Firstplus Financial Group Inc., a fast-growing home-improvement lender, said it plans to offer loans through kiosks in hardware stores.
Firstplus is teaming with Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Outlets, a North Carolina-based chain of over 400 home-supply stores. Over 176 million customers go through Lowe's stores annually, a spokeswoman for the company said.
Projected origination volume was not disclosed.
Firstplus specializes in a controversial loan that allows homeowners to take out a second mortgage for more than the equity in their homes. Borrowers use the extra cash to make home improvements or consolidate debts.
Placing home loan kiosks in a hardware store is an untested idea but "makes sense," said David Toung, an analyst with Argus Research Inc., New York.
"It's the same as walking into a used-car dealer and having them finance as you buy," Mr. Toung said. "The people who walk into Lowe's have made the decision to improve their homes. If they are already in that frame of mind, it makes sense to provide them with the paperwork."
But getting homeowners to finance loans without sitting down with a loan officer has its problems, said Bruce Brosky, vice president of marketing for EMB Mortgage, Costa Mesa, Calif. The company originates loans through computer terminals.
"The biggest hurdle is educating the consumer" to accept this type of loan origination, said Mr. Brosky. "People aren't used to it ... but once you get over that, there's no stopping you."
Whether homeowners will go for the concept remains to be seen, said Jeffrey Bauman, an analyst with Smith Barney Inc., New York. But the move is consistent with Firstplus' aggressive strategy. "It's another marketing avenue. ... They're really pushing the product," he said.
Firstplus has seen phenomenal growth in the past year, partially as a result of several small acquisitions. The company has also launched a nationwide television advertising campaign and sponsored several race cars.
As part of the Lowe's partnership, the home-supply store will also join Firstplus in sponsoring two Indianapolis 500 race cars.