Norwest Mortgage Inc. and Wells Fargo Bank are well on their way toward originating the first loans through their joint venture.

A definitive agreement has been signed, and the parties are awaiting approval for the venture from the Federal Reserve Board before beginning operations, said Chuck Ohmer, executive vice president at Des Moines-based Norwest Mortgage.

An application for Fed approval was filed this week, he said, and a go- ahead is expected in September.

Norwest and Wells, which is based in San Francisco, had announced the deal in April.

The venture's degree of success will indicate whether outsourcing of originations is viable. Some lenders already consider it a wave of the future.

The deal could be the largest controlled-business arrangement ever formed, according to lenders. Wells was the 32d-largest home-loan originator last year, making $2.7 billion of mortgages in 1994.

Only the joint venture formed in February by PNC Mortgage Corp. of America, Vernon Hills, Ill., and Coldwell Banker Corp. rivals the Norwest- Wells undertaking.

Saiyid T. Naqvi, PNC's president and chief operating officer, has said he expects the venture with Coldwell Banker, one of the nation's largest real estate brokers, to originate about $3 billion of loans per year.

Controlled-business arrangements, or CBAs, are alliances that allow entities to refer borrowers to each other and share profits. CBAs have grown increasingly popular - especially those between lenders and real estate brokers - as mortgage bankers have searched for ways to generate loan volume.

The Norwest-Wells venture is to be called Town Square Mortgage. It is being modeled closely on Norwest's controlled-business arrangement with Long & Foster, the District of Columbia-area real estate brokerage, said Mr. Ohmer, who is spearheading the latest venture's creation.

He said Norwest has even formatted some of the Town Square Mortgage documentation the same way it did for its CBA with Long & Foster.

"I want to put this one together well and get it off the launching pad successfully" before starting others, he said.

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