The Most Expensive Places to Live in the U.S., Did Your City Make the List?

Do you pay almost $5000 in rent every month?  People in NYC do.  Based on average home prices, rents, gas, & the cost of a Cappuccino we ranked the top 5 most expensive U.S. cities right now.  Some of them might be a given, some of them might surprise you!  I’ll tell you what surprised me, almost $4 for a gallon of gas as well as almost $5 for a fancy coffee (Cappuccino) in Honolulu.  To me, that’s crazy!  What do you think?

  1. New York, New York. 
    1. Average House Price: $1,156,000. (and that could very well be an apartment)
    2. Average Rent: $4950
    3. Gas price per gallon $2.449
    4. Cappuccino $4.23
  1. San Francisco, CA. 
    1. Average House Price: $1,135,000.
    2. Average Rent: $3000
    3. Gas price per gallon $3.62
    4. Cappuccino $3.94
  2. Honolulu, Hawaii. 
    1. Average House Price: $750,000
    2. Average Rent: $2800
    3. Gas price per gallon $3.75
    4. Cappuccino $4.62
  3. Washington D.C. 
    1. Average House Price: $575,000
    2. Average Rent: $2000
    3. Gas price per gallon $2.568
    4. Cappuccino $3.94
  4. Los Angeles, CA. 
    1. Average House Price: $570,000
    2. Average Rent: $2094
    3. Gas price per gallon $3.03
    4. Cappuccino $4.03

Check back next week to see the most affordable places to live!

Don’t Make These Common Mistakes in Your Next Interview

Interviewing is a stressful thing, you only have that one meeting, that one call, that one time slot to make a first impression.  You are not alone if you have ever left an interview thinking you could have answered a question better.  It’s a competitive market out there, what do you say?  What do you ask? How do you make yourself stand out among the sea of other candidates?  How do you avoid those typical mistakes that drive your resume to the bottom of the pile?

You can never anticipate all the questions an Interviewer will ask or what the other candidates may say in their interviews, but you can avoid some of the most common mistakes people make in interviews that will not make that first impression you are aiming for.

  1.  Bad Mouthing your Former Employer. Everyone has worked for someone they didn’t like.  But bad mouthing a former employer to someone you just met says a lot about you and it’s not good.  Will you bad mouth their company?  Take the high road and leave that at your last job.
  2. Leaving your Cell Phone on.  Come on people!  This is just common sense, but you would be surprised at how many people forget to turn off their phones when walking into an interview.  How do you feel when you are talking to someone or in a meeting, or any other professional setting and someone’s phone keeps ringing?  It’s very annoying and unprofessional.
  3. Showing up Unprepared.  This can incorporate a lot of things, but in this instance I am talking about not knowing the company you are interviewing with.  Take some time and research the company, know what they are known for, history, strengths and weaknesses.  You don’t need to know everything, but you need to demonstrate the fact that you took the time to learn about them and their organization.
  4. Failure to Ask Questions.  Don’t you hate it when you are talking to someone and you feel like they aren’t listening or engaging?  Employers do too.  You don’t want it to seem like an interrogation, where they are the only one asking questions.  I recently had a candidate interview for a very high level role. He interviewed with several department heads but never asked the key question they were all hoping he would, What are the Challenges in this Role and What needs to Happen to improve Things?  This was a replacement situation so there obviously were issues, yet the candidate never probed to determine what they were.  He didn’t get the offer. Asking questions will demonstrate that you came prepared and are truly interested.
  5. Poor Listening Skills.  Listening isn’t easy, it requires focus.  Instead of forming your responses in your head while the Interviewer is talking, or trying to anticipate what the next question will be, pay close attention to what the interviewer is saying.  If you don’t, you might miss a cue or vital information.

 For more interviewing guidelines and suggestions, follow us on LinkedIn! 

Who Doesn’t Love Hanging in Their PJs All Day, But Will it Make You Successful?

