Who would open a real-estate business at the height of the housing-market crash?

Sam Perez

Meet entrepreneur Sam Perez. While most people would think twice, he sees opportunity where others see warning signs. The 31-year-old president of Silvercreek Finance Corp. shares his bold take on business.

HE_qmarkReal estate was a natural choice for me. My parents have worked in the industry for almost four decades. I was born in the United States, but moved to Mexico with my parents when I was 11. While studying business at the Monterrey Institute of Technology (ITESM) in Mexico in 2004, I was presented with an opportunity, and came back here and started working as an escrow officer for Chicago Title Insurance Company.

The industry was in a difficult place. Back in 2005, there were a lot of predatory mortgage lenders. I was part of the founding group at Platinum Rate, the first Hispanic-owned consumer-advocate mortgage company in Chicago. All loan officers were committed to doing business with the utmost honesty and integrity. We worked with our clients to understand them, educate them about their finances, and find the best solution to fit their needs, not the needs of our wallet. Chicago magazine named us one of the top 10 most dependable mortgage companies in Chicago in 2007.

I was committed to serving consumers. My cultural background is the backbone of my character and foundation of my career. It showed me the value of treating my customers the same way I would like to be treated, which is always good business. So when Platinum Rate closed, I cofounded NHB, a financial-consulting company dedicated to helping distressed homeowners understand their finances and apply for different types of solutions offered by their current lenders. We helped hardworking families across the country stay in their homes and it worked for the lenders, as well: They didn’t have to foreclose and spend tens of thousands in the process. NHB grew from just two employees to a group of 2,500 agents across 25 states in just 18 months.

Five-Year Plan

Starting this year, Perez plans to expand Silvercreek Finance into 28 states throughout the country, and is also looking to open lateral businesses. “I hope to expand the Silvercreek brand nationwide,” he says.

Gradually, the industry changed. A lot of other people were getting into the business, and they were using predatory practices. I didn’t want any part of that, so I looked for the next opportunity. In 2009, I saw a lot of loan officers jumping from one company to the next, looking for one that would give them what they needed to originate and close loans. Most mortgage companies throw their people into the deep end without any preparation and tell them to find their own business; they don’t really support their team. A good mortgage lender should serve loan officers as well as their customers, so I founded Silvercreek Finance.
I took my time starting Silvercreek Finance. I didn’t want to start recruiting loan officers immediately; I wanted to structure the company first. So, the first year I was developing policies and procedures, creating manuals, training videos, and developing templates for marketing materials. It wasn’t until 2010 that I started recruiting.

Silvercreek Finance was a natural evolution for me. The company I helped become successful in 2005 was a mortgage-broker shop with the right idea and corporate values. Silvercreek Finance has a similar foundation but has a much more complete infrastructure that is focused on creating efficiencies throughout the entire loan origination and closing process. We are also a mortgage banker, which means we fund our own loans. This allows us to be more efficient, have faster turn times, and offer lower rates and fees to our customers while maintaining the highest level of customer service. It’s been successful. Today we are looking to expand even more.

I’m involved in two other companies. In 2009, I partnered with a real-estate developer to create Irongate Development Co., a minority-owned, Chicago-based real-estate development and construction firm. Then the market dried up, so to increase sales, I founded The Adobe Group in 2010. It is a consortium of minority-owned companies working together to bid on government jobs and using energy-efficient processes to do the work. Irongate is the construction-services firm. We also have an architecture firm, a design firm, a public-relations firm, a general contracting company, etc. Adobe is one of the oldest building materials that is naturally energy efficient and is used throughout Mexico and Latin America. HE_qmarkend