It sounds like good news, but those who spoke with Credit Union Times agreed: 2009 won't be a boom year, it just compares well to a terrible 2008.
Mortgage Center President/CEO Dave Toepp said his Southfield, Mich.-based CUSO is running true to trend, closing $104 million during the first three months of 2009, compared to only $55 million last year same period.
The year has produced a steady ramp-up of business, he said.
"It's refinances, thanks to the lower interest rates, and the good news is most of it isn't just refinancing loans we already have," he said.
Rather, those with good credit are refinancing away from mega lenders like Countrywide, Chase and Citibank.
"Frankly, I think credit unions are positioned as people you want to do business with in this day and age," he said. "For awhile, people saw mortgages as a generic thing; it didn't matter where it came from. Now, it's more important to know where your loans are because people have discovered they might need some service down the road."
Toepp said he's confident about his underwriting despite Michigan's poor economy, calling the quality "superb, which it has to be."
Thanks to 30-year fixed rates under 5%, nearly all of Mortgage Center's new business is sold on to the secondary market.
"Absent that ability, credit unions wouldn't want to make any mortgages, and those members would have to go somewhere else," he said.
Andrea Blais, president/CEO of Pomona, Calif.-based Community Mortgage Funding, said her CUSO closed $40 million worth of mortgages during first quarter 2009, compared to exactly half, $20 million, same period last year.
She said that while she expects the 100% first quarter production increase to annualize over the entire year, it's still a far cry from business as usual in Southern California.
"We're just seeing more people qualify now because of value drops," she said.
Blais' credit unions aren't keeping many new
mortgages on the books either, citing low rates as
Christmas came late to Pasadena, where the $3.2 billion Wescom Credit Union is reporting a 300% increase in first-quarter mortgages over fourth-quarter 2008.
Anna Mendez, senior vice president of lending there, also credited low rates for the brisk business, and reported that 90% of applications are refis.
"We are seeing members being much more realistic and informed about their current values up front, so we are experiencing less fall out due to insufficient values," she said.
State Employees' Credit Union, Raleigh, N.C., reported its first-quarter mortgage volume is up "quite a bit," though Senior Vice President of Mortgage Lending Spencer Scarboro didn't have exact numbers handy. SECU is going against the grain, however, closing mostly the credit union's popular two-year adjustable rate mortgage. "We make only a few fixed-rate mortgages," he said. "Members have been very satisfied with the two-year adjustable. It's about 90% of what we do."