Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union has an unusual way of celebrating when members finalize their mortgages with the credit union — by sponsoring a housewarming party for them.
Recently, the $1.3 billion institution held a party for an engaged couple who had just bought a home in Deerfield, N.H., Derek Knapp and Michelle Lipfert. They were joined by about 70 friends, family members and co-workers who celebrated along with them.
This was the fourth such event the Lowell, Mass.-based credit union has arranged for its mortgage borrowers.
“Derek and Michelle’s family and friends were very happy to share the experience of buying their first home,” said Jason Dubois, the mortgage loan origination manager at Jeanne D’Arc CU who helped the couple through the home-buying process.
Knapp said he and his partner were “shocked” when informed that the credit union was going to sponsor the party.
“Hosting these housewarming parties allows us to celebrate with them, and also thank them for letting us be a part of their home-buying journey,” said Mark S. Cochran, president and chief executive officer of Jeanne D’Arc CU.
Dubois told Credit Union Journal the idea for the housewarming party originally came from CEO Cochran, who had read about something similar in a magazine.
“We felt that it was a great way to help our members celebrate homeownership with their friends and families,” Dubois said, adding that the credit union has recorded “some additional [mortgage] transactions” as a result of its housewarming parties.
The credit union holds a housewarming party about once every four to six months, said Dubois, and it plans to continue the tradition.
“The cost of each party depends on the number of people attending, but typically ranges between $500 and $800,” he said.
But how do Jeanne D’Arc representatives pick which new borrowers will have their own party? It’s done democratically. “We choose randomly from our pool of first-time home buyers and reach out to them to see if they are interested,” Dubois explained.
‘Our lender didn’t do this for us’
Dubois is not sure if other credit unions have done something like this, but noted that on more than a few occasions guests at the parties have commented, “Our lender didn’t do this for us.”
“It’s something unique that we do and is greatly appreciated by those members who are chosen,” he added.
Some mortgage experts are impressed by what Jeanne D’Arc is doing.
Jack Baker, director of CDCU Mortgage Center, told CU Journal that he “loves” the idea of a housewarming party and does not believe he has ever seen a credit union sponsor a housewarming party before.
”This is a prime example of the very core of what community development credit unions are all about,” Baker said. “They invest in their communities because they are their communities. This act exemplifies the very spirit of the community development movement.”
Another credit union mortgage expert, J. Brian Pouch, president of CU Home Mortgage Solutions, said he has not heard of any other credit unions doing this.
“Credit unions have unique and personal bonds with their members and this is just another example,” Pouch said. “It’s a smart business development opportunity for the loan officer to get in front of friends and family and position themselves as a trusted resource. I am sure it makes a lasting impression.”