Working From Home…

I’ve always pictured working from home as a stay-cation from work.  Like when you used to have a sick day or maybe a snow day where your office closed (yay!!).  You would sit in your pjs all day, catch up on your DVR, & maybe meet your friends for a long extended lunch where there was wine.  Well after talking to many people that work from home, this is simply not the case.

Most people feel like they have to work harder when they work from home.  Why is that?  There is no one standing over your shoulder, no one walking over to see how things are going, or if you look at it this way – no one managing you.  While these things technically may be true, I don’t think that is the reason why people have to work harder when they are in a home office.  A more accurate picture may involve distraction & motivation.

There are so many distractions at home which can lead to lack of motivation for actual work getting done to completion, with greater motivation to clean that floor or re-organize your closet.  And wow, that laundry is really piling up, isn’t it?  So what are some things you can do to avoid the common pitfalls of working from home?


  • Have a defined work-space.  Make sure you have an area dedicated to work and nothing else.  Sure, working from your couch which catching up on The Bachelor is fun, but are you getting quality work done? Having an office or designated work-space will help keep you on track and your mind from wandering.
  • Wake up like you are going into an office.  Set your alarm like you have to be at your office at 8am.  Don’t snooze because you know you are just walking into another room.  Treat it like you are leaving to go sit in traffic and need to be out the door by a certain time.
  • Dress to impress (your computer).  Sounds silly but this is a helpful mindset.  If you are dressed to be up and out on a workday, you will feel more professional, which is likely to lead to greater success.  Again, it’s a helpful way to get you to that mindset of having a full workday and working hard to get stuff done!
  • Get out for lunch!  It may not be the extended lunch with your friends (and wine!) that you wish it could be, but getting out is a great idea.  This will give you a little mind break.  If you have this break, you are less likely to get distracted later.  It’s all too easy to eat in front of your computer & then go crazy because you need to get up and away from your desk.  This is when the Closet Re-do starts calling your name!

Sure. there will be days where you do stay in your pjs or maybe you do run an errand or two.  But if you want to be successful working from home, follow these steps, modify them to work for you, and prepare to kick butt!

How to Bypass Those Annoying Voicemail Instructions…


Did you know that every phone carrier has a way to bypass those long, annoying voicemail instructions we all have to sit through?  I mean don’t we all know how to leave a voicemail by now?  “When you finish your recording, simply hang up.”  Really? Thank you, because I didn’t think that was the way to end this call…Is it a huge deal?  No, but would it be fun to be able to just leave a message? YES!  So why all these basic instructions that have become so familiar that we really never need to hear them again…ever?

Well according to David Pogue at the New York Times, its so the phone companies can make more money.  Shocking right?  Not really…

He calculated that the carriers earn over $850 million a year just by eating up our airtime.  He used a calculation with Verizon as an example taking cents per minute and how many minutes those instructions take you on multiple calls.  Pretty crazy.

So how can we bypass these and save us time and money? (and eye rolling as these instructions come on)?

Well looks like every carrier has their own bypass key that you can press to skip not only the instructions but the person’s voicemail itself (if that’s something you don’t need to hear again).  And according to David, “to be as evil as possible, the carriers do not promote or tell you about the existence of this keystroke.”

Verizon hit *

Sprint hit 1

AT&T hit #

T Mobile hit #

Of course you have to know which carrier the person has to do this…who knows that?

So what you can do is just remember the sequence –  1 * #, one star pound.  Wait a couple seconds between pressing each button.  This way you can try each one and once you hit the right keystroke you will hear a beep and you are good to go!

Now you have an extra 15 seconds, what will you do with them?

You Only Get One Chance to Make aFirst Impression…Make it a Good One


The Importance of a Good Resume

Your mother was right…you only get one chance to make a first impression. First impressions are everything and the first impression most potential employers get is your resume.  Way before the first call/interview occurs, they see this document that will determine if you will add value to their organization.  This is your opportunity to catch an employer’s attention, instead of it getting thrown into a pile with all the others.  You want yours to be in the other pile, the good pile, the pile where resumes go on to live happy lives in a new career!

