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<p>PHOENIX – Desert Schools FCU hit a mortgage lending growth streak in 2001. The credit union is optimistic that trend will continue this year through its use of a unique online program. Desert Schools is offering HomePower in partnership with CU Realty, an online real estate service provider that hooks members up with a select list of about 50 real estate agents representing some of the largest brokers in Maricopa County, which is the geographic area Desert Schools serves. Among the brokers are Century 21, Re/Max and Prudential. Accessed through Desert School’s Web site – www.desertschools.org -HomePower offers members who are selling or purchasing a home several benefits. Among them are: cash back of up to 1% of the home’s sale price when buying or selling; access to select licensed real estate agents for buying and selling assistance; a search program for homes, including home addresses, using the same Multiple Listing Service available to real estate agents; free market analysis information; information on contractors for remodeling projects; transaction management services for every stage of the sales process. The “Buy” process begins with a home search. A member selects the criteria to search by such as location, price, type of home, amenities, and neighborhood. HomePower provides the actual addresses as well as photos and home information. That way the member can drive by the home on their own to see if it suits them. The “Sell” process starts with tools members can use to determine their home’s value. It also allows them to get comparable prices. Later in the third quarter, HomePower will also feature online application and financing functionality, including applying for and funding a mortgage loan, as well as the ability to acquire homeowners insurance. Desert Schools will be able to add new homes and new home community information to the database, so members can search, spec and building their homes online. Brad Loebbaka, senior director of marketing and business development for Desert Schools said HomePower is meant to used for one-stop financing. The credit union did a soft opening of the product last month. At press time, Loebbaka said there were about 300 registered users of HomePower. Robin O’Rorke, vice president of lending for Desert Schools is confident HomePower will ignite the growth of the CU’s mortgage portfolio. “It will revolutionize the way our members shop for and sell their homes,” he said. “Members looking for homes typically spend countless hours searching for the perfect home and working with real estate agents who represent the seller, not the buyer. They’re looking out for the seller’s interests. With HomePower, the member can search for a home in the comfort of their own surroundings and search the same multiple listing that realtors look at.” Last year, Desert Schools had $352 million in real estate loans outstanding – an increase of 115% for the same period in 2000. That growth put Desert Schools, which has more than $1.5 billion in assets and 227,000 members, in the number three slot among large credit unions, according to Callahan & Associates. O’Rorke described HomePower as “a work in progress” and said the value-added product was part of Desert Schools recommitment to mortgage lending. Last year, Desert Schools decided to make a concerted effort to go after mortgage loans, realizing that many of its members were going to other lenders for mortgages. The credit union also saw that mortgage loans are higher quality loans than auto loans-which in the past made up a sizeable percentage of the CU’s total loan portfolio-because they stay on the books longer. As part of its new mortgage strategy, Desert Schools also created a commission-based mortgage loan officer position and began using Fannie Mae’s automated underwriting product. Desert Schools’ efforts seem to be paying off – the CU’s total real estate portfolio is currently $350 million, up 155% from 2000. It comprises 35% of its entire loan portfolio. As of Dec. 31, 2001, first mortgages serviced were $100 million, and the credit union sold 833 25- and 30-year loans with principal balance of $95 million in 2001. -</p> <p>[email protected]</p>

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