Tiny CU Selected To Participate In Online Mortgage Program

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A tiny faith-based credit union is setting the standard for online mortgage lending, even though just a year ago, the $3.4-million CU didn't even offer mortgage loans.

South DeKalb Church FCU was chosen to be the first faith-based community financial institution to participate in CommunityBanksOnline, a web-based total mortgage origination service put together by Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp. After seeing the success of the program at SDCFCU, TBW is gearing up to roll out a product specifically tailored for credit unions, called CreditUnionsOnline.

"We wanted to fulfill a need for community banks and credit unions, where we saw a huge need for technology and compliance help in the mortgage process," said TBW's Darren Green. "We've already got several credit unions signed up, and they were willing to use CommunityBanksOnline in the interim while we put together the CreditUnionsOnline version."

TBW partnered with Freddie Mac to provide funding for the $25-million initiative that allowed SDCFCU to start making mortgage loans online, providing a platform that covers every aspect of the mortgage process from origination and underwriting to closing and funding.

It is slowly but surely making a difference in an area that's been plagued by predatory lenders, according to Bonnie Wilkinson, CEO of SDCFCU.

With the help of TBW and Freddie Mac, SDCFCU launched the "Catch The Dream: DeKalb" program, which includes a variety of homeownership seminars for would-be mortgage applicants as well as the actual mortgage program itself.

"This was a good opportunity for us. Because we're so small, we really weren't in a position to get into mortgages," Wilkinson told The Credit Union Journal. "This allowed us to actually move into the application process online. Our members view their options, apply and get their decision online. [TBW and Freddie Mac] ensured that our loan officers were properly trained to offer mortgages."

The program was launched in November, and the credit union has closed five loans and was preparing to make a bigger promotional push in the spring. "We love to do things like house hunting when the weather gets better," Wilkinson noted. "So we're expecting business to pick up soon."

The 8-year-old credit union is located in a local mall, so SDCFCU decided to tie its promotion to its location. "We are actually offering them the opportunity to shop at the mall on us for up to $200," she explained. "It gives them an incentive to check this out."

TBW, a wholesale mortgage lender, is offering the CBO/CUO package as a way to make its job easier, according to TBW's Darren Green.

"Freddie Mac is very committed to underserved markets, but many community development financial institutions are just getting started, and it's hard for them to get into mortgage lending with all the technology and expertise that's needed to do it right," Green suggested. "We're offering all the services and technology a credit union needs to offer mortgages online for free. By using our technology, it streamlines the whole process and saves us money on the back-end and solidifies the relationship."

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