Think about looking at a resume.  How long is your first glance? 5 minutes? 4 minutes? Even 1 minute?  Nope.  You glance at it for a couple of seconds & that’s exactly how long a potential employer will glance at it for the first time as well.  So think about having only a couple of seconds to impress someone with what is on that document.

Keep it simple.  Yes, employers want to know about your skill set, qualifications, strengths, etc.  But when they are glancing at it for the first time, you don’t want that to be the first thing they see.  A long paragraph or extensive objective statement can make a resume seem jumbled and crowded.  And in my opinion, rarely looked at.  You want to highlight your work history, accomplishments, & what experience you have that will impress them?

Make it chronological.  Start out with your personal information (name, contact info, etc), then start in on your work history.  They will want to see your most current job right away.  How long have you been in your current role and have you been successful in it?  Is your current job relevant to the role they are considering you for?  Continue with previous positions.  As a general rule, resumes shouldn’t be more than 2 pages. If you have to go into a 3rd page, keep it brief.

Sell yourself.   With each position you have held, sell yourself!  Use bullet points to showcase your accomplishments at each company.  Did you win any sales awards? Make Presidents Club 3 years running?  Did your work get published? Did you grow a region or positively impact the bottom line? What did you do there?  Inquiring minds want to know!

Education?  If you have a degree, industry certifications or designations, this should follow your work history.

Proofread! This sounds like common sense but you would be surprised at how many resumes I look at that have common spelling or grammatical errors.  Take a few seconds and read your resume out loud.  Make sure everything flows well and is spelled correctly.  Your vs. You’re, I see it all the time!  Also…don’t use first person references.  Instead of saying, “I increased profits by 22% in the first year”, just drop the “I” completely and make it one of your bullet points.

I get asked pretty frequently, “Is my LinkedIn OK? Can they just look at that?”  Survey says…….no!  While LinkedIn is a great resource, potential employers want your resume.  They want something they can look at whenever they need to, save it or make notes on.  If a company is looking to fill a position, they don’t have time to keep referencing your LinkedIn page.  Update your resume!  It will be worth it in the end, trust me.  And if you make your resume simple, clean, and to the point, I bet you will be getting that call for an interview for that great position you know you are perfect for.


Seven Languages You Must Learn


There are over 6,500 spoken languages in the world today, so it’s safe to say that communication is vital. In a given day you may speak and listen to thousands of words. Through these words, you communicate your thoughts and ideas, past experiences and future expectations. Naturally, you assume people understand the ideas you’re trying to communicate, and more often than not, that is indeed the case. However, have you thought about what it takes to “communicate” at the next level in your career? If your career plans include C-level or senior leadership positions, you need to be fluent in many “languages” beyond command of the prevailing spoken language – be it English, Spanish, French or Japanese. Yes, the spoken words you use with C-level executives can make or break your career, but not all critical communication is verbal. Non-verbal gestures and body language are also paramount when conveying your message.

At MSA, we know the seven imperative languages that will help you advance in your career, and prepare you for successful interactions with senior executives. Here is a list of the seven imperative languages you need to learn:

1. Word catalog language – the ability to read and analyze messages from others based on three sensory channels: visual, auditory and kinesthetic (feelings and a sense of the body).

2. Internal dialogue language – internal stream of communication that represents your honest, unedited, deep-set feelings.

3. Physical language – also known as body language, the non-verbal communication that you are always emitting. Over 95% of communication is nonverbal.

4. Intersecting activity language – interests, hobbies, dislikes and personal pursuits that individuals talk about in conversations often revealing core values, personality and beliefs.

5. Technical specification language – non-personal and technical communications used within and about an industry. For example, RAM and CPU are used to describe the computer industry.

