Some 400 mortgage bankers heard plenty of upbeat talk as they gathered in Raleigh recently for the eastern secondary mortgage conference, sponsored by the Community Bankers Association of North Carolina.
Paul Reid, finishing his term as president of Mortgage Bankers Association of America, pointed out that the number of U.S. households is growing by 1.2 million a year in unseen directions. "We'll see a lot more single households, married couples without children, and minorities," he said.
But companies will have to grapple with the need to make substantial technology outlays to remain competitive, he added. Mr. Reid is also president of American Home Funding in Richmond, Va.
Widespread industry debate about the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act spilled over into the conference. The latest rules, slated to take effect next Monday, will produce some unusual partnerships, a mortgage lawyer said.
To avoid accusations of "sham" business affiliations, mortgage companies will want a more direct ownership stake in providers of settlement services, said Ed Winslow, partner with Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard.
"You have to jump through the hoops that regulators have set up," said Mr. Winslow, whose law firm is based in Greensboro, N.C.
Citicorp Mortgage continues to raise its profile after several years of lying low because of loan losses. At the conference's exhibit hall, it was prominently promoting the CitiQuick correspondent program. The St. Louis- based mortgage company is "aggressively" marketing the product, said a representative at the display.
CitiQuick is aimed mainly at customers who have a high net worth and need quick closings. The company will lend up to $650,000 provided the borrower meets criteria that include a history of no more than two payments 30 days late in the past 12 months.
Thomas Becker, president of the National Mortgage Brokers Association, responded to criticism that brokers don't always deliver the best loans.
"I can't with any degree of certainty tell you whether brokers originate a higher or lesser quality product," Mr. Becker said, "although anecdotal evidence" suggests broker loans are at least the equivalent of retail loans.
"I can say we want to be part of raising the standard of our industry," he said.
The issue has been a hot one in mortgage circles since late last year, when the Federal National Mortgage Association's Chairman, James A. Johnson, took issue with the quality of loans that brokers deliver.
Mr. Becker acknowledged Mr. Johnson's position. But, he added that the data included other "third party" originators in addition to brokers.