Countrywide Home Loans and Norwest Mortgage, the nation's top mortgage originators, are exploring ways to cross-sell more products.

But they know there is a danger of pushing the customer too hard.

"The brand cannot be stretched too far too soon," said Andy Bielanski, managing director for marketing at Countrywide. "It can't stand for all things to all people. We have to be very careful."

He and Patrick M. Sheehy, executive vice president for institutional lending at Norwest Mortgage, also agreed that the starting point for cross- sales should be the home loan.

Norwest Mortgage now offers appraisals and title searches, a credit card, home equity loans, and insurance products. A test program offering financial services is also under way.

Ultimately, Norwest hopes to extend all products to wholesale and correspondent lenders, said Mr. Sheehy, whose company is based in Des Moines.

"We believe that more consumers are placing increased value on this one- stop-shop concept," he said. Focus group research shows that consumers find the bundling of these services convenient and attractively priced, he said.

"The more we can sell these products face to face, the more successful we're going to be in the cross-sell effort," Mr. Sheehy said. With 4,500 loan officers, the company hopes to further its reach.

Norwest is also exploring partnerships with home security services, lawn maintenance services, and large midwestern real estate brokerage firms, he said.

Countrywide, which is based in Calabasas, Calif., has no plans for alliances with real estate agents, Mr. Bielanski said. The mortgage bank offers closing services including title, credit, flood and home insurance, appraisals, and home inspections, as well as home equity loans, home insurance, investment services, grade B and C retail lending, and a credit card through a host of affiliated companies.

Countrywide also has a system for current customers that alerts them when rates are favorable for refinancing, he said.

He cautions that without carefully thought-out marketing and packaging, cross-selling simply will not work. Consumers want to know that a "particular product is the best of its class in that particular area," he said.

"We want to make sure that we are very secure in the minds of consumers, that we're the place to go to for homeownership needs, whatever they may be long term," he said.

In the race for consumer's money and attention, he said, "whoever is on the side of the consumer in the final analysis will win."

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