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August 31, 2022   •   News  

Three SAFE Mortgage Officers Up for Top Building Industry Award

Folsom, Calif. (Aug. 31, 2022) – SAFE Credit Union’s real estate team is taking a big swing at this year’s North State Building Industry Association’s awards recognizing industry partners and professionals Friday, Sept. 9.

Three out of the four finalists for the “Mortgage Professional of the Year” award are SAFE loan experts. They are senior mortgage officers Damian Azimi, Brandi Schaefer, and Ryan Smith.

“For one SAFE mortgage officer on our team to be recognized is an honor in and of itself,” says SAFE Senior Vice President of Real Estate and Consumer Lending Tiffani Vargas. “But to have three so regarded is extraordinary. We are proud and thankful to the North State Building Industry Association for noting the unparalleled service to the building community demonstrated by Brandi, Damian and Ryan.”

The mortgage officers are part of a team at SAFE that works with several new-home builders in the Sacramento area to provide preferred lender services for homebuyers in new housing communities.

KCRA 3 anchor Mike Cherry is slated to emcee the awards dinner at 7 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency, 1209 L St. in Sacramento. More than 400 guests in the industry are expected to attend.

If she wins, it will be Schaefer’s second time receiving the award. The SAFE senior mortgage officer, who has been with SAFE for 11 years and in the industry for 25, took home the association’s distinction in 2019.

SAFE Senior Mortgage Officer Brandi Schaefer

SAFE Senior Mortgage Officer Brandi Schaefer


Schaefer says she is thankful her work ethic has been noticed for a second time. But, says she is most grateful to be able to team up with her building industry partners and help “homeowners’ dreams come true.” Schaefer grew up in the industry -- her parents built custom homes in Placer County. She says SAFE offers a unique take on the industry. “Because SAFE is a portfolio lender, we can offer products and services that best serve the buyers along with the builders,” she says.

SAFE Senior Mortgage Officer Damian Azimi

SAFE Senior Mortgage Officer Damian Azimi

Finalist Azimi has been with SAFE for five years and has 23 years of experience in the mortgage and real estate industry. He says he is thankful to the association and the building industry for giving he and his colleagues “the opportunity to shine.” He adds that the recognition shows SAFE mortgage officers’ “commitment to provide the best service possible to builders and their buyers.”

Smith, who has been with SAFE for eight years and has 32 years in the mortgage industry, says being named a finalist “makes me proud that all of that hard work has paid off.” Smith, a Placer County resident, earned his bachelor’s degree in business from CSU Sacramento and is a member of the Placer County Association of Realtors.

SAFE Senior Mortgage Officer Ryan Smith

SAFE Senior Mortgage Officer Ryan Smith

Criteria for the award includes demonstrating outstanding outreach efforts with home builders, home buyers and community members, says Angela Tsukiji, vice president of member services for the North State Building Industry Association. Finalists also had to prove buyer satisfaction, and excellent builder communication and industry involvement.

Third-party judges chose finalists from the pool of nominees through a final interview process, Tsukiji says.

Awards in 50 categories will be presented at the association’s 46th annual Major Achievements in Marketing Excellence gala. Awards to be presented range from “Escrow Professional of the Year” to “Sales professional of the Year,” as well as many architectural and community planning awards.

SAFE Credit Union Senior Manager for Real Estate Sales Jason Cruce says the accolades for the three finalists on his mortgage team demonstrate “that our SAFE mortgage officers are well respected in the industry, as well as in our community.” Cruce also won the mortgage award in 2018. 

The North State Building Industry Association, under the umbrella of the National Association of Home Builders, is the voice of the housing industry in the Sacramento region. The nonprofit trade association represents more than 530 companies, including builders, developers, subcontractors, suppliers, and related professionals dedicated to the advancement of the homebuilding industry. It was founded in 1944.

To speak with one of the finalists or for further media information, contact SAFE Public Relations and Communications Specialist Robyn Eifertsen at [email protected] or (916) 792-1284.

For more information about the awards and the North State Building Industry Association, contact their vice president of member services Angela Tsukiji at [email protected] or (916) 870-4958.

About SAFE

SAFE Credit Union has made members an integral part of its vision since 1940. Over the years the credit union has kept the focus on what really matters, putting members first, a formula that has seen SAFE grow into a leading financial institution in Northern California with $4.5 billion in assets and about 242,000 members. SAFE crafts every cutting-edge product and sterling service with members’ needs foremost in mind. In addition to banking services conveniently available through online, chat, mobile, or phone options, SAFE offers in-person services for members and small businesses at service centers across the Greater Sacramento region. SAFE is a not-for-profit, state-chartered credit union with membership open to businesses and individuals living or working in Sacramento, Placer, Yolo, El Dorado, Sutter, Butte, Nevada, Solano, San Joaquin, Contra Costa, Yuba, Amador, and Alameda counties. Insured by NCUA.

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