Real estate brokerage companies that have home lending operations are increasing their loan origination volume despite rising interest rates.
"The amount of mortgage business being originated through these companies is going up like a shot," said George Eastment, executive vice president, Long & Foster, one of the nation's largest such companies.
Member companies of Master Mortgage LP have seen loan production climb an average of 9% since Jan. 1, said Michael Cornicelli, president of the venture. The Mortgage Bankers Association of America said lending nationwide is off an estimated 56% in the third quarter of this year compared to the same period last year.
Master Mortgage is a Chicago-based cooperative venture of 30 real estate brokerage companies that have mortgage lending operations.
"We are encouraged by the sales stats," said Mr. Cornicelli.
Lenders like Mr. Eastment at Fairfax, Va.-based Long & Foster attributed the improving originations to beneficial joint ventures many real estate brokerage outfits have created with mortgage banks in recent years. Also, nationwide home sales are now stronger than most analysts had predicted.
Master Mortgage members have fared particularly well. DeWolfe New England, Boston, has seen its loan sales volume climb 34% so far this year, according to Master Mortgage. In August alone, the brokerage's sales volume rose 17%.
At Crye-Leike Inc., Memphis, which has newly expanded its lending and real estate operations, production is up 35%.
Since production began to drop at mortgage lenders last February after interest rates rose, many lenders like Norwest Mortgage Inc., Des Moines, have been hungry to do joint ventures with real estate brokerages.
Long & Foster created a joint venture with Norwest last December. At that time, the real estate concern could manage to make loans on only 2% of the $4 billion worth of homes it sold, Mr. Eastment said. But in August, Long & Foster made loans on 5% to 6% of its housing sales, he said.
Mr. Eastment expects his brokerage to originate $200 million this year.
That would be in the sour real estate market around Washington, where Long & Foster does much of its business.
J.D. Reece Realtors opened its mortgage brokerage operation in February. Already, it's flourishing.
Madonna Davis, the mortgage company's president, said J.D. Reece would make loans on 10% of the homes its sells. The Overland Park, Kan., company sold $1.1 billion worth of homes last year.
But perhaps the largest lender among real estate concerns, Burner Realty, Edina, Minn., has not fared well. The slumping market cut into loan originations at Burnet, which has a joint-venture agreement with TCF Mortgage Corp., Minneapolis.
"Business has been good, not great," said Ralph Burnet, the company's owner.
He expects loan originations to decline 15% this year, to about $650 million.