Ella Gets Her Red Belt!

Watch out future boyfriends – our kid has mad ninja skills!



The Daddy – Daughter Rose Bowl

Recently my Dad, Mark Aalto, surprised me with something that means so much to me and always will: he took me on a trip. When my Dad took me on this trip it reminded me of the gift we have – love and time to spend with each other. He surprised me with tickets to the Rose Bowl on Christmas morning. On New Year’s Eve we arrived at the LAX, got a taxi, and then drove to our hotel on Aviation Blvd. On the next day we called a taxi and asked for it to take us to the Rose Bowl. We were dropped off about 7 miles away from it because of The Rose Parade barricades. This gave my Dad and me about 7 miles of time together. Walking. To the Rose Bowl.

We heard that some of our close friends were also going to the game, so we went on a treasure hunt looking for them in a big unknown place, going through mazes of Florida St. fans and Oregon fans. We finally found them and pulled ourselves together before the game, getting refreshments, playing some catch with our friend’s football, and massaging our sore feet. By the time we started to walk to the game I was about ready to explode!

We said goodbye to our friends at the gates of the huge football field. Dad and I got some cool lanyards which held our tickets, and then went into the most impressive football field I have ever seen. We sat down in seats 112 and 111 in row 14 A. We took pictures and videos and watched as the Florida St. fans in front of us showed their GREAT support for the Ducks. I was texting my friends throughout the game to keep them updated and I’m not kidding when I say that every time I put my head down it seemed that the Ducks got a touchdown. It was warm when we got to the game, but by the time the game was done; well let’s just say that we were both shivering and completely lost in the golf cart trails. Eventually we found our way back to our friend’s car, then showed up and drove us back to our hotel.

I loved the time that I got to spend with my dad and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, even though we did get sick on the trip. It was the best experience I could ask for. My Dad took me to my first football game and guess what? WE WON!

– Gabriella Aalto, Age 12

mark and ella2     mark and ella3

mark and ella

Goodbye 2014 – Hello 2015!

We are half way through January today, and I wanted to share the letter I sent out in December as a little reminder of the fire that most of us have at the beginning of the new year but quickly can fade out. Remember – Stick with your goals, work hard, and be true to yourself!

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life”

– Muhammad Ali

The holidays always seem to bring out a lot reflective thoughts both personally and professionally. As I think back over this past year, one word can sum it all up – Change.

As you know, earlier this year I made a decision to change companies and open up my own branch. This decision wasn’t made lightly, and came with more challenge than I prepared for. I lost a few relationships with referral sources, several clients, and a lot of quality time with my family. These lost relationships were people I genuinely cared for, and the time I lost with my wife JJ and daughter Ella over the summer months is time that can’t be replaced. However in the midst of all of this loss, I have found myself drowning in blessings. The ability to do what I love most – truly help people and the flexibility to problem solve, is at my fingertips every day. I have met new people that truly committed themselves to our team. The loyalty, unconditional love and understanding I’ve received from my family and friends has been the solid ground that I can stand on and last but not least, the team or “work family” that has encircled me is one of a kind.

I have found no matter how painful, scary, or uncomfortable I have been this last year navigating this new world I am confident – isn’t that a weird place to be? It seems like a contradiction, but this is the time for me to use any pain and fear as fuel and a reminder to continually better myself as a man and leader. I have embraced the change and the challenge and know whole heartedly – I will not fail.

It is truly my hope that if you find yourself standing at a fork in the road personally or professionally you will have the courage to embrace the change and go after what you want. 2015 is around the corner and I want to echo the words of Robin Sharma and hope that they find you in the perfect time. “Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.”

Have a wonderful holiday season, and thanks for reading.


It’s tough to see your team lose but it’s been a great ride this year.  Taking my daughter to the Rose Bowl is something she and I will never forget.

Ohio State played a great game – they deserved the win.

FHA Mortgage Insurance Set to Change – For the Better!!

There isn’t an actual date for implementation but FHA will be reducing the mortgage insurance premium by 37%.  This is great news for buyers.  Ask me for details!

Fannie Mae Brings the Sexy Back

With apologies to Justin Timberlake, Fannie Mae has brought the sexy back – just in time for 2015.

Fannie Mae announced that it will once again offer 97% conventional loans as of December 13, 2014.  Bear in mind there will be a delay between the official announcement and implementation as lenders and vendors work out the details.

In any case, it’s great news for our customers!

To Be Thankful

To be thankful is to have perspective.  Although 2014 is not yet completely in the books, I want to take this moment to thank a few people.  To my wife, for always bringing out the best in everyone around her and for believing in me.  To my daughter, for helping me with my “why” and for reminding me that we are never too old to have fun.  To my team, for constantly inspiring me and for turning a few random inspirations into amazing results.  To my friends, thanks for your laughter and company.  To my business partners, thank you for giving our team the opportunity to serve you and your clients.

Happy Thanksgiving.