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LAS VEGAS — Bob Dorsa, CEO of the American Credit Union Mortgage Association. recognized the irony of ACUMA holding its annual conference in a city with the nation’s highest percentage of homes in foreclosure. But he also saw it as an excellent setting for the association’s central message: Credit unions can and should and even must become a competitive mortgage lenders for their members.“The big news so far in CU mortgages is our growth in market share during this rush to refinance,” Dorsa said prior to the conferences opening reception. “Now the challenge we face is to keep that growth going as we move from mostly refinancing into more mortgages for new purchasers.”Dorsa referred to the mortgage industry’s second-quarter data that indicated credit unions, which had kept to roughly 2% of the nation’s overall market for mortgage loans, had increased their share to almost 6%.“Credit unions are really poised to move into mortgages in a more sustained way, provided they can take advantage of their opportunities,” he said. “In just this year, we have gone from 2% of the mortgage market to just under 6%. That’s huge, that’s just huge. Now if we can keep it going.”But even as ACUMA focused on trying to help credit unions get a bigger share of the mortgage market, Dorsa also admitted this hurdle represented only a small part of the overall challenge facing the nation’s entire mortgage and housing market.As of August in Las Vegas, one out of every 53 homes was in some stage of foreclosure, according to RealtyTrac, a leading foreclosure tracking firm. Meanwhile, according to the latest numbers from the Federal Home Finance Agency, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ended the second quarter with 1.3 million homes in their portfolios more than 60 days delinquent, an increase of 21% over the first quarter.“There is no doubt that this is a struggling market, a market that still faces a lot of challenges,” Dorsa said. “But we believe that eventually the market for mortgage loans will return to a greater degree of health, and when that happens, credit unions need to be there.”According to Dorsa and other mortgage executives at the meeting, about 3,000 credit unions offer mortgage loans, but most of them only occasionally or in very small numbers. Only between sixty and seventy write a significant volume of mortgages each year, but Dorsa said he was excited by signs that the numbers of credit unions getting serious about their mortgage programs is growing.Dorsa explained that the association puts a good deal of emphasis on raising credit unions’ profile among real estate agents. “Real estate agents have a lot of influence with buyers,” Dorsa explained. “The buyers want to have their loans approved, and the agents want the sales to close for their commissions,” Dorsa explained. “So when the agent recommends a certain mortgage provider, that can have a big impact.”The problem, Dorsa said, is that too few agents know credit unions even provide mortgages or that more of them have expanded their fields of membership to include whole communities.“Too many Realtors don’t know credit unions, and there are a lot of myths about credit unions,” Dorsa said. “They don’t realize about community charters or that credit unions are willing to put in the time and effort to make these mortgages,” he said. But he added that credit union’s focus on serving their members and attention to detail are gradually winning over more real estate professionals who are very concerned about closing their real estate deals without delays.“What credit unions have is a lot of trust among agents,” Dorsa said. “That is one thing this crisis has really changed, a lot of agents just don’t trust the banks any longer to bring their deals home.”John Reed, CEO at Maine Savings FCU and ACUMA chairman, agreed and urged more association members to get involved in the effort to educate Realtors. “We’re uniquely positioned to help move the nation out of this quagmire through our focus on the needs of consumers who are our members,” he told the roughly 180 attendees. “Anything you can give would be a big help.”Reed was seeking support for one of the ways ACUMA lobbies agents about credit unions: sending a team to the National Association of Realtors annual conference and exposition, this year in San Diego from Nov. 13-16. There with a truly enormous banner fluttering overhead, Dorsa and credit union volunteers seek to introduce realtors to using credit unions for their mortgage services, he explained.But this year, the association had more than just Realtors on the agenda, as ACUMA leaders spent part of the meeting soliciting members in attendance about the position the association needs to take on a legislative proposal that would extend the $8,000 federal new-home buyer tax credit.The tax credit expires at the end of November of this year.Reed told the attendees that the association’s board of directors will meet immediately after the conference closes to set a course forward on the issue.“The new-home buyer credit is extremely important for our members and for this housing market,” Reed said. “We will be talking to you over the course of the conference about what position the association should take on this legislation.”Dorsa looked over the audience as Reed spoke and smiled slightly. “We have built a strong foundation for credit unions to jump into mortgage lending,” he said. “Now, we only have to get to them to do it.” –[email protected]

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