Mortgage Lender Dawn Garms Promoted to Assistant Vice President at Merchants Bank in Onalaska

Dawn Garms, Mortgage Lender

Mortgage Lender Dawn Garms has been promoted to Assistant Vice President, according to Steve Christiansen, Merchants Bank President in Onalaska and La Crescent.

“Dawn’s people first attitude has helped her customers get into the homes that are right for them,” Christiansen said. “She does everything she can for her customers, and that has helped Dawn be successful.”

Garms joined Merchants in 2013, after spending a dozen years with another organization serving customers. She has consistently been one of the top mortgage lenders in the Merchants organization, building a broad referral network and consistently receiving high marks from her customers for her service to them.

“I know that buying a home can be stressful, and there are so many things for someone to think about. My goal is to take care of my customers from the start of the process to beyond the end of it,” Garms said. “If they have a question, I am there with the answer.”

Garms is an active member of the La Crosse Area Builders Association, La Crosse Area Realtors Association and La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce, where she serves as an Ambassador. She is a graduate of Northern Iowa University, where she majored in Finance and minored in Real Estate.

Merchants Bank has 21 locations, including its location in Onalaska. Minnesota locations include La Crescent, Winona, St. Charles, Rochester, Rushford, Lanesboro, Caledonia, Spring Grove, Cannon Falls, Red Wing, Hampton, and the southern Twin Cities metropolitan suburbs of Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings, Lakeville and Rosemount. Merchants has another Wisconsin location in Eau Claire. Loans are subject to approval. Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance is also a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.

Meet Tina Mueller, Mortgage Lender and Home Loan Expert

Tina MuellerGet to know Tina Mueller, Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank in Onalaska.When did you start your banking career?

Tina: I started in 1992, and I came to Merchants Bank in Onalaska in 2005. I’ve been a personal banker, consumer loan officer, branch manager and of course a mortgage lender. I have always worked for a community bank; I believe in local decision making as key decisions are made locally by people who live and work in the community.

What is your best banking tip?

Tina: The best thing people can do is develop a good credit rating. Be diligent about spending and make your monthly payments on time. Having a major credit card from your local bank is a great way to establish credit and paying off the balance in full each month is a good way to develop a credit rating. It is important to maintain a good credit rating to have a chance at obtaining the best rates possible on loans when they go to make a major purchase like a car or a home.

My coworkers have put together a great video series on building a good credit rating: Watch here.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Tina: One thing my parents taught me about money is how to save, which was huge. My first job was when I was in high school and the rule was if I was going to work, half of my pay check had to go into a savings account. I was amazed at a young age at how quickly funds would add up in a savings account. Paying yourself first and establishing a savings pattern builds discipline and good financial habits. Building savings also provides a sense of financial security and builds wealth.

If you $1,875,000 what is one FUN thing you’d do with the money?

Tina: That’s easy! I would buy a tiny place on the beach which I would share with family. I love relaxing by water and being in the sun. There is nothing better than the sound of waves crashing, birds chirping and the warm breeze blowing.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Tina: The Green Bay Packers – Go Pack Go!

Picture your dream home. What is your favorite room and why?

Tina: My favorite room in the house is the great room. A place where the whole family can hang out together. Whether we are kicking back and enjoying great conversations, or maybe watching a Packer game while grabbing something to eat. This is the room we tend to gather in. Big windows with a nice view would make it even better.

B.J. Hamilton Joins Merchants Bank as an Assistant Vice President/Mortgage Lender

B.J. Hamilton has joined Merchants Bank in La Crescent as an Assistant Vice President/Mortgage Lender, according to Steve Christiansen, Merchants Bank President in La Crescent and Onalaska.

“B.J. has built a strong following in our area because of his commitment to meeting and exceeding the needs of his customers,” Christiansen said. “Our customers will value his knowledge of lending and benefit from his ability to make sure their needs are taken care of from start to finish.”

Hamilton had been a mortgage lender at Altra since 2013. Before that, he spent nearly ten years in Montana, both working in home lending for Montana banks and working as a project manager for a construction company.

“Merchants has impressed me since I moved to the Coulee Region. Merchants has a great reputation for taking care of its customers, and it offers a full range of mortgage products. I’m especially excited for my customers who are considering building because of our 5 percent down construction loan. That can really help them get started building right away,” Hamilton said. “Plus, I had a former co-worker that was so happy when she made the move to Merchants that I had to consider it when an opportunity was available.”

Hamilton is involved in the area. He is a member of the La Crosse Area Builders Association and the La Crosse Area Realtors Association. He is a former member of the Great Rivers United Way Funds Distribution Committee and a former Board member of the St. Thomas Child and Family Center in Great Falls, Montana.

Merchants Bank has 21 locations, including its location in La Crescent, and other Minnesota locations in Winona, St. Charles, Rochester, Rushford, Lanesboro, Caledonia, Spring Grove, Cannon Falls, Red Wing, Hampton, and the southern Twin Cities metropolitan suburbs of Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings, Lakeville and Rosemount. Merchants has Wisconsin locations in Eau Claire and Onalaska. Loans are subject to approval. Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance is also a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.

Meet Mike Stangl, Mortgage Lender and Home Loan Expert

 

MikeHiking

Mike spending time enjoying one of his favorite things – the outdoors.

 

Get to know Mike Stangl, Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank in La Crescent.

When did you start your banking career?

Mike: I started in 2001 in my hometown of Marshfield as a personal banker. Then I became an assistant branch manager and then a branch manager as well as consumer lender. I became a mortgage lender in 2007 and have been working with customers to get them into homes they love ever since.

What is your best mortgage tip?

