By Carrie Sheffield

Lois Johnson

Lois Johnson is a trailblazer. As founder of a prominent, black-owned mortgage lending firm, Lois is sole owner of her company, United Security Financial Corp. Launching her business in 1988, Lois now works closely with both Ginnie Mae and Fannie Mae to source her loans and also maintains non-conforming jumbo programs.  

Smart Women Smart Money Magazine spoke with Lois about how women can thrive during the housing mortgage process. Enjoy her wisdom in our lightly-edited conversation below: 

Q: What inspired you to enter the mortgage industry?  
“Prior to entering the mortgage industry, I was an accountant as well as a real estate broker. I sold lots of real estate, and I had problems getting too many declined loans by the industry. So I made a good, conscious decision that I wanted to start my own company.  

There were too many turndowns for my clientele. I wanted to have a better process, basically. I wanted to be able to get people into homes. They weren’t given their proper chance, their proper opportunities for them to be approved. I wasn’t in the banking business, but I was an accountant. So I knew a little bit, but that wasn’t enough to get them approved.  

I was a member of a large church, and I worked with my pastor, the late Dr. Rosemary Cosby; and she encouraged me to pursue my goals.” 

Lois started out first as a loan officer before taking the giant step of launching her own mortgage company, first as a mortgage broker and then finally a mortgage lender. The rest is history.  

“When you’re a lender, you’ve gotten about as far as you can go,” she says. 

Q: What are the first steps smart women do as first-time home buyers or just starting to think about homebuying?  
“Home buyers really should have a stable job, been on that job at least two years, but sometimes right out of school so you can bypass the two-year period. But you have to make sure that you’re making enough income to support a house payment. However, if you’re paying rent, then a house payment is not that much more than the rent is. And in addition to that, if you rent, you’re buying a home, but you’re buying it for someone else.. And you’re not getting the credit for the interest that’s being paid on that loan. The homeowner is. So, just think about your obligations. Make sure you know you’re not debt-heavy… 

Your credit is very important. Make sure you pay your obligations on time, especially credit card payments, installment loans, and make sure that you’re never over 30 days late. Because at that time, that’s when it’s reported to the credit reporting agency.” 

Q: What are some common mistakes you see ladies make around mortgages, financial planning, and investing? 
“Creating extensive obligations is basically the biggest mistake. You just have to stay within your budget, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer. If you’re planning on purchasing a home, keep your obligations as low as possible so that you can qualify for the home you’re attempting to purchase. Many times people overload themselves with charge cards. If they have a charge card, whatever your debt limit is, you shouldn’t go over 75% of the loan limit.  

Now, if your balance is more than 75% of your loan limit, that’s a red flag that’s going to affect your FICO score. Fannie Mae and Ginnie Mae loans have FICO score boundaries.” 

Q: What are some mortgage apps, websites, tools, frameworks, or savings products less commonly used and known about? 
“Some companies do have websites with tools where you can download an application and receive a loan pre-approval…. We can take an application, and you can go in and fill out that application and download that to us, and we can start the process of loan approval. We will keep your pre-approval. We have a web application, and it’s called SimpleNexus.” 

SimpleNexus is used by many loan officers, borrowers, and real estate agents nationwide. 

Q: Why do you think some women report they are intimidated by personal finance? How do you recommend they overcome this mindset?  
“If women feel that they are intimidated by personal finance, that means they’re not participating. They’re letting the male take the lead and grow. If they participate in their personal finance, they will overcome their intimidation. Just get ready to work and do it. You’ve got to have faith in yourself to know that you can do it. 

You’ve got just do it…Because how do you know you can’t do it if you don’t try? We’re at the same starting point. We go to school. We take the same tests that the males do. We go to college, and we go through the same thing that the males do. There’s not a distinct sense that the females only have to take lesser tests. 

We have to take the same courses to become an attorney. Females have to take the same thing, so why can’t we do the same things that we’ve got the knowledge that God has given us as well as men? Anything you feel called to do, go for it!”