Helping you become a homeowner
by Laura Salinger
| Jeff Vang, an independent mortgage broker, has a vision. He hopes to help more minority and low-income families achieve what has long been considered a crucial step towards fulfilling the American Dream: home ownership.
Vang works with 20 lenders who offer various, aggressive mortgage loans for people who may not believe home-ownership is even a possibility for them. He wants to prove them otherwise.
Vang's passion stems from a difficult past. As newly arrived Hmong immigrants, Vang witnessed his parents face language, cultural, and financial barriers as they navigated their new terrain: the United States.
| Originally from Laos, Vang's father fought in the Secret War at the tender age of 13. Like many of his peers, he faced the wrath of the country's communist government when the war concluded. His father was forced to flee his country and seek safety in a refugee camp. Vang's parents would eventually move to the United States where a whole new set of challenges awaited them.
"The Hmong people were originally from the mountains," Vang said. "They had no technology and no education system. The [United States] was quite different for them."
Vang's parents would not have an easy transition to the United States. Like many new immigrants, no matter what the country of origin, they faced a number of barriers that affected their financial and emotional stability.
"When I was growing up, we were really poor," Vang said. "I never realized how poor we really were until I started school." / Vang's parents depended on the children to help them navigate their new culture.
"Our childhood was kind of like western culture clashing with eastern cultures," Vang said. "Growing up, my parents didn't know much English. They depended on the children to translate."
Vang's parents did not take for granted, however, the access to education that their children were afforded in the United States.
"They deserve a lot of respect for their dedication to education," Vang said. "They believed strongly in education for their children."
As a middle child of 6 children, Vang was born in Philadelphia. His parents moved to Madison when he was just 3 years-old. It is his roots that would eventually lead him to where he is today.
"I originally come from a low-income and minority community," Vang said. "I still advocate for them. It is all about knowing where you came from."
Vang witnessed his parent's financial struggles and later he saw their lives improve when his parents became homeowners. It struck a chord.
"Everything improved when my parents [became homeowners]," Vang said. "We didn't have to deal with skyrocketing rent. We ate better. There was just more stability. My parents were able to breathe more."
Years earlier, Vang watched his parents struggle to get a home loan. Today, he hopes to alleviate that struggle for low-income and minority individuals and families who dream of owning their own home.
While these populations often face additional challenges in securing a home loan, Vang said it is almost always a possibility.
"There is a lot of challenges that minority and low-income populations face," Vang said. "Many of them have limited credit. Sometimes there is a lack of job stability or rent verification. Often there is a lack of education about credit and home loans."
Vang offers a number of packages that include credit education, 100% financing, and other options that improve the chances of securing a home loan. If homeownership is not an immediate possibility, he will work with potential homebuyers to develop a one- to two-year plan that will eventually lead them to homeownership. He scoffs at predatory lenders who often take advantage of these populations.
"I have watched a lot of people lose hope of ever owning a home, when in actuality they haven't spoken to the right person," he said.
Vang hopes he can be that very person. The benefits of home-owning are many, he said. It creates more financial and emotional stability for the homeowners, while bettering the community as a whole.
"I really do hope to be a light in the dark for people," he said. "I really believe in giving people a chance."
Before becoming a mortgage broker, Vang worked as a program developer for Freedom Inc., a domestic violence prevention and intervention program. He helped to develop "Free Man," a program that educates and empowers low-income and minority youth. Today, he still volunteers his time to work with youth. It is just another way of showing his dedication to giving people a chance.