CU Realty Services, Scottsdale, Ariz., says it helps CUs install a turnkey real estate program that provides assistance in finding a house, researching a neighborhood and connecting with an agent, while acting as an active lead channel when the member is ready for financing. The goal is to make credit unions the "first point of contact" with members looking to buy a home.
Tina Powers, chief operating officer, says the CUSO has signed 23 new CUs so far in 2013, representing 2.5 million members.
The boom in business mostly is due to the drying up of refinance mortgages, Powers explained. She said some credit unions saw their pipeline go away "very quickly" as interest rates began to rise. "They had projections that dried up, and needed a way to replace those loans with purchase loans," she says.
CU Realty Services is tapping technology to change the purchase process. The CUSO offers what it calls the CU Realty Home Advantage program, which allows credit unions to "take ownership."
"They can market it as their own product, while we help behind the scenes," she says.
For example, when a credit union signs with CU Realty Services, it sends in an implementation team. This includes people that work with various departments within the CU, including the mortgage department, business development, branch operations and marketing.
"Each department will be responsible for different aspects," she says. "Employees need to know what to say to someone who walks into the branch. They can use Home Advantage to bring in more members and more loans."
All of this does not mean Realtors are forgotten or bypassed, Powers noted. She says one aspect of what CU Realty Services does is to host training days, when Realtors are brought in to credit unions. "Training days are fun days," she says. "We want to get in front of as many member-facing employees as possible to show them how easy it is to talk about this program."
A homebuyer starts the process up to 18 months before close of the loan, Powers continued. If a credit union can reach members early, before they are even thinking about the loan, that increases the CU's opportunity to work with them. "The Realtor will always be a key component because people need help navigating," she says. "But the Internet has changed the way people shop, meaning the Realtor is not the only factor.
Despite the fact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's mortgage and mortgage servicing January 2014 deadlines are rapidly approaching, Powers says compliance is not a factor fueling CU Realty Services' growth.
"Most credit unions do not think it will affect them," she says, adding the CUSO is not involved in the processing side.
"We are trying to create a mindset change," she says.
"If the staff talks about the Home Advantage program, the credit union mortgage no longer will be the best kept secret. We ask credit unions and typically only 5% of members have their mortgage with the credit union, as opposed to 50% who have a mortgage somewhere. We show how credit unions can educate their members so they know the credit union is for everything home."