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BHC - Seabold 030405

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    3-4-05

    BEVERLY
    HILLS BUSINESS

    Profile of:
    Jeffrey T. Seabold

    “With me, everything I do is a process of black or white, certainly never living in any kind of a gray world.”
                                  
    —Jeffrey T. Seabold

    By John L. Seitz
    Courier Managing Editor

          “There’s nothing quite like getting berated and called a ‘loser’ by the CEO of a major corporation, especially when you’re only 25 and had never even worked for the man. Whatever reaction he wanted to get out of me, it sure worked and in spades!”
          And that’s an understatement as far as what Jeffrey T. Seabold has accomplished during the last 12 years, seven of which he has spent building what has become one of California’s premier independent, private mortgage banking firms. Based in Beverly Hills, his CS Financial corporation originated more than $1.6 billion in home loans in 2004.
          Following relatively lackluster years at the University of California at Santa Barbara where he graduated with a degree in economics, the Glendale native and third generation Californian had no clue as to what he wanted to do “when and if I ever grew up.”
          Nonplussed by his post-college wanderlust and misdirected career choices, his parents arranged for him to meet Angelo Mozilo, a family friend and CEO of Countrywide Home Loans. Seabold now views that meeting and Mozilo’s tough love speech as the turning point in his life. “I quickly got my act together, transforming from an irresponsible frat boy to a highly focused adult and disciplined professional.
          “His rage got my competitive juices going. But, surprisingly, he did end up hiring me as a management trainee—traveling me coast-to-coast to learn the ropes from top producing managers in Countrywide’s largest branches where the overload required additional support. It was a tremendous experience as I learned underwriting, funding, sales and managing techniques from some of the best people in the business.”
    Following successful turns in New York, San Francisco and San Diego, Countrywide brought Seabold back to Los Angeles, where over time, he became head of the company’s largest wholesale branch in Pasadena.
          “For the next three years I expanded my horizons, really getting to know and love the business, and meeting so many mortgage brokers who were our primary customers,” explained Seabold. “However, once Countrywide had gone public on the New York Stock Exchange, we had to accept the new, rigid, highly regulated corporate environment and structure demanded by most Wall Street investment houses.
          “My entrepreneurial bent came to the fore, fueled by the business climate of the late 90s. I got the urge to start something on my own but wanted it to be small in size and an entity which I could exercise personal control over—in other words, to be able ‘reap what I sewed’ as the old saying goes.”
          He opened his own mortgage firm in 1998 faced with a pro and con, twin-edged sword of having no retail sales experience on one hand but knowing where to get the money on the other. Making a list of 20 local prospects, he called on each of them, soliciting their advice and asking for their business.
          “I had become extremely hard working, highly organized and very disciplined. Once setting a goal, there is no deviation,” he continued. “With me, everything I do is a process of black or white, certainly never living in any kind of a gray world.”
          Knowing well that the rewards from writing multi-million dollar mortgages would be far greater than those at the mid-market level—and would require no more time and effort—he moved the firm to Beverly Hills and formed CS Financial.
          Through positive word-of-mouth from current clients and the all-important professional referrals from brokers and real estate sales agents, Seabold’s company now boasts 30 employees in his Wilshire Blvd. at Camden Dr. office, five in Santa Barbara and another four in Oakland.
          CS Financial’s access to extensive lending sources has enabled it to streamline and facilitate the process of home financing by providing its clients with the best market rates at any given time. It also customizes mortgage solutions to high net-worth individuals whose financial needs are more complex than the average homebuyer.
          The company is modeled after private banking firms in its ability to integrate mortgage financing with asset management, tax and estate planning strategies. Being a direct lender, it funds many of its own loans and lines of credit while giving it the control and the ability to close the deal for any qualified buyer on time.
          Seabold says his firm is able to issue credit approvals and commitment letters upon request, thereby eliminating many of the contingencies often associated with purchasing a new residence or investment property.
