Working together for real estate loans

Written by Jason Nichols

In 2013, Jack and Liz Lassen, owners of Lassen Farm LLC, a 170-cow operation in Adams, N.Y., needed an operating loan.

They called their representative at DFA Financing, Donna Tyo, who routinely works with members on short-term operating loans. Tyo, however, noticed that the structure of the Lassens’ real estate loan, which was with another lender, presented some obstacles to securing additional loans.

“We called (our real estate loan holder) to see if they would refinance or at least release the cattle and equipment, which were part of the collateral on our loan,” Liz Lassen says. “We owed them hardly any money, but the guy on the phone said, ‘We can’t release your cattle and equipment because you’re a dairy farmer and what would you be without your cattle and equipment?’ ”

Fortunately, the Lassens had an alternative. DFA Financing is in a partnership with First Financial Bank, which was able to offer a real estate loan.

“We switched and put the real estate with First Financial, and Donna was able to do the short-term loan,” Jack says. “First Financial was so great to work with.”

DFA members are able to take advantage of First Financial Bank’s strong nationwide real estate options while continuing to work through their DFA Financing loan officer.

Tom Shephard, president of DFA Financing, says this relationship is something members — and DFA Financing — needed.

“It’s a combination of the needs of our members, along with First Financial Bank’s strong history and stronger offerings,” Shephard says. “We couldn’t always do a lot of real estate loans because often people want a longer-term loan than we typically offer.”

The two lenders have different strengths, but they are similar in their approach to members.

DFA Financing at times calls upon external resources in order to bring value to members.

“Working with our members doesn’t mean we have to do it all,” Shephard says. “We were able to find a real value for our members through our relationship with First Financial Bank.”
DFA Financing often partners with other lenders, including members’ local banks, but this is the first relationship of this scope.

“Often we have a non-real estate lending relationship with the member, and then we refer them to First Financial Bank,” Shephard says. “Because we already have all of their financial information, once we have permission from the member to share that, or put them in touch with First Financial Bank, we can make the process easier for them.”

Two First Financial executives — Senior Vice President Kathy Daily and Vice President Pat Hamilton — have developed relationships with DFA Financing’s loan officers, who are positioned around the country to serve members.

“I get calls all the time from loan officers,” Hamilton says. “They’ll come across an opportunity and give me a call. We’re able to work together to do what’s right for the farm operation. It’s a perfect combination because we want to focus on the long-term stuff, and DFA can do the short and intermediate loans. We’re not competing.”

Jack was equally complimentary of his experience with DFA Financing. He recently started using an operating loan to secure significant discounts on his seed purchases.