Samuel Royer of Heroes First Home Loans: How We Are Helping To Make Housing More Affordable

An Interview With Jason Hartman

Jason Hartman
Authority Magazine

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From where I sit, the causes and underlying factors are clear — it’s the result of a large increase in demand for housing, coupled with low housing supply and rent increases. When I bought my first home in 1997, it was $99,500, but today, the same home is $240,000. As home price appreciation has increased over time, it has continued to squeeze out your average person, who also is hamstrung by student loans and other costs. Houses aren’t as available due to supply and affordability. Also, fewer individuals are jumping into trade work such as manufacturing and building houses, and as a result, there is a shortage of skilled craftsmen to make homes that last.

In many large cities in the US, there is a crisis caused by a shortage of affordable housing options. This has led to a host of social challenges. In this series called “How We Are Helping To Make Housing More Affordable” we are talking to successful business leaders, real estate leaders, and builders, who share the initiatives they are undertaking to create more affordable housing options in the US.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Samuel Royer.

Samuel Royer is a Marine Corps veteran and the national director of Heroes First Home Loans, a lender that provides specialty mortgage financing to everyday heroes and minimizes their cost when buying or refinancing a home. In his 25-year mortgage banking career, he has been a trusted advisor and completed over 5,000 closings. Dedicated to going above and beyond to support first responders, Sam is also the original author of the HELPER Act and has raised over $100,000 for foundations supporting the families of fallen police officers.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Following my service in the Marine Corps, I didn’t necessarily know what I wanted to do or what my path should be. In 1997, my ex-wife’s career — also as a Marine — prompted us to move from Pennsylvania to California, where I saw a job listing for a mortgage company in the local newspaper. The opportunity paid more than my former salary as a Marine, so I applied. Walking into the office, I found three men working at a small mortgage company, and now here I am today 25 years later. At the time I didn’t care what I was doing, so I thought I would give it a shot, and through grit and determination, I made it to where I am today. A few years ago, I moved to Florida and had a desire to help the community. I then got in touch with the Daytona Beach police department and Heroes First Home Loans grew from there.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Six months after beginning my lending career, I took an FHA and VA loan course at Saddleback College to earn my real estate license. I quickly developed a great friendship with my teacher, John Johnston. This class was where I learned what true mortgage lending was all about, and it greatly impacted the trajectory of my career. He showed me that many lenders overpromise and underdeliver, and that there were many positive ways to impact the industry. Twenty-five years later, John is still a great friend and a valuable resource.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

My tipping point was experiencing the 2007–2008 housing bubble crash and understanding the flaws of common lending practices that caused it. Prior to that recession, it was an extremely lucrative time for many lenders because they were pushing predatory loans. The fallout from this house of cards hurt most lenders, but I flourished during this era. Unlike others, consumers trusted me to do right by them because I had the knowledge and knew to treat others as I would want to be treated. You can’t control interest rates or how the market fluctuates, but you can control that what you’re doing for individuals is the right thing all the time. I’ve learned to always choose people over profits, because being greedy will come back to bite you.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are?

I am extremely grateful to Todd Duncan, founder of the Todd Duncan Group, for mentoring me; Tim Broadhurst, senior vice president of national production at Churchill Mortgage, for being like a brother to me; and the leadership I have at Churchill Mortgage for believing in Heroes First Home Loans and the root cause behind the HELPER Act. Additionally, I am tremendously thankful for the guidance of Tom Taylor, who sadly passed away from Alzheimer’s Disease, for believing in me early in my career.

Can you share a quote that has been impactful to you in your life?

“What we do in life echoes in eternity” — Maximus Decimus Meridius, played by Russell Crowe in the movie “Gladiator.” It speaks to the responsibility we all have to do right by people and know our legacy is forever shaped by our actions.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the shortage of affordable housing. Lack of affordable housing has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in large cities. I know this is a huge topic, but for the benefit of our readers can you briefly explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

From where I sit, the causes and underlying factors are clear — it’s the result of a large increase in demand for housing, coupled with low housing supply and rent increases. When I bought my first home in 1997, it was $99,500, but today, the same home is $240,000. As home price appreciation has increased over time, it has continued to squeeze out your average person, who also is hamstrung by student loans and other costs. Houses aren’t as available due to supply and affordability. Also, fewer individuals are jumping into trade work such as manufacturing and building houses, and as a result, there is a shortage of skilled craftsmen to make homes that last.

If you had the power to influence legislation, are there laws which you would like to see introduced that might help you in your work?

As the architect of the bill, I am tirelessly pushing for the swift passage of the Homes for Every Local Protector, Educator and Responder (HELPER) Act, a bill currently moving through the United States Congress. This common-sense, bipartisan legislation is currently supported by more than 90 lawmakers and would eliminate down-payment requirements and offer 100% financing for one-time home purchases for frontline heroes, including firefighters, police and corrections officers, paramedics and EMTs and PreK-12 teachers. In addition, the HELPER Act eliminates monthly mortgage insurance premiums normally required under the FHA system.

The interesting thing about the HELPER Act is that it is not unique. The HELPER Act would provide the same access to affordable housing that is offered to active military and veterans through the GI Bill. Passing the HELPER Act would mean that if a young firefighter is interested in buying a moderately priced home, they would receive a loan to finance the entire purchase price. The HELPER Act is common-sense legislation, and its passage would help greatly with recruiting and retention. When someone owns a home, it makes them more invested in the community and a better employee.

Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud?

I take tremendous pride in what I do because I know I’m supporting people who sacrifice so much to serve our communities. In some cases, it’s sadly police officers or firefighters making the ultimate sacrifice, and I am personally impacted every single time I see someone get killed in the line of duty. When I see those police officers, firefighters and nurses stay awake working through the night and tirelessly giving to the community, it gives me the passion to do the same.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

I would love to have a private meal with General James Mattis or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who happens to be one of my old classmates from high school. I believe General Mattis is absolutely brilliant and lives by a code of common sense, which we often lack in society today. I would want to meet Dwayne again because his life has also been drastically impacted for the better by a teacher. Our football coach and teacher, Jody Cwik, who unfortunately passed away from cancer, had a huge impact on both me and Dwayne. Coach Cwik often would work with kids who were getting into trouble, and one day he decided to call out and challenge Dwayne. Years later, Dwayne still talks about this moment in interviews as the moment that changed the trajectory of his life.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

People don’t need to follow me, but they can follow the HELPER Act and support it by reaching out or writing a letter to their U.S. congressional representatives to help get the bill advanced. It’s a grassroots effort and these honorable individuals deserve the support. Find out more about the HELPER Act here: https://www.TheHELPERAct.us.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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Jason Hartman
Authority Magazine

Author | Speaker | Financial Guru | Podcast Rockstar