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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Selling a home is difficult enough, but add to that the prospect of also buying a new home and the ordeal can be pretty hefty as any homeowner can attest to. Allegacy FCU’s new real estate services CUSO is making the job easier for the CU’s members, especially the lower income ones. Allegacy Realty, the wholly-owned CUSO of Allegacy FCU, was incorporated as a CUSO in 2002. Ray Crouse, managing director for the CUSO, explained that the credit union filed it as a real estate agency then but allowed it to remain dormant until this year to give it time to develop a business plan. Allegacy Realty opened for business Feb. 1. The CUSO is a full-service real estate agency and handles listings and home sales, as well as assists with home purchases. It eventually intends to offer brokerage services, something federal credit unions are allowed to do through CUSOs. The staff currently includes one broker, but by the end of the year Crouse expects to add six independent agents. Beyond that, the CUSO will add staff as needed based on the volume of business. Crouse said the CUSO was deliberately not set up as a mortgage CUSO since Allegacy FCU already has its own mortgage department, and “we don’t see the need to deliver that service under a CUSO, nor are we ready to offer mortgages for other credit unions.” The CUSO does refer members to Allegacy FCU for mortgages, but he emphasized that it cannot mandate where the members get their mortgage loans. “We want to reach out and serve the underserved segment of our membership,” Crouse said explaining the CUSO’s objective. “This CUSO allows us to do that, including serving the large Hispanic population in our area. There are a lot of folks who want to be homeowners, but they haven’t had the opportunity. “This is a key piece of the objective of Allegacy Realty, to reach out to the low-income and underserved market,” he adds. “Our corporate philosophy is to work with people in the low-income range, and we pay agents higher commissions as incentives not to ignore low-value homes. We want to make sure the agents extend the same service and courtesy to those members as they do towards our higher-income members.” Underscoring Allegacy Realty’s commitment to low-income consumers, the CUSO’s offices are in leased space in one of Allegacy FCU’s branches that coincidently also houses the CU’s Allegacy en Espanol facility. “It’s appropriate that they’re housed side-by-side in the same building,” says Cathy Pace, vice president of marketing for Allegacy. The $1.1 billion multi-SEG based Allegacy FCU has nearly 102,000 members. As a real estate agency, establishing relationships with realtors is important for Allegacy Realty. In fact, the first listing that was sold was done by another realtor. The CUSO also works with the Multiple Listing Service. While Allegacy Realty may be unique in the credit union industry in the services it provides, Crouse acknowledges “we’ll be small in our market, we’re not trying to be the biggest.” Because of the CUSO’s below market realty fees, he says it will be able to create a market uniqueness. Another feature of the CUSO that contributes to its uniqueness is the rebate it gives to clients both for purchase and sales transactions at closing – $600 for every $100,000 of listing price. Crouse points out that, “It’s a convenience to our members that they can complete the entire home buying and selling process with us. It’s rare that the same company buys and sells the house.” Though only a little more than a month old at press time, Allegacy Realty has already done three purchase transactions and sold two homes, all of which were for Allegacy FCU members. In addition, the CUSO has five listings that are active. While the average purchase and sales price of homes in the area is $225,000, the average price of homes the CUSO has handled so far is about $125,000. Crouse says that demonstrates the CUSO’s commitment to serving low-income consumers. -

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