“It’s no secret that the real estate market is booming,” says Kimberly Watson, SouthStar Bank’s senior vice president and branch executive. “But it’s strong relationships that will set you apart from the herd. I will try to give people my ‘best friend advice.’”

Watson works alongside Jesica Garza, assistant vice president of lending, to provide funding for both conventional and unconventional mortgages across the greater Austin area. Both Garza and Watson became interested in the lending and real estate industries from an early age thanks to family and friends who were involved in banking and construction. Through their experiences as bank tellers, lenders and now vice presidents, they’ve become accustomed to the complexities of mortgage underwriting, particularly in today’s market.

Specializing in construction, homes on acreage, portfolio loans and much more, SouthStar Bank is your go-to financial partner in real estate.

Through decades of experience and expertise, the SouthStar Bank team shares their tips for finding the best lender through products, transparency and processes.


Just like not all borrowers are the same, there are a variety of mortgage options available. Knowing what lenders offer or consulting a lender that offers a broad range of products will save realtors and their clients from jumping from one lender to another.

Portfolio loans are a big piece of this puzzle because they allow for greater flexibility to evaluate the borrower’s full picture. If your client doesn’t quite meet the strict criteria, all is not lost. It’s good to have a lender who can easily transition from one loan type to the other, including construction and lot loans.

“SouthStar Bank offers traditional mortgage products, but in addition, we specialize in unique borrowers and unique properties,” Watson says. “Even if a client doesn’t quite fit a secondary market loan, SouthStar Bank provides in-house portfolio loans to keep the deal from falling through. I’m always trying to figure out how to say yes to that loan, and that requires us to get creative and think outside of the box. That’s what makes us successful.”

“We work with borrowers across every stage of life, from buying their first home to building a retirement getaway,” Garza says. “With the option of portfolio lending, SouthStar Bank offers greater flexibility to serve a broad range of clients including those who are self-employed, retired or recovering from blemished credit.” Garza adds, “The answer may not always fit perfectly in the box, but we work to get the deal done.”

From unique properties such as homes on acreage or non-warrantable condos, to borrower hurdles such as self-employment or blemished credit, SouthStar Bank offers flexible, common-sense loan solutions. And with new homes being built at a record pace, SouthStar Bank is proud to offer lot loans and construction to permanent financing with a one-time close.


Everyone that’s a part of the deal wants to make it work, but that doesn’t mean it will happen 100 percent of the time. Having a lender who can reliably tell you quickly and directly “yes” or “no” can save everyone time and energy.

SouthStar Bank’s realtor partners can always expect open communication and responsive service. “Over the years I’ve learned that sugar coating things doesn’t help anyone, which is why I’m always completely transparent with our partners,” Garza says. “Our partnerships have turned into long-lasting relationships because of our honesty and transparency. We also offer so many types of mortgage services and products that our realtor partners come back regularly for assistance.”

Customers enjoy working with SouthStar Bank because of their personal and attentive service. “Accountability is a big thing, and that’s why our customers choose us,” Watson says. “Our customers can walk in our front door and get us on the phone at any point. Our personal relationship brings them in initially, but we have great people and processes, and that’s why they stay.”


From start to finish, clients are looking for a seamless process. Look for a lender who collects information early and up front.

While many clients come to SouthStar bank initially because of their wealth of products and open communication, SouthStar Bank’s streamlined processes are one of the many reasons they return. With a competitive real estate market and few available homes, SouthStar Bank has seen many borrowers ready to consider building in order to meet their desired footprint. SouthStar Bank not only offers financing for lot and land loans, but they also have a streamlined construction draw process favorable to many builders in the area.

“Due to the recent refinance boom and to changes in homeowners’ finances and lifestyles as a result of the pandemic, we’re seeing a big shift in the real estate industry,” Garza says. “People are choosing to stay put, or they are looking for a specific property that meets all of their home and work needs. Whether we are able to help homeowners better navigate a competitive offer situation or build their dream home, we are prepared to educate buyers throughout the process.”

Celebrating 100 years in business, SouthStar Bank specializes in residential mortgage, real estate and construction lending, operating 15 full-service branches across the Central Texas region. Since opening in 1920, the Bank has maintained a consistent focus on community values and personal relationships coupled with flexible, common-sense lending.

With six Austin-area locations including Bee Cave, Georgetown, Leander, Round Rock, Steiner Ranch and Southwest Austin near Dripping Springs, the SouthStar Bank lending team offers broad expertise to assist borrowers. Lenders leverage this vast experience and combine it with a passion for service to meet the array of client needs and financial goals.

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