July-August 2015 | LENDING A HAND

James Anecharico, Mike Ciorrocco and Chris Short of Universal Mortgage & Finance, Inc
Chris ShortJames AnecharicoMike CiorroccoVance, Amy and “Palmer” Row,  Universal Mortgage & Finance clientsCarmen, Cara and Mia Straccione, Universal Mortgage & Finance clientsLENDING A HANDLENDING A HAND



Meet James Anecharico, Mike Ciorrocco and Chris Short of Universal Home Mortgage & Finance, teammates whose expertise and work ethic are creating happy homeowners across the Eastern Shore and beyond

It’s about preparation. It’s about education. It’s about teamwork and the genuine desire to help. That’s the code Mike Ciorrocco and Chris Short strive to personify every day at Universal Mortgage & Finance, Inc., and it’s the mission with which they have inspired both their staff and their clients. The story of these two — and one who would follow — is an interesting one.

The wonder years. The synergy that these two veteran lenders create stems from a relationship that goes back to elementary school in Cecil County, Md. The two grew up together and remained good friends all the way through their college days at Salisbury University, where they shared a dorm room. They weren’t necessarily aware then that it was the beginning of a unique partnership.

“We’re a good extension of each other, which makes a good partnership,” Short said. “I know how he thinks; he knows how I think. If one of us isn’t available, you’d get the same exact service from the other one.”


Finding yourself. Though Short had a good career going for him at Legg Mason in Baltimore, something was missing. “I started doing title closings for settlements in the evenings, and that’s what got me into the business,” Short said. “That allowed me to get out from behind the computer and actually deal with people directly, and that’s how I discovered what I really needed to be happy.”

“I sent Chris business all the time when I was a real estate agent,” Ciorrocco added. “After a while, when I saw how much fun Chris was having, I realized that was the place for me, too.”

Everything came together in 2006, and the childhood friends were together once again.


Putting in the time. Prior to 2011, there were no Universal Mortgage & Finance branches on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Short lived on the Western Shore, and Ciorrocco commuted more than 90 minutes every day from Seaford to company headquarters in Edgewater. While their dedication was unwavering, their environments weren’t ideal.

“I lived in Severna Park for 10 years, and it just wasn’t for me; it wasn’t where I wanted to raise my kids,” Chris said. “When I asked Mike if he wanted to open a branch with me in Ocean City, he was all for it. Sure, it was a bit of financial sacrifice, but your life and your family are more important, so we came back to the Shore.”


Establishing roots. Today, Ciorrocco and Short own homes in West Ocean City. Mike and his wife, Jennifer, have 8-year-old Nicolas and 2-year-old Sophia, whereas Chris and his wife, Angela, share three daughters: Hannah, 11, Grace, 9, and Mary, 7. 

The childhood buddies had definitely made the right decision for their families, but it turns out it was the best decision for their careers, as well. Since opening their first office 10 years earlier, four more have been added. Now, there are Universal Mortgage & Finance, Inc. offices in Salisbury, Ocean City, Glen Burnie, Chesapeake City and Bear, Del.


A code to work by. Ciorrocco and Short say that no matter which Universal Mortgage & Finance office you’re dealing with, the unifying — or universal – theme is that their influence should always make a positive difference in people’s lives.

“We approach our business with a ‘help first’ mentality,” Mike said. “That means we want to help people first and foremost. Even if they don’t end up doing business with us, they will always remember that we cared and put their best interests first. That’s how we approach our business.”


The most precious resource. To Chris and Mike, what ultimately makes the biggest difference is the people you work with. When all is said and done, they say it’s the people who forge the legacy. According to both Chris and Mike, a prime example of this is the branch manager of their West Ocean City office, James Anecharico, the third key player of this uniquely cohesive team. Together, the trio pool their considerable resources to ensure every client
leaves with the satisfaction of knowing the most important investment they will likely ever make was also the best one.

“Typically, real estate transactions don’t happen in the traditional nine-to-five workday,” Anecharico said, who resides in West Ocean City with wife Nancy and sons Reid, 5, and Wes, 4. “This is particularly true in the beach areas. Buyers, especially those from out of town, often can’t make themselves available on a Thursday at 1 p.m. because they’re working, so contracts and loan applications are mostly submitted on the weekends. We appreciate this, which
is why we consider weekends to be workdays. So, we’re always ready and available, even on a Sunday.”


Taking one for the team. Another essential aspect of the shared work ethic of these three is that they are available not only for their customers but for each other, as well.

“Let’s say, for example, that Chris needs to attend his daughter’s lacrosse practice at 5 p.m., and one of his clients has a question about their loan,” Mike offered. “James or I will immediately step in and make sure there is absolutely no interruption of customer service, and Chris would do, and has done, the same for us.” Those who follow the industry would be the first to tell you how extremely uncommon that is in any commission-based environment.