Mike: Be prepared. When you start thinking you want to buy a house, sit down with a lender to figure out your finances and find out what your budget is. Buying a house is exciting, and I’m here to make sure you’re looking in a price range you can feel comfortable with not only during your house hunt, but after the purchase as well.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Mike: Anything I learned about keeping track of my finances my mom taught me. She did tax preparation and accounting, and is always meticulous about tracking all transactions and writing it all down. I’ve definitely inherited that. I balance my checkbook daily. It has served me well and it’s a helpful hint I try to pass on to my clients too.

If you won $1,875,000, what is one FUN thing you’d do with the money?

Mike: I would splurge on some big land to run around on. I love being outside: hunting, four-wheeling, we also do some gardening, so it would be fun to have plenty of space to do all of that. Uga Mae, our dog, would probably like it too.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Mike: Green beer! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Picture your dream home. What is your favorite room and why?

Mike: I require a really nice shower and kitchen. I do all the cooking, so I like to have a nice, capable space to spend that time in.

Meet Arlene Schwerzler, Mortgage Lender and Home Loan Expert

Arlene Schwerzler, Mortgage LenderGet to know Arlene Schwerzler, Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank in Red Wing.

When did you start your banking career?

Arlene: I started banking a very long time ago. Thirty-two years. I’ve been a teller, personal loan assistant, personal banker, branch manager and mortgage lender. I started at Merchants 20 years ago, where I’ve been a mortgage lender. I’ve stayed a mortgage lender for so long because I love it. I don’t want to do anything else; it’s extremely rewarding.

What is your best banking tip?

Arlene: There are so many people involved in a real estate transaction, but the key to a successful transaction is spending time with a lender first. We’re here to help you understand all the moving parts of the process, and talk about what resources are available to you.

I am dedicated to helping customers make good decisions regarding this significant financial commitment. We’ll talk about the rewards, the risks, and where you are in relation to where you want to be. It’s important that your lender understands your unique situation.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Arlene: My parents were great role models, and although it isn’t specific to money, they taught me that hard work pays off and to always do the right thing, even if it means not winning. Honesty truly is the best policy.

If you $1,875,000 what is one FUN thing you’d do with the money?

Arlene: I would most definitely take care of my kids, family and friends. If I can make someone else’s life easier or happier, that’d be the most fun I could have!

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Arlene: Plants – I love the outdoors, my garden and being outside.

Picture your dream home. What is your favorite room and why?

Arlene: It’s not really a room, but my favorite feature of a home would be gigantic windows. I love being able to see the beauty of the outdoors, even when I’m inside.

Meet Dawn Stenberg, Mortgage Lender and Home Loan Expert

DawnStenbergSquare

Dawn and her daughter in the kitchen at home.

Get to know Dawn Stenberg, Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank in Winona.

When did you start your banking/lending career?

Dawn: I started in banking in 2002, and I’ve been in mortgage since 2008. I came to Merchants in 2012, and here I’ve been a mortgage coordinator, mortgage underwriter, and now a mortgage lender.

What is your best banking/borrowing tip?

Dawn: A question I get asked a lot is whether or not customers should close open credit card accounts. It actually makes more sense to keep accounts with a long, healthy history open. If you close accounts in good standing and then just have fairly new loans open, it actually can hurt your credit score. Of course, fraud is a concern too. The more accounts that are open the more difficult it is to keep track of them all, making you more vulnerable to fraud. It’s important to find the happy medium between keeping healthy accounts open while still being able to manage and monitor all of them.

What is something smart borrowers do?

Dawn: Something that makes the process easier for everyone is to consistently make all of your loan payments on time. It’s also great to see customers saving, even if it’s just a little bit from each paycheck. Anything is better than nothing, and over time the savings will grow and it’ll help you be comfortable in your home.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Dawn: Have a budget. It’s important to keep track of your finances to ensure you are not overspending and to stay on track with your financial goals. It can also help create healthy spending habits.

If you had $1,875,000 what is one FUN thing you’d do with the money?

Dawn: I would take a long extended vacation! Probably to Europe or New Zealand.

Picture your dream home. What is your favorite room and why?

Dawn: My favorite room is the kitchen; I love to cook. My favorite times are when my kids are helping me bake around the island. The kitchen for me is the focal point of the home – It’s where the family all gathers together.

Meet Ben Franko, Mortgage Lender and Home Loan Expert

Ben Franko, Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank, and his son

Ben Franko, Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank, and his son.

Get to know Ben Franko, Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank in Eau Claire.

When did you start your banking/lending career?

Ben: I’ve been in banking since September 2005. I’ve worked in many positions on the retail side of the bank, such as a personal banker, customer service supervisory, branch manager, mortgage officer and mortgage sales manager. I started with Merchants on June 30, 2017 as a mortgage lender and I’m happy to use my experience in credit and customer service to help people get homes they could afford.

What is your best borrowing/banking tip?

Ben: My top home buying tip is always get pre-approved for a mortgage before you start the home buying or building process. It’s important to understand how the purchase you’re making will affect your budget.

What is something smart borrowers do?

Ben: This ties in with getting pre-approved for your mortgage: be prepared, know how your costs will interact. Just because you can afford a payment on paper, doesn’t mean that’s realistic. It’s a bad idea to stretch your budget; you want to be comfortable making that payment even when unforeseen expenses come up.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Ben: One of the things I was taught from a young age is you work very hard for your money, so spend and save wisely. It’s always good to avoid making impulse purchases. Picture your dream home.

What is your favorite room in your house and why?

Ben: I’m very fortunate to have my dream home, and my favorite room is my kitchen/sunroom. I love being in the kitchen cooking and entertaining. It was the most important feature when we were looking, so when we walked in we knew immediately we were home.

If you had $1,875,000, what is one FUN thing you’d do with the money?

Ben: I would go back to Europe and spend most of my time in Belgium and Holland where my family is from.