By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL – It took four years in the bank business for Jennifer Panks to know which career path to take—it was the one she began in 20 years earlier.
Panks is a lifelong Slidell resident who graduated from Slidell High and went on to earn a Psychology degree, and is now within a year of earning her Master’s Degree in Counseling Education.
Those studies proved to be great as she finished college and started working in the home mortgage business for two different companies that spanned 17 years.
At that point she decided to try utilizing her mortgage expertise in the bank business, but after four years decided it wasn’t the right professional environment for her.
“It wasn’t conducive for my personality in what I did, which is to work closely and get to know the clients I find mortgages for,” she said. “Now I’ve found a perfect fit.”
Panks has returned to work in the Slidell area with Cendera Funding, one of the fastest growing mortgage companies in the Texas-Louisiana area that brings a unique approach to the home sale business.
Cendera Funding was founded in 1998 in Texas by Brian Collins as he built the company to nine states, now ranking as the third fastest growing mortgage company in the Southeast United States.
Panks said it is the mission of Collins that made her want to partner with Cendera..
“Brian’s mission is to lead a professional firm of mortgage bankers trusted by the communities where we live and serve there,” she said.
The Cendera Funding mission includes “believing in impeccable customer service, educating clients to the best of our ability, setting proper expectations, delivering on commitments, believing in candor, integrity and gratitude and making our life’s work fun,” Panks explained.
Panks said she is most surprised at one thing in the mortgage business.
“I can’t believe that four years since I was with a mortgage company I’m still telling people this is the absolute best time to buy or sell a house due to the rates. I never would have guessed rates would have stayed so low for this long,” she said.
Current mortgage rates run near the 4 percent mark, with some mortgages coming in under 4 percent.
“Not only are the rates so low right now, but the inventory in St. Tammany Parish is low so there are many more buyers than sellers. That means it’s a great time to sell your house too,” she said.
Panks said she remembers the early years in the mortgage business when she was closing loans for 12 percent rates.
“I know how high rates can get and sometimes I worry about young homebuyers today because they see 5 percent and think that’s high,” she said. “I hope they understand that if you get a 4 percent loan, or even 5 percent, it is so great.
“As long as rates are 5 percent or below, it’s the time to jump in and buy or sell your house,” she said. “It gives you a great savings account to own a home.”
Panks grew up with a passion to be the best she could be in school, something that carries over to her professional life.
“All the way through school I loved academics and learning,” she said. “Even with three kids now, and finishing my Master’s Degree, it’s a challenge I love since I think it keeps my mind going.”
After four years handling mortgages through a bank, Cendera Branch Manager Melissa Ruble convinced Panks to bring her longtime experience in the mortgage business to their company.
“Cendera is small enough that we have more leeway than a lot of big companies to get a mortgage closed,” Panks explained. “I developed the slogan ‘Lender for Life’ and that’s what I want to be for the people here in St. Tammany Parish.”
Her commitment to her clients is very clear in the way she describes her approach to the job.
“For my clients, I’m available 24/7, before, during and after the process,” she said. “After the close I’m always here and usually become friends with my clients. I genuinely look out for them and I think that’s why this business has been right for me.”
Cendera Funding also offers interim construction loans, home improvement loans, and lower closing rates than many larger lenders.
Panks is married to Jay Panks, son of a longtime Slidell banker the late Ronnie Panks. The couple has three children.
She can be reached by cell phone at 985-640-6738 or by e-mail at email@example.com.