“Several years ago we worked with Universal Mortgage & Finance to refinance our home,” shared Vance and Amy Row of Ocean City. “We were so impressed by the service we received that when we decided to move, there was no question we would use Universal again. Working with the associates at Universal Mortgage & Finance was so easy, and everyone we came in contact with went above and beyond to help us with whatever we needed.

“They explained everything in a way we could understand,” continued Vance, who works for the Ocean City Police Department, “and their communication throughout the process was impressive. We always knew where we stood at each stage of the process, and that was comforting. We had a lot of other things to worry about during our move, but this was not one of them. Thanks to Universal Mortgage & Finance, we had a smooth closing and a painless home-buying experience.”

“In more than 12 years selling real estate in this community, I’ve never seen any lending agent render the kind of consistent, high-quality service that Jamie Anecharico does,” praised Carmen Straccione, the top-selling agent with Berlin’s Beach Realty for the second year running. “Time and time again, I’ve seen him do things I’ve never seen anyone else in his business do. When we had that miserable cold streak last year, when everyone’s pipes were freezing and bursting, Jamie was able to get a plumber over to my Lighthouse Sound client the next morning when there were no plumbers in town to be found.

“Not so long ago, he showed up at a settlement for another one of my clients with a big bouquet of flowers,” continued Carmen, who resides in Ocean Pines with his wife, Cara, and 7-year-old daughter Mia. “I’ve never seen a lending agent here show up at a settlement before, but that’s just the way Jamie is. He builds strong and immediate relationships — more than that; I’d say bonds — with my clients, and they come to trust him very much, which makes me especially happy, because I trust him, too. He really knows what he’s doing. He’s gotten financing for clients with marginal credit histories because of how well he knows finance and how to counsel people about it. There was even one time I needed a prequalification for a client on Christmas Eve, which is nearly impossible to get under those circumstances. Well, Jamie got my client’s pre-qual in 10 minutes — and Jamie was on vacation in Puerto Rico at the time! Is it any surprise, then, that my wife and I will soon be getting our third mortgage for ourselves through Jamie and Universal? He is quite simply the best I’ve ever seen.”


Fighting the good fight. Recently, a military veteran and his wife dropped by UM&F’s West Ocean City location as a last resort before accepting a loan offer from another lender. The couple was told they were getting the “best deal possible” because that company “specialized in VA loans and supported our nation’s veterans.” After spending less than 30 minutes with the Universal Mortgage & Finance team, the veteran learned they were not getting the best deal; in fact, they were actually getting charged three points on the front of the loan, and they qualified for an interest rate one-half-point lower than what they were ready to accept. 

“To be blunt, this couple was about to get ripped off,” Mike said. “Luckily, we were able to examine their situation and find the best program, which ultimately saved them thousands of dollars. It’s truly what we’re here to do, and it’s what we take the most pride in — helping people.” 

“We’re small enough as a company to know our clients personally but also large enough to have access to the best rates, asset data and loan programs,” James said. “That’s a rare combination in the mortgage industry.”


It helps to have the credibility and the products. “We are a licensed direct mortgage lender with in-house processing and underwriting, which allows us to have one of the fastest turnaround times in the industry,” Short said. “Our loan specialists are licensed and completed the required National Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) education, testing and background checks, so you can be assured you are working with a true career professional.”

“Ultimately, that’s the biggest factor that separates us from our competitors,” Chris said. “It’s that we have a team of diversely trained professionals with years of experience in the industry who work as a unit for the common goal of satisfying the totality of our clients. From loan officers to processors to underwriters, we have the knowledge, resources and personnel to address any situation. We constantly communicate with one another and get answers for our clients. This is a results-based business — and that’s exactly what we produce.”

“We are fortunate to have Mike and Chris as members of our association and Universal Mortgage as our 2015 Platinum Affiliate Sponsor,” said Vicki Harmon, president of the 2014-15 Coastal Association of Realtors board of directors. “They are strong partners who truly understand the needs of our members and their clients. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with these rising stars in the local mortgage industry.”


Paying it forward. Mike, Chris and James are pleased to announce the formation of a scholarship program for local high school seniors who want to become business owners someday. The Universal Mortgage & Finance Entrepreneurial Scholarship Fund will award as many as five college-bound individuals funds to help subsidize their educations. Kicking off next school year, seniors will submit concepts and business plans to the trio for review. Winners will not only receive scholarship money but also key professional knowledge and advice from Ciorrocco, Short and Anecharico that will pay dividends long after classes are in session.

“Our first motivation is to give back to the community that has been so giving to us,” Mike said. “Being young business owners ourselves, we want to help future entrepreneurs learn what they can realistically expect in the professional world. No one taught us how to run a business or sell our services when we were in school, so this program is designed to guide hardworking and determined college freshmen toward their goals.”

Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Universal Mortgage & Finance in early 2016 for further details.



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