A Shift in Strategy for Partnering with Realtors
In recent years I have authored many articles, Blogs and emails about the coming shift in Real Estate Lending from a Refi-dominated for market—due to many years of very low interest rates—to a Purchase Money market as rates increase.
Well, I feel confident this is taking place. Now.
As a trade organization for mortgage-lending credit unions, ACUMA has invested a great amount of time and money getting to know the nation’s Realtors and working with the National Association of Realtors, which represents more than 1 million Realtors® from Maine to California and all points between.
ACUMA’s strategy focuses on education and advocating. Realtors look to credit unions for a better experience in terms of housing finance and buying experiences with their mortgage transactions. It can be a great fit for both.
Granted, these past few years we have added a “digital” overlay to mortgage lending, contributing perhaps to greater misperceptions of the process on the part of borrowers. (No, as a borrower you really can’t navigate the mortgage process in 10 minutes.)
And Realtors have even more to contend with, including incredibly low inventory for resales.
One important point I have learned from our 15 years as an exhibitor at the NAR Convention is that Realtors still do not know very much about credit unions. Many Realtors are members of a credit union. In fact, Realtors Federal Credit Union has operated as a financial institution for the past decade. Nonetheless, when it comes to CUs gaining the confidence of Realtors to refer borrowers as a lender of choice, the needle has not moved much at all.
A CHANGE IN FOCUS
This has caused me to rethink a strategy for the future.
Based on an assumption that most credit unions have a community outreach, or the capability to expand FOM to include people living and working in the community, here’s my thought: Let’s shift our focus from visiting Realtor offices to tell our story … to getting out into the community and recruiting Realtors as credit union members.
This strategy may do more to educate Realtors about how Credit Unions are truly different than for-profit financial organizations. As Realtors experience your credit union’s great service, and see the “member” experience first-hand, they will be more inclined to see you as a good business partner for the professional side of their lives.
This strategy doesn’t have to compete with Realtors FCU, either; l know many people who belong to more than one credit union.
And with this new strategy, credit unions don’t need to do much more than what we’ve been doing for decades—striving for member growth.
From my experience I know that few credit unions have examined their memberships to determine whether any (and which) members are Realtors. Of all the various strategies and plans undertaken in recent years this may be the easiest and yield the greatest results. It is akin to telling your story, but you can do it through the practical demonstration of how great your customer experience is, giving Realtors confidence to represent and refer customers to you in the marketplace.
A WORKING PARTNERSHIP
In his 2014 presentation to the ACUMA conference, NAR President Steve Brown said, “The best partnership in any community is Realtors working with credit unions for the common benefit of homeowners in that community.” I believed Mr. Brown was “spot on” then, and I believe it even more today!
I challenge credit unions to set a goal of securing 5,000 Realtors as new members in 2018. Are you willing to join me in this campaign? With your help we can change the misperceptions, make more home loans and see more credit unions members reach the dream of home ownership.