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Livingstone at Home on Air

Cabin John volunteer firefighter co-hosts radio show on home finance.

Mark Livingstone is a man who wears many hats: volunteer fireman, president of his own mortgage company, and a committed church member and philanthropist. For his latest endeavor, Livingstone isn’t donning a hat at all — he is putting on a set of headphones and stepping up to the microphone as the host of his own radio show. “Right at Home” is a call-in show intended to give guidance and counsel to people attempting to navigate their way through the murky world of home finance, according to Livingstone. The one-hour show airs at 10 a.m. on Sunday mornings on WMAL-ABC AM 630 radio.

“So many people have gotten into the mortgage industry the last few years because it’s been so hot,” said Livingstone. “What is sad is that a lot of these unscrupulous mortgage companies get people into these loans that people aren’t prepared for and before they know it they are upside-down on their mortgages.”

WHEN THE red ‘on-air’ light flicked off in the corner of the WMAL studio room last Sunday morning Livingstone had just concluded the second edition of the new show, and spirits were high.

Though their first episode benefited from a taped interview with Governor Robert Ehrlich, it was light on calls from listeners. The second episode featured a significantly higher level of calls and Livingstone saw that that as a good sign for the fledgling show.

“Excellent.” said Rick Fowler, the show’s announcer. “A home run.”

Livingstone has been a volunteer member of the Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department since 2002 and serves as its treasurer as well. “I’ve always felt a passion for volunteering and giving back to the community,” Livingstone said.

After he graduated from college Livingstone operated his own lawn care service before getting into the mortgage industry. He worked for five different institutions in ten years before starting his own company, Cornerstone First Financial, LLC, out of the basement of his home in 2001. “I just took the best parts about each of those places and put them into my own vision of how a mortgage company should work,” he said.

One of Livingstone’s first customers after he established Cornerstone was Jennifer Murawski. She was so impressed with what he was able to do for her that she convinced him to hire her as his personal assistant. Murawski is now the Vice President of Cornerstone and Livingstone’s co-host of “Right at Home.”

“I really enjoy helping people reach a level of financial stability. I remember the first time I helped someone save $700 a month I just felt so good. That’s money that people can use to get braces for their kids, get a relative out of jail, put their kids through college or start their own business,” said Murawski.

LIVINGSTONE’S COMPANY and staff have grown from a one-person business operating out of his basement to a company with a staff of 15 and an office on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, D.C. In those four years Livingstone estimates that among the many loans he has helped to broker for his customers, two dozen have gone to the members of the Cabin John Volunteer Fire Department.

Livingstone is a devout Christian and a member of the McLean Bible Church. In addition to being a Sunday regular there, he also chairs what he calls an entrepreneurial ministry at the church, which once a month provides a forum for church members to give and to get financial and business-related advice.

In 2005 Livingstone began doing radio promotions for his company on the Christian-oriented WAVA 105.1FM. “Radio exposure is everything,” said Livingstone. He soon began doing the same promotions on WMAL and quickly saw the potential for his own radio show, and approached producers with his idea for a show that would provide advice in all matters related to home finance. Over the next few months Livingstone and Murawski cut multiple demos for the show and signed a contract at ABC Radio’s corporate headquarters in New York City. “This is the real deal,” said Livingstone.

“Right at Home” does not directly promote Livingstone’s company, although advertisements for Cornerstone do air during breaksl and if callers inquire about his services Livingstone is happy to direct them to his Web site as an initial point of contact, as happened with one caller two Sundays ago.

THE FOCUS OF the on-air discussion on Sunday, however, was the current trend in interest rates and the boom in condominium development in the D.C. area. Their guest was Steve Etminani, a developer in the D.C. area. Livingstone and Murawski also fielded phone calls from concerned homeowners with questions about their loan programs.

“A lot of these [mortgage companies] don’t educate their borrowers,” Murawski said on-air on Sunday. Off-air she continued, “I’m tired of people defending [these companies]. … A lot of people are losing their homes and going into foreclosure now because of it.”

According to Livingstone, the contract that he signed with ABC Radio ordered a run of 52 episodes — every Sunday morning through October 2007.

Just two weeks in the show is going well, according to Fowler. “It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s just been two weeks, but they’re doing a good job.”

Dave Kimber, the show's engineer and producer, agreed. “It seems to be going well. Sometimes people are nervous when they get on-air, but they don’t have that problem.”