reach their team at 504-599-5747 or email them at SaraFernandez@gulfbank.com and DixieHoerner@gulfbank.com.
These articles are for educational purposes only and provide general mortgage information. Products and services are subject to change, For more information on available products and services, and to discuss your options, please contact a Gulf Coast Bank Home Loans Loan Officer today.