HOUSTON, Texas – R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Credit unions still don’t get as much of it as they deserve when it comes to mortgage lending. Whether they’ve been burned in the past when credit unions were less experienced in the mortgage lending arena or whether they’re simply creatures of habit in referring business to other types of mortgage lenders, the real estate community doesn’t readily think of credit unions when they have a customer buying or selling a house. Sadly, the customer often doesn’t either. How do credit unions get real estate agents and credit union members to consider them their primary choice for mortgage financing? Some credit unions believe SWBC Mortgage Corporation’s “Our Home Advantage” program is the answer. “Our Home Advantage” is a network of real estate companies that agree to discount their fees to credit union members who are pre-qualified for mortgage financing. Members are matched with realtors according to geographic location. It works in much the same way as a preferred provider organization (PPO) network in the healthcare environment. Lynda Schultz, SWBC Mortgage VP/Loan Officer at Members Choice Credit Union in Houston explains how the program works. “Generally, a realtor’s commission is between 3 and 6 percent. Our members receive a 1 percent discount off the sale and/or purchase of a house through a realtor on the network. For example, if a member buys a $100,000 home, the realtor would forgive $1,000 in commissions at closing. If the member then buys a $200,000 home, the realtor would forgive another $2,000 commissions,” said Schultz. Susan Stewart, president and CEO of San Antonio-based SWBC Mortgage Corporation, says the program saves money for the member and allows them to keep their loan with a trusted financial institution. It also builds loan volume for the credit union. “One of the challenges for credit union mortgage loan origination is that credit unions generally have no active sales force. Their members may get pre-approved for a credit union mortgage loan, but the retail world directs them to other companies for financing. Realtors tend to think that credit union staff is slower and less sophisticated than other mortgage professionals and that they might not get the loan approved for the customer,” Stewart said. “What this program does is serve as a great equalizer,” continued Stewart. “You (the credit union) take charge. You select realtors you trust. And don’t beg them, because you have the relationship with the member. Teach the real estate community that you have a professional operation. Keep the business and the control.” Why would agents want to participate in the network? Agents have long given referrals, just not to credit unions. “With this program, they get qualified homebuyers without having to advertise for the business. A lot of work has already been done to ensure that the members are ready to act. They don’t mind giving up some of their commissions when financing has been approved and their time is not being wasted,” Stewart said. If a member thinks their realtor is not a good match, all they have to do is ask for another agent, according to Stewart. Stewart noted that small employee groups can market Our Home Advantage as an employee benefit. Another advantage of the program is that each person pre-approved for a mortgage loan is tracked through the homebuying process. The credit union has the ability to know where each person is in the process. “The credit union needs to know if they’re doing the job right. If you don’t know if it’s successful, it’s not,” she said. SWBC Mortgage Corporation’s loan origination and servicing options include a broad range of funding and administrative alternatives. The company will develop turnkey marketing plans, provide on-site loan officer resources and manage underwriting, funding and customer service functions for credit unions. SWBC currently has Our Home Advantage real estate networks throughout Texas and Kentucky and is expanding into other states. -

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