Call it a sign of the times. A Utah-based CUSO has partnered with a firm that specializes in managing and selling real estate owned by financial institutions to offer those services to other credit unions.
Mountain America Financial Services is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mountain America Credit Union, a federal credit union based in South Jordan, Utah, with $2.9 billion in assets and 354,000 members.
Under the partnership, MAFS will offer Green River Capital services through its CU Sources gateway where it already offers some REO management services, according to the CUSO’s website.
Gene Erickson, MAFS chief operating officer, explained that the CUSO began to consider bringing Green River to CUs after Mountain America gained experience in trying to manage and liquidate its own REO. As of the end of March, the CU was carrying 67 properties worth over $12.5 million on its books, according to its Call Report, and Erickson said the CUSO had come to understand that more credit unions were wrestling with REO than many realized.
"I just did a brief survey and totaled up more than 1,800 properties worth over $500 million," he said, "spread over between 100 and 150 CUs."
There is a widespread belief that while CUs in states hardest hit by the housing downturn were carrying significant REO, CUs outside those states were not thought to have much. But Erickson noted the economic downturn has been sufficiently sustained and widespread that credit unions all over the country were feeling the pain. He also stressed that this was true even though credit unions have traditionally been more cautious and thorough in their mortgage underwriting.
"If someone unexpectedly loses a job because of a company failure and can't find another, they could wind up in trouble and that is not something that fits into their previous credit history," he said.
REO is also more of a problem for CUs than many realize because of CUs' smaller scale. The likelihood is that a CU will not have enough staff to be able to detail employees to work at managing their residential properties, he said. They are not going to have the experience or the time, he added.
"Financial institutions are experiencing a large volume of properties that are foreclosing, and they don’t have the time or resources to properly manage them," said Erickson. "This new partnership allows us to take the hassle out of the process and allows institutions to effectively and efficiently move their REO assets off of their books."
Erickson described Green River Capital as a leader in what has become a burgeoning industry in helping financial institutions both manage and liquidate, at something close to a fair price, the REO they are currently holding. Green River has some of the nation's largest banks among its clients, and Erickson said it would not have been as interested in individual CUs as clients because of the difference in scale. But he said MAFS will act as an aggregator for Green River, bringing the company a sufficiently large volume of CU REO to make it economical.
Working with Green River will help credit unions address two broad areas of REO concern, Erickson explained. First, as clients of Green River, they will be able to know that their properties are being looked after in an organized, professional way and that no properties will fall through the cracks, he said.
"When a CU signs a property on with Green River, it can know that details like mowing the lawn, inspecting for storm damage, keeping the place secure are all being handled," Erickson said.
The second broad area of concern is the listing and sales process, beginning with a decision on when might be the right time to try to move REO property.
"Obviously, if you gave someone an assignment to liquidate a property portfolio without any real consideration for loss, they might do it in a week," Erickson, who is a Realtor, said. "But we know that credit unions want as fair a price as possible and Green River can help with that."
Green River maintains contacts with and works with Realtors around the country who specialize in helping financial institutions liquidate REO, Erickson explained. But he stressed the ultimate decision on whether to accept an offer on a property and at what price remains with the credit union, and he added that Green River could help a CU move through a decision about whether or not this time or this price might the time for a sale of any given property.
MAFS will get paid for the service, Erickson said, from a percentage it takes from the proceeds of the sale and then shares those proceeds with Green River.