ITT Consumer Financial Corp. has expanded its wholesale mortgage lending operation in Maryland and Virginia, opening an office to work with the area's mortgage brokers.

The Virginia office will offer loans to households with less-than- perfect credit records.

ITT Consumer, which was put up for sale in September, said this expansion is an effort to add profitability to its financial operations and make it more attractive to prospective buyers.

"We committed to opening this office months ago," said Bob Meriweather, senior vice president and director of retail and wholesale operations.

Mortgage brokers were among the first to feel the pressure of rising interest rates, and much of the wholesale business dropped off as a result. But the market for nonconforming loans stayed relatively strong.

"We haven't gotten to the point where that market has been adversely affected" by high interest rates, Mr. Meriweather said. The B and C market is still profitable, he added, and ITT saw it as an expansion opportunity.

ITT already had retail and correspondent lending in the area and wanted to round out its mortgage business, he said.

"There are high property values, a very solid employment base, and lots of equity in the homes there," Mr. Meriweather said of the market.

"With the high equity and stable market, there will always be a number of people who don't fit into the conforming market, which will always be good for the B and C market," he said.

The new office did more $1 million in its first month, Mr. Meriweather said.

ITT Consumer has plans to add offices but will wait for a buyer to decide where the sites will be, he said.

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