There's no McDonald's of mortgage lending yet.

At least four home lending franchises were started last year and seem to be expanding, but today's weak lending market is making for very slow growth.

One of new outfits is Amcor Network, based in Melville, N.Y. Its chief executive, David A. Olchek, says interest from brokers looking to expand volume has been strong. But he has not signed up as many lenders to the franchise as originally projected, again because of the weak market that has put many potential customers out of business.

Amcor has four branches, all on Long Island. Mr. Olchek expects a total of 10 by February.

He said Amcor was using the market downturn as a selling point for its network. The pitch: Mortgage brokers need all the help they can get.

Despite the optimism, mortgage brokers are finding it harder to afford the entrance fees that franchises demand - $5,000 in Amcor's case.

"We are certainly in a Catch-22 when it comes to a market like this," he said.

MortgageAccess, the newest franchise-like venture, is sponsored by Republic Security Bank, West Palm Beach, Fla. It is also trying to take advantage of today's market, said Skip McDonough, senior vice president.

MortgageAccess seeks to attract top loan originators, who "are going to make a good living no matter what the market is" by offering them a lending operation of their own.

So far MortgageAccess has just one franchise, in Boca Raton, Fla. He said two more would sign on shortly.

Donald Henig, president of Island Mortgage Network Inc., operator of Mortgage Tech Group, a franchiser, said the weak market was slowing the pace of new sign-ups.

Mortgage Tech Group is now offering a 50% discount on its $10,000 entrance fee. Also, new franchises will have to pay only $1,000 of the $5,000 fee up-front.

The network currently has 13 members. Mr. Henig expects seven more by February.

He said the interest in the program is there, but the money to pay for entry isn't.

"I think people are living hand to mouth in our industry," he said.

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