          When asked about the outlook for the remainder of 2005, Seabold opined: “While mortgage rates may be flat or slightly volatile, I expect them to remain at 45-year lows with plenty of great deals and aggressive programs available.
          “Even after the major run-ups in home values the last few years, which has fueled the entire economy, the demand for single family residences remains fairly strong though prices will grow more modestly. There are so many great opportunities available not only in California but Florida, Texas and New York, too.
          “And we’re expanding our own operations and are in the process of getting licensing approved in a dozen states. Our business will grow through a natural transition, and not pressured by interest rate considerations.”
    CS Financial has added to its available product list by forming a wholly owned subsidiary called Reverse Mortgage Works for the senior citizens’ market, age 62 and above and owners of their own home or condo.
          Seabold explained: “Reverse mortgages have been in existence for about a dozen or so years, and will become increasingly popular with America’s equity-rich baby boomers as they reach retirement age. Quite simply, a reverse mortgage is a loan against the equity in the home—providing seniors with tax-free cash advances for their monthly expenses or can be used for anything else they want without affecting any Social Security or Medicare benefits. It requires no payment of any kind during the term. As the balance of these advances gets larger, the equity gets smaller.”
          He went on to explain such loans (usually held to a maximum of $160,000 to $290,000) are not due or payable until the borrowers no longer occupy the home as their principal residence (i.e. the last survivor sells, moves out permanently or passes away).
          While no income or credit requirements are needed to qualify, the benefits depend on the age of the borrower when they apply, value of the home and current interest rates. They also are “non recourse” which means regardless how high the loan’s balance grows, the borrowers or their heirs never owe more than the home's market value.
          “Because of the sensitivity of such a transaction, we insist all parties including their families and financial advisors—personal and professional—meet with an independent reverse mortgage counselor, who will explain and review their available options before they even apply,” stated Seabold. “This plan often gives senior citizens the opportunity of living comfortably in their own home for as long as they wish but it’s not for everybody which is why we got into this business cautiously with a very thorough process only after thoroughly investigating all the ramifications.”
          All employees of CS Financial donate a portion of their income to Habitat for Humanity. Their contributions assist low-income families in affording home ownership with an average down payment of $600 and no mortgage interest. Volunteer builders donate about 500 hours of “sweat equity” to build each structure.
          Seabold serves as chairman and president of Habitat for Humanity’s Los Angeles board of directors. “Though it may seem strange for a mortgage services firm to support the concept of no profit, no fees and no interest, it makes perfect sense to us. We’ve been so fortunate in this business, there’s no better way for us to share our success because our motto is that everyone deserves a home.”
    And speaking of homes, he has spent the past decade buying, renovating and selling more than two-dozen homes. As his mortgage business grew, so did the quality of the dwellings involved.
          Along with his wife, Lia, a former highly regarded banker and real estate specialist at Chase, they would often find a house, move in and completely redo it from stem to stern. After moving seven times and the birth of their one-year old son, Garrett, it was finally time to settle down in a majestic Santa Monica abode.
          “We just went through 24 months of work on this one but this is it—no more moving for us,” affirmed Seabold, who instead has begun buying land and spec building luxury estates throughout the Southland including two on the water in pricey Newport Beach.
          “The best thing about constructing on the high end is that you get to build your ‘dream house’ every time and can let your imagination run wild. It’s like an artist with an empty canvas who gets to design and decorate from scratch,” said Seabold. “This has become a big hobby for us and it seems we’re making offers on some parcel or another just about every week.”
          As for his other hobbies, he now collects vintage wines, which replaced his previous passion for classic cars. He also insists on a daily 5 a.m. workout at The Sports Club LA before arriving at his Beverly Hills office and a Sunday morning motorcycle jaunt to Malibu.
          Jeffrey T. Seabold has done all this before the age of 40––just think what the next 60 years have in store.

      
     
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