Mortgage adviser and general manager of Riverstone Financial Services, Mike Uganecz, is so concerned that his service could be considered too good to be true that he sometimes downplays past achievements to better manage expectations. But the bottom line is that “if you’re spending less than you earn” he can “reduce your home loan repayment terms with no consequence to your lifestyle”. One couple recently left his airy Newmarket office with their 30-year repayment plan slashed by more than two-thirds to just nine years, saving an astonishing $300,000 in interest on their $500,000 mortgage.
“When we met during our last review, they had become so motivated by their success that it looks like they’ll now settle the repayments in just seven-and-half years,” beams Mike. “It has freed them up to pursue dreams of travelling or make investments in other properties.”
Mike says that society has been conditioned to head straight to their bank for a home loan. “Most people will automatically head to the bank they have been with their whole lives when it’s time to get a new home loan or to refinance their existing loan,” he says. “They leave with a 30-year ‘cookie cutter’ mortgage and simply accept that this is the way it is done. But the way a mortgage is structured is more important than the interest rate. We do things differently by incorporating a range of banking products structured together in one package that allows for the same monthly payments to faster settle the mortgage. It really can save hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Rates between lenders fluctuate daily and Mike “keeps abreast of those changes” to ensure he can tailor the best individual package for his customers. “With most mortgage advisors, there is quite a transactional element,” he says. “They want to get on to the next deal. But I like to take my time to ensure I’m getting the right deal, to build long-term relationships. I enjoy helping people — it’s a very fulfilling role.”
Riverstone is a family-run firm (Mike’s father, Ernie, founded Sovereign Assurance and Club Life — now OnePath — two of the country’s largest insurance companies), and there’s certainly a laid-back familiarity to the office adorned with books and treasures like conches from the Philippines and a corkscrew crafted from a Californian vine that the well-travelled clan has collected over the years. “We are really easy-going people,” says Mike. “We like to keep things casual, light and informal.”
Mike stresses that “99% of the time my services are free” (he’s paid a commission by the lender), and on the rare occasions he does have to charge, he will be clear about cost from the offset. “People have a misconception that it will be this high-pressure sales situation,” he says. “But I’m not trying to sell a product, I’m just trying to find the best solution that will most benefit the client. I’m not a salesperson.” Riverstone also instructs on how to best raise a deposit, make use of your Kiwisaver and incorporate any necessary insurance plans: “This is advice that you probably won’t get from traditional banks, and again, we don’t charge for any of it.”
Mike adds that the best time to start a converstation about mortgages is as soon as you start thinking about a new home loan or refinancing your existing loan, with clients often admitting that they wish they’d gone to see him earlier.
“If you’re not spending more than you are earning, I can shorten the length of your mortgage,” Mike says. “It just depends how much money you have left over at the end of the month. It’s not about making more or higher mortgage payments. It is structured in a way that will still give you access to that money, but instead of heading to a savings account, it goes towards reducing the interest. It is client-driven, and when people see how quickly their mortgage is coming down, it motivates them to spend less, to become mortgage-free faster.”
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