It is rare to find someone who knew their path early - by divine intervention, fate or luck. Someone whom, through circumstances beyond their control, walked into their calling and have found great success. Providence. Serendipity. Whatever you might call it, Daniel Lara is one of those lucky few. A native Southern Californian, out for the day with some friends on the Huntington Beach Pier, Lara was a recent high school graduate when he struck up a conversation with “an interesting character” - a chance encounter that would change the trajectory of his life forever.
The Hollywood stunt man Lara met that day happened to have a side job as a real estate and mortgage broker. He shared with Lara how he’d recently sold an apartment complex for $8,000,000 to a connection he’d made through a movie he'd worked on. This initial meeting led to a fledgling friendship during which the then 19-year-old's initiative and ambition so impressed his friend that he offered Lara his first job in real estate. By 23, Daniel was leading a team of loan originators. By 30, he ran a mortgage company. “Unbelievable opportunity and a ton of really hard, honest work” ensured that his experience grew exponentially in a very short time.
Lara took a small mom-and-pop brokerage in Huntington Beach and "put them on the national stage by merging with an FDIC Mortgage Bank. Most companies dream of such an opportunity - in a few years I was able to make that happen for them.” Three years ago Lara opened his own company, Regal American Mortgage in Laguna Hills, a newly developed division that he and his team have expanded to five states thus far. "Our ambition is to create a national brand that exemplifies the pride a homeowner feels when all things are right. Finances play a huge role in making that American Dream come true."
Having a dream come to fruition at such a young age, having the right person come into your life at the most opportune of times – Lara was blessed with both. While in his early twenties, he found himself uniquely positioned and eager to learn all he could from experiences with every type of lending institution - banks, lenders, brokers. Experiences and expertise that would not only serve as the underpinnings to his operational philosophy and enable his company to truly help homeowners, but would prove instrumental in Lara’s own professional success.
Having independently produced $97 million in closed transactions in 2016, Lara earned the distinction of being named to the upper echelon in his industry – among the top 200 loan agents in the nation or … 1% of the 1%. His personal production is currently approaching $1 billion, Lara specializes in VA loans, the total of which account for 60% of his closings.
“Our ethos is ‘finance your legacy’ and I say that with extreme seriousness,” he says. "We’re not just making sure we are giving clients the best rates and lowest fees: that’s standard. We’re listening. We’re preparing our clients for a structure that they can build a life off of.”
Balancing his business on the pillars of honesty, integrity and American family values hasn’t been easy, especially in a rapidly changing environment fraught with an unforeseen pandemic and global financial crisis. “If we can set the stage for your finances to leave a legacy behind and help take care of your family, we’ve done our jobs, no matter the time it takes, or the state the world is in.” The opportunity to learn from all walks of life has given Lara and his team the ability to stay nimble, agile, especially in these trying times.
Having an old fashioned eye for customer service and hospitality helps as well. Lara can rely on his team to service their clients, and therefore, their community’s needs because he has surrounded himself with a core group of like-minded, proactive professionals. These individuals, who bring a wealth of experience to the organization - some with only three years and others 35 years’ with MS degrees in finance - “have a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for their work, and that has helped to develop momentum and unique programming over the last few years."
Lara adds that his administrative staff is "like none other I have ever worked with - because they are incredibly efficient and organized they help our clients navigate the hurdles to get a loan, very very quickly. We’re on pace to break all records I’ve set in the past as a top 1% producing agent in the nation.”
One of company’s more unique offerings assists seniors who may fear that they will not be able to age in place. Financing a new home purchase or refinancing your current loan is a common product Regal American is very familiar and extremely capable in handling, negotiating a reverse mortgage (HECM loan) is entirely another type of financing for elderly clients. “I want to be creative about the solutions we are able to offer our clients, and surprise folks with an opportunity that may have previously been viewed in a negative light.” Living Legacy loans, as they are referred to in the Regal American offices, allows clients to pursue their ideal lifestyle even if retirement income may not have kept up with costs of living. Allowing homeowners to turn a portion of their home equity into cash, and forego a monthly house payment takes the pressure off of individuals, and allows seniors to write their own legacy.
“There are so many nuances in every client’s financial life, and it takes a seasoned professional to navigate waters muddied by years of suspect business practices and preconceived notions.”
There are tens of thousands of mortgage companies in the US, and competition is no less fierce in Southern California. The impact of COVID-19 has stricken many, and shifted the way we look at global and local commerce, financing our goals, causing droves to scramble to maintain a standard of living to which we were accustomed just a few short months ago. In spite of those changes, Lara believes that Orange County has a unique ecosystem, and current predictions show only a small hiccup in housing trends before the market stabilizes. Fortunate: that the pride of homeownership, median income, and overall longevity of the OC all contribute to consistently positive growth. As homeowners are quick to take advantage of low rates and qualify for the mortgages they are receiving, we should step through these trying types relatively quickly.”
I never thought I would see rates at historic lows like they are today …”
“It is quite simply a perfect environment in our real estate economy,” says Dan. “Right now, we are experiencing the highest home values paired with the lowest rates in American history. Once things begin to normalize, rates will increase and lenders will very likely tighten loan restrictions. All of which makes this the ideal time to finance or refinance (whether you want to take cash out to keep on hand for a rainy day, pay off credit card debt, install solar or make other desired home improvements). Don’t sit on the sidelines while the opportunity passes. I never thought I would see rates at historic lows like they are today."
How many other companies are marching toward incoming changes instead of simply riding out the tide? With the patience to teach and the skills to execute, Regal American is a veteran at helping first-time home buyers, knowledgable refinancers or savvy investors. “When there is an opportunity to refinance and claim a better rate, we’re doing the hard work, staying ahead of the curve, and notifying our clients of market changes."
It could have been cloudy that fateful day, his friends deciding to stay indoors instead of venturing to the Pier. Lara could have still been living down the road in the city of his birth: San Clemente. But for whatever reason, that one move, one meeting, one conversation, changed Lara's trajectory by 1%, and eventually he found himself walking down a completely different path than on which he began. Regal American’s goal is to create a national brand that exemplifies the pride a homeowner feels when all cylinders are firing, when things are right, and as they should be. Finances play a huge role in making that American Dream come true.
Perhaps Regal is that one move, one meeting, one conversation for you.
23022 La Cadena Dr., Suite 206