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When a recent seminar hosted by Power Financial Credit Union for first-time home buyers produced a standing-room only crowd, the $479 million CU knew it might be time to reconsider its once-a-quarter education sessions. The Pembroke Pines, Fla.-based credit union has seen a marked increase in the number of members and potential members attending its free community outreach financial seminars. So much so that Power Financial will host either an in-person seminar or Webinar each month, said Brian Warfel, executive vice president of sales and service at the credit union. “Now more than ever, people are looking for intermediaries and advocates. They’re looking for someone they can trust,” Warfel said. Nearly 50 people showed up for Power Financial’s home buying seminar in June and 20 attendees tuned in for the accompanying Webinar, Warfel said. The credit union typically attracts approximately 20 people to its gatherings. To be sure it is reaching both ends of the South Florida market, Power Financial will host the seminars at its headquarters in Pembroke Pines and in Florida City, which is near Key West. And, the crowds are usually made up of half members and half nonmembers from all demographics, Warfel said. Free Webinars are available to those who may be too busy to attend the in-person events. At press time, the credit union, Power Investment Services and CUSO Financial Services LP were gearing up for an investment 101 session on everything from learning the basics about stocks and bonds, advantages of investing and the benefits of asset allocations. Mark Loterstein, corporate counsel at North American Title Co., oversaw the first-time home buyers’ session. The questions ran the gamut from how to qualify for the economic stimulus package’s $8,000 home tax credit to investing in foreclosed properties. One attendee, a mother of a 19-year-old daughter, wondered if co-signing on a home loan would hurt her child’s chances of qualifying for the house credit. Others asked about the differences between a foreclosure and a short sale. “I found that they asked better questions than some of the Realtors,” Loterstein said of the session’s participants. Even though recent national figures showed that new home construction sales were up, Florida’s housing market is among the bleakest in the nation. Loterstein said new construction was down 5% in the Sunshine State. Ninety percent of North American Title’s business in Florida is foreclosures, and “short sales are very popular” given that home prices have come down significantly. Warfel said deciding on which topics to cover comes from watching what’s going in the political arena and from feedback at town hall meetings that he and Power Financial President/CEO Allan Prindle attend. –[email protected]

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