6. Business operations language – the business-specific language that executive use to run the daily operations of their organization.

7. C-Level language – most important and powerful language that executives use to explain his or her thoughts, personal needs, expectations and the strategies to accomplish those expectations.

At MSA, we know how C-level executives speak and we can help prepare you for that careerchanging opportunity. Read our “Why MSA” page to learn more about how we can help.

Communication…Necessary? Important? Try Essential


3 voicemails, 2 emails, 3 texts, 2 LinkedIn messages later…still no response.

Are they really this busy?  Are they not working today?  Did they decide suddenly to live a device/technology free life in hopes to re-focus and re-energize? (how do they look at Instagram? Facebook? The Gym schedule when you know you aren’t really going to go to that yoga class?) The answer would be none of the above.  Then why, you ask, was there no response after all of that?  That’s a great question, one that I ask myself on a weekly basis.  Unfortunately, I still don’t know the answer.

Fortunately, this is not the norm, but when it happens, it can sure ruin everyone’s day!

Let’s be honest, we all have our moments.   The email fell below a long string of other very important emails (those 20% Bed, Bath, & Beyond coupons, who doesn’t love those?!), you get busy after you listen to the voicemail and forget to return it, & maybe you saw the text and need to research some things before you respond.  So during all of this, tell me, what does this portray to the person on the other end?

Anyone who has gone through the recruiting process, either as a recruiter, candidate, or hiring manager, can agree that more than ½ the time, it is unnecessarily drawn out.  Haven’t you ever heard the phrase, “Time Kills all Deals”? (yes you have, admit it). Even the notification of no news is better than nothing at all.  Keeping everyone in the loop helps keep that communication going as well as keeping all parties still interested and engaged.

Let’s pretend that you are a hiring manager interested in a specific candidate a Recruiter has submitted to you. They look great on paper, great personality, great everything!! You have a wonderful first conversation and then decide to schedule a follow up call.  It all goes downhill from there.  The candidate doesn’t return your calls and they randomly respond to your emails with one or two word responses, all the while saying they are sorry.  They are busy busy, but they will get back to you soon, because they are very interested in the position!  What is your impression of this person from then on out? Yes, they have a job and you like that they are committed to their current company.  But does that change your initial impression this person first gave you?  Most definitely.

Same goes for the opposite scenario.  Keep in mind that a candidate’s first impression of any company/organization is made by the first couple of interactions, which happen during the recruitment process.  Lack of communication portrays lack of commitment.  It tends to leave a very bad taste in a candidate’s mouth when they do not feel like the company sees them as important, or even as a possible asset to their organization.

It’s also not necessarily too far off to say that how a company treats candidates during the recruitment process is generally a fair indicator of how it treats its staff.

The above scenarios also apply to recruiters.  The way you manage the recruitment process is vital to securing the best talent. Communication is one of the most important parts! One of the big frustrations of most candidates is not hearing back – not hearing back on an application, not hearing back on an interview, and not even hearing back on a start date or contract once an indication that an offer is forthcoming. These situations lead to candidates pulling out of the process and spreading that negative message across their own networks.

How can we change this?  How can we make ourselves better, as well as the people we interact with in this business?  How can we get the deal done?

Tips for better communication:

  • Set the communication tone up front

o   Let Candidates / Recruiters / Hiring Managers know you will be following up in 48 hours

o   Ask how they prefer to be contacted, email might be the worst way, ya never know!

o   Find out when is the best time to contact them

o   Let them know you will be in contact every couple of days to follow up, etc

  • Don’t just hear….listen!

o   Being an effective communicator means listening as well as talking. Sounds easy, but listening actually takes some work

o   Make sure you understand (hear) what they want out of all of this, what they expect from you and what you expect from them

  • Make sure you actually follow through with what you said you would

o   Actually follow up with them in 48 hours, this lets them know they are important to you and that you respect their time

o   Make sure you are in contact every couple of days (or whatever you told them) until the deal is signed

