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Early struggles fuel home loan officer's passion

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LaNell Long, a loan officer at Great Plains Bank, was 2018 Affiliate of the Year for the Oklahoma City Metro Association of Realtors, and is Affiliate Council chairman for 2019. [DOUG HOKE/THE OKLAHOMAN]
LaNell Long, a loan officer at Great Plains Bank, was 2018 Affiliate of the Year for the Oklahoma City Metro Association of Realtors, and is Affiliate Council chairman for 2019. [DOUG HOKE/THE OKLAHOMAN]

It came into focus for LaNell Long one morning about two years ago during an early morning treadmill session — she was thinking about her career.

After more than 20 years as a real estate investor, she had become a loan officer. Both tapped her passion and drive.

“ ‘Wow, why do I love this? Why am I so good at this?' And then I started thinking about it, started counting all the places I’d lived,” she recalled.

Fourteen. By her count, she lived in 14 different places within five miles of Capitol Hill High School by the time she graduated. Her family also was homeless twice.

“That was something I was always ashamed of, and I was always trying to hide it,” Long said. “I was embarrassed. You don’t want people knowing you live in a one-room efficiency, over-the-garage apartment, and you don’t know when you’re going to come home and find you’re moving again.”

Her experience fuels the passion she has for helping people find the perfect home. Her drive led the Oklahoma City Metro Association of Realtors to name her Affiliate of the Year at last December's annual banquet and Affiliate Council chairman for 2019, putting her in charge of a part of its membership that includes everyone from bankers to home inspectors to insurance agents.

The award came as a surprise and a huge honor.

“I like to think it’s because I’m willing to show up and work,” she said. “I’m there to be a team player, set aside my personal gains for the greater good.”

Long, 47, spent about 20 years in property investment, buying, renovating and renting homes to own. Then, in 2015, she took on a new role as a mortgage loan officer for Great Plains Bank, running the branch at 305 W Memorial Road, Suite A1.

“What I’m doing now is a natural progression from growing up the way I did, doing my real estate career and the way it went,” she said. “Now I have an opportunity to help people on a much larger scale. When I say appreciate and respect the process, I mean it.”

'Used it as my fuel'

Long was winding down her investment career in 2015 when a longtime friend invited her out for lunch and asked her pointblank, “LaNell, have you ever thought of doing what I do?”

Her friend was a mortgage loan officer. Long remembered looking at her friend and replying, “Home loans? Augh.”

“I always thought you’d be good at this,” her friend persisted, “and now I think you’re ready.”

So Long did look into it and liked what she saw.

“I could do that,” she remembered thinking at the time. “I’ve been putting deals together for a long time.”

Facilitating homeownership, she said, is her passion.

“I still think it’s part of the American dream, and homeownership is an important part of strong families. It’s not necessarily the only part or even the most important part, but it plays a huge role,” she said.

Long said she also understands what a nerve-wracking experience buying a home can be.

“I tell everybody, ‘Look, I’m going to be your BFF for the next 30 to 45 days,’ ” she said. “I do this every day, but people don’t buy homes every day. They live in them, and by the time they’re ready to buy another one, it’s a whole different process.”

Long graduated from Southern Nazarene University with a bachelor’s degree in business, and she’s working on her master’s in business administration. Her son, Aubrey, 26, lives in Oklahoma City, and her daughter, 24, lives in Manhattan, New York.

She said that morning more than two years ago is an important point in her life.

“In that moment," she said, "I realized the thing that shamed and embarrassed me and caused me so much distress and chaos, I took it and used it as my fuel.”

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