A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!
The past two weeks have been full of encounters that could have been painful--but weren't. Trips to auto repair shops and trips to refinance a mortgage at a higher interest rate aren't on anybody's top ten list of life experiences. But both neighborhood trips were painless, even pleasant.
Kudos to Landry's Automotive Service Station at 115th and Bluemound and Central States Mortgage on North Avenue across from Mayfair Mall.
I walked into Landry's knowing I had a bull's eye tattooed on my forehead.
"Ah, well, she's running really rough. I don't know if it's the body or the engine, maybe both, but something's off. Oh, and the brake light's on. Just. . .fix it, you know? " The young woman who took the order smiled and nodded, but I wondered if she was thinking "could you be more stupid, lady?"
"Oh, don't worry. They'll figure it out for you," she said.
A couple hours and conversations later, I drove away in a car that was running much better. Total damages: $44 and some odd change.
The only problem was the mechanic guy didn't laugh at my jokes. As some of you know, I'm enormously entertained by myself and think everyone else should be too. When he said, "Those brakes'll last you another 20,000 miles, depending on how you drive," I rolled my eyes and tilted my head the old Nissan's way. "How do you THINK I drive?" I asked, looking at the crumpled bumper and missing side mirror. The poor man looked puzzled. That, or he was a kind sort.
Now for the longer story. The other day at about 11:45 am, I locked in a new 30 year mortgage at a decent rate. If I'd have done it 15 minutes later, the rate would have been higher. That's how crazy the market is. I'm not going to mention the rate because it will sound high to some and low to most. It's all relative--these days, more than ever.
I might have found a cheaper rate, but not one that I could put so much confidence in. No hidden points or fine print hiding scary changes. No prepayment penalties. I know who they'll sell the loan to.
This will be the third mortgage I've gotten with the able guidance of Wendy at Central States Mortgage (
Maybe you don't know that
CSM CSMC is the largest mortgage company in Milwaukee. A regional business headquartered here in Tosa at the Fairview Building, it employs 500 people at 14 offices in eight states. And while some mortgage giants are being cut down at the knees, Central States is doing very nicely, thank you.
I called company CEO Dick Jungen to ask why.
He laughed and said, "In business there's a saying: if you can't win by being good, be lucky. I guess I've been lucky. We've been blessed with great partners in the credit unions and with working in the Midwest where housing prices never went crazy."
"Our niche," he added, "is our partnerships with credit unions. We've always been oriented to helping people buy houses, with not as much emphasis on refinancing. Like the credit unions, we're home-buyer advocates. It's great to put people into their first houses. And if they're happy, they come back to us."
One reason credit unions make great partners, according to Jungen, is that "they do a lot of consumer education, and when people come to us they are pretty knowledgeable--and often prequalified."
Educated consumers. Lasting relationships with customers and business partners. Straight-forward business practices. What a concept!
Jungen and four others started the business 24 years ago.
CSM CSMC is now a Credit Union Service Organization with 26 credit union shareholders and relationships with hundreds of other credit unions. They've expanded into other related business.
But Jungen and his wife "live what we practice in business," residing in Wauwatosa and investing in real estate here. Some employees have been there 15 or 20 years. The company rewards them with certificates for local businesses, including Mayfair Mall across the street. And Jungen shapes the local scene as a board member for the Wauwatosa Economic Development Corporation, Educational Foundation of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin Mortgage Bankers Association, Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin, and more.
There's no question in my mind that this business has a stake in Wauwatosa and its homeowners doing well.
And you have to give props to a CEO who gives his direct line phone number to someone he's never met. It's so. . . neighborly!