Want a home mortgage? Ask a real estate broker.

Really.

A new study has found that mortgage lending by real estate brokers has become "an established fact of life."

The study, conduct by R.D. Horner & Associates Inc., Chicago, has found that nearly half of the nation's top real estate brokerage firms now conduct mortgage lending in their offices. And most are profitable.

Mortgage lending by real estate firms has moved from innovative strategy to commonplace action in the year or so since the Department of Housing and Urban Development created a legal means for compensating brokers who originate loans.

Since then, many big brokerage companies like Coldwell Banker Corp. have jumped into the mortgage business.

The study found that 43% of nearly 100 real estate brokerage firms that responded to the survey now have lending operations.

"We expect the number of Realtors involved in the mortgage business to grow dramatically," the study says.

Of these real estate brokerage firms, 47% operate a mortgage business within their offices. A third originate loans as a mortgage broker. Less than 10% are mortgage bankers. Another third have established a joint venture with a mortgage broker or banker to make loans.

Joint ventures are all the rage now among mortgage bankers. Several companies have dedicated themselves to forming so-called controlled business arrangements between home brokers and lenders.

The study's respondents who operated as correspondents to other lenders, mortgage brokers, or mortgage bankers originated an average of $64 million of loans last year. More than half of all respondents reported a profit from their lending unit.

Only 15% of the real estate brokers said their mortgage operations were not profitable, according to the study.

More than 80% of the respondents use their mortgage lending capability as a marketing hook for homebuyers.

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