ATLANTA – A Southeast regional credit union real estate network (CUREN) is still in its infant stages, but if things go as planned, the group will have a board in place by the end of the year. What is known so far is that the Southeast regional CUREN will include credit unions in a three-state area – Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. CUREN groups are already active in Southern and Northern California, the Mid-Atlantic area, Washington State, Texas, and Florida. Linda Hopkins, AVP of Mortgages for Lockheed Georgia Employees CU in Marietta was one of 14 credit union officials who attended an initial planning meeting for the CUREN earlier this month that was sponsored by United Guaranty Residential Insurance Company. She explained that the idea for forming the CUREN was germinated from informal meetings that were held once a quarter by credit unions in the Atlanta area to discuss and bounce ideas off one another about their respective credit unions mortgage lending products and promotions. "We all do mortgage lending differently, and the group was like a sounding board for us," she said, adding that the group had discussed the idea of forming a network for awhile, "but we didn't know how to get started." The group turned to Bob Dorsa, executive director of the American Credit Union Mortgage Association (ACUMA) and president of NACUSO, for assistance. "Credit unions have performed very well in the unprecedented refinance boom we've been in for the past two years, but once it ends, and it will end one day, it remains to be seen how we will do in the purchase-money market," said Dorsa. He said adding a CUREN chapter is an important step in expanding the mortgage lending business for CUs in the area. "All credit unions need to be thinking about better ways to offer mortgage products that are attractive to the young, new homeowners. Atlanta and the Southeast are right at the top when you think of the growing areas in the country," Dorsa added. The objectives of the Southeast regional CUREN will be to offer networking and educational opportunities to help credit unions expand their mortgage lending business. "Credit unions are accustomed to members bringing their mortgage business to their credit union. But when things become more difficult and times are bad, credit unions need to have networks and relationships in place with realtors, builders and others who can help bring in mortgage business," said Hopkins. The $525-million Lockheed Georgia employees CU has 2,417 loans worth $125,473.2 million in its mortgage portfolio. That excludes about 200 loans Hopkins said the credit union sold to Freddie Mac but which it retains the servicing on. Kendall Leverette, manager of the real estate department of MAX FCU, Montgomery, Ala. also attended the planning meeting in early June, said it's important for credit unions to network with one another and see what they're doing "so we can learn from each other," he said. Leverette said the group of credit unions that attended June's planning meeting expect to meet again in the next quarter to form policies and procedures. It will also elect a seven to nine member board. While other credit unions will eventually be invited to join the Southeast regional CUREN, Leverette said the board members will probably be chosen from among 14 attendees who were at the initial planning meeting. Even after the Southeast regional CUREN gets on its way, United Guaranty Residential Insurance Company plans to remain involved by providing education and networking contacts. [email protected]

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