  • No news is better than nothing

o   Keeping in contact with a candidate, hiring manager, recruiter, company, etc is very important, even if you haven’t heard anything, let them know that, let them know you are still working on it

Again, lack of communication isn’t always the norm, but it does happen.  Let’s admit, this is not our first rodeo, it’s easy to get caught up in the everyday, but take a second and think about how you are portraying your interest, your company, your organization.  Think about that time you didn’t have time to get back with someone or you forgot to respond, which resulted in the loss of a great opportunity.  Even though we are well past ringing in the new year, make your resolution to be a great communicator and watch your business grow!

A Diamond in the Rough


If you were born in the month of April then that means your birthstone is a diamond, and much like a diamond, you didn’t get to where you are overnight. Before diamonds take on their alluring and stunning configuration, diamonds succumb to intense pressure deep within the Earths mantle. The creation of a diamond is not only a beautiful process but also one of patience and courage. We’re willing to bet that you’re waiting for that one role within your organization to open up so that you can redeem those favors you’ve accumulated over the years. But why wait for five years, or even ten years when a better position is already available? Scientifically speaking, a diamond is a group of carbon-containing minerals is bunched together to create a marvelous gem. That’s how we would like to describe our process of getting you that role you’ve always wanted. We work together with an agreed upon goal – to get you into a diamond role.


Here’s a question you should think about – would you consider your position at your organization a diamond status? If you’re not the one giving out orders and responsibilities, then you’re probably the person receiving them. Whether you’re an employee looking for an upper-level executive position within the mortgage lending industry, or an employer looking for a highly qualified individual with the qualifications to manage large accounts and groups of people, MSA has the resources readily available to achieve your goals. To learn more about our resources, please read the “Why MSA” section and contact a representative today.

Are Time Machines Real


Do you ever just look at some of your co-workers and ponder over how they managed to get their job? Let’s be fair, we’re sure that they have some skills that your employer believed would be adequate for that position. Now think about that. Would you rather work with an organization filled with adequate and satisfactory individuals, or an organization with people that feel as passionate about your work as you do? Don’t you just wish you could just get into a time machine and go to a time when you had more options in front of you? For most of human history, humanity has been told that time machines are not possible – we put that theory to the test.

After analyzing the movie Back to The Future, we at MSA believed we had the perfect route to creating a time machine. Well, at least we thought we did. After a few failed tests and countless burned crash-test dummies, we gave up. At least people can’t say we didn’t try. Though we didn’t make an actual time-travelling DeLorean, we have the next, best thing.

At MSA, we can propel you to a brighter future within the mortgage banking industry. Whether you’re an employee looking to be a part of a dynamic group of individuals, or a lender seeking an Impact Player, MSA can help you find that perfect match – much like we have been doing for over 30 years. For more information about how MSA can improve your organization, please see the “Why MSA” section of our website.

Matchmaking in the Mortgage Industry


Ah, the Dating Game. From the hilarity of that funkadelic 60s show (yeah, like those relationships ever worked) to the beguiling number of online dating sites, and to current shows like the bachelor (yeah, like those relationships ever work); people are constantly looking for a better way to find their true love. Most times, though, the matchmaker is a friend, workmate or family member who plays cupid and sends you on the path to true love. Someone who really knows you, and knows the other person well enough to know a match could be made in Heaven.

The same is true when it comes to matching talent and resources with the right mortgage institutions. You can try playing the dating game, you can try to be on the bachelor or you can look for true love on job boards; but a successful match will come with the help of a true matchmaker who knows both the individual as well as the company.

MSA knows a little something about matchmaking. Whether you’re a prospective employee looking for your true work love, or an employer looking for just the right employee, MSA has been making meaningful and impactful matches for over 30 years. Contact an MSA representative today and find your perfect match to make love bloom.