A small, family business in Grand Blanc, Grand Oak Mortgage Company specializes in residential mortgage lending and pre-approvals, and also assists borrowers who are looking to refinance their current home or purchase a new home. “The majority of our business comes from past client referrals and realtor referrals,” says Owner, Carol Landis.
Landis became interested in real estate when she was 20 years old while living in York, PA. She started working as a “Girl Friday” at a real estate office, then got a sales license and started selling houses. Her husband, Kenneth, was transferred to Michigan and after they moved here, she soon became pregnant with their second child and was a stay-at-home mom for five years.
After moving to Grand Blanc, Landis went back to work at a mortgage company owned by a real estate broker. “I just wasn’t happy in that job,” she remembers, and she would often complain about it to her husband. Tired of her complaining, Kenneth finally asked her, “What would it take for you to start your own mortgage company?”
First, she would need to connect with people who were looking for a mortgage and then find a company willing to buy her mortgages. So, she went to a luncheon with a company and asked them if they would buy mortgages from her, and they agreed. Landis incorporated Grand Oak Mortgage in October 1986.
The now successful business started out very small. Landis found an office space to rent in Grand Blanc. “I didn’t even own a desk when I started!” she exclaims with a laugh. “I went to Sears and bought a two-line phone. You could definitely say it was a very humble beginning.”
“It’s all about strong character and trust. People trust us.”
Carol Landis, Owner
Landis worked alone for several months and the phone started ringing off the hook. Then, tragedy struck. “In August 1987, my husband had a heart attack and died at his office,” she shares. “He was just 45 years old. I was left alone to raise two sons and I had no Plan B.” The businesswoman had no other choice. “I got up every day, put on my shoes and went to work,” she said. “I had to make my business successful.”
And that is exactly what she did. The business grew so big that in the early 2000s, she was recognized as being in the Top 10 percent of women business earners in the country.
Why is Grand Oak Mortgage Company so successful? “People trust us,” she notes. “It’s all about strong character and trust. They know we will provide them with the right product at the right price and the right time.”
There are now three employees working with Landis at Grand Oak Mortgage Company, including her oldest son, Sean, who has been a loan officer since 1997. The team includes another loan officer and a “wonderful” processor/closer, she adds.
Now 72 years old, Landis has no plans to retire anytime soon. “I love getting up and going to work,” she says. “Buying a home is one of the most exciting times in a person’s life. I get to experience that with them. I go to all of the closings and the buyers feel comfortable that I’m there. I find it very exciting.”
What Landis finds equally exciting is that she now has customers who are the children and grandchildren of some of her original clients. “It’s all about the community,” she says. “I want to thank them for accepting me and trusting me.”
Photo By Kayce McClure