OWATONNA, Minn.-While most people might think of an open house as an event hosted by a Realtor, $106-million HomeTown Credit Union turned the tables a bit and welcomed real estate professionals into two of its branches with open houses of its own.

The relationship-building effort is the result of a partnership between HomeTown CU and AmeriCU Mortgage Co., a Troy, Mich.-based division of Towne Mortgage Co., a privately held mortgage banking company.

Marian Murphy, VP of business growth for HomeTown CU, told Credit Union Journal the credit union's strategy is to find ways to do outreach to Realtors, "because relationships with Realtors are a very important part of building mortgages."

"We think this partnership with AmeriCU is going to open up a lot of new opportunities," she said, noting the mortgage company also provides HomeTown CU with access to new loan products. "Now we can offer FHA renovation loans that allow buyers to improve the property. This helps when homes have been vacated and left in poor shape. Another is USDA rural development loans. We did not have the ability to offer those two loan types before."

HomeTown CU set up two different events the same day so busy Realtors could attend either one, Murphy explained. She said the goal was to keep the sessions brief, educate the Realtors on the credit union's capabilities and introduce them to its mortgage staff. Steve Schultz, business development manager at AmeriCU, gave a presentation.

"Steve is so knowledgeable about mortgage options so we asked him to speak when the Realtors came in," said Murphy. "Once we get them into our facility, and allow them to see who we are and get a feel for what we do, that will open doors. Many Realtors are not knowledgeable about credit unions, so it is important for us to reach out."

AmeriCU Mortgage Company is a strategic alliance partner of the Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN). The Network forms endorsement relationships with vendors to help credit unions such as HomeTown CU compete in the financial marketplace. MnCUN said through its Network Service Corporation credit unions have access to an array of products and services that AmeriCU and MnCUN's other strategic alliance partners offer.


Exceeding Expectations

According to Murphy, when planning the event HomeTown and AmeriCU was frankly uncertain over what expect in terms of attendance at the events-would five people show up? Or 50? She noted Faribault, Minn. is small town, so the event there only drew a handful. But much larger Owatonna pulled in a "surprisingly large" crowd.

"We thought it was a success," she declared. "The Realtors were very receptive to our message. Many stayed after and asked questions, and some have already referred buyers or ever other Realtors to us.

"We want to keep this going, perhaps have an event annually so we keep in touch with Realtors in our area," Murphy continued. "They met our staff and that personal touch is very valuable. We are looking to add member educational seminars using some of the resources from AmeriCU. There is so much people do not know about the mortgage business because so much has changed in the past couple years."

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