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Five Ways for Credit Unions to Connect with Real Estate Agents
Shannon VanSickler
By Shannon VanSickler, Vice President, Credit Union Channel
United Guaranty Corporation
Posted on February 26, 2015

The family home. It's where the day starts and ends for virtually every member of a credit union.

Your members' homes are the foundation from which their life grows. When neighbors talk about possible future moves over a back fence, your credit union should be part of that conversation.

So why do so few of your members get a home loan from your credit union? Often, it's because real estate agents steer home buyers to other home loan sources. In many instances, that's because real estate agents just aren't very familiar with credit unions, which still account for a small part of total mortgage originations nationwide.

Even in this age, when our smartphones can literally guide shoppers to homes they want to look at, buying a home is still very much a person-to-person business. Members place enormous trust in their real estate agents, just as they trust you to help manage their financial lives.

In short, real estate agents are a key to building your credit union's mortgage business. Educating agents in your area sounds like a tough task, but the good news is that real estate agents are eager to hear your message. Large banks in faraway cities can't match credit unions in at least three key areas:

  • A hometown presence. If agents have a question, they can drop by to speak to someone at your credit union in person.
  • Strong borrowers. Your members collectively boast higher incomes and credit scores than the general population.
  • Flexibility. Your credit union has more freedom to consider the circumstances of an individual home buyer—and to create mortgage products to match the needs of your members and the local market.

However, getting agents to understand all the pluses of dealing with your credit union is not something you can do very effectively using only local advertising, flyers, or a website. All of us lead busy lives, but real estate agents are especially time-starved—frequently working nights to accommodate multiple clients and on weekends for open houses.

To reach real estate agents with your credit union's message, you have to take information to them by becoming part of your local real estate community. Here are five simple ways to connect with real estate agents in your area:

  1. Be watchful on social media. Seek out the local real estate association on Facebook and "like" it. Follow agents on Twitter or other social media. Get curious about the topics real estate agents are talking about, whether or not you want to join the online discussion.
  2. Participate in local real estate groups. Go to their luncheons, rub elbows, and get to know as many agents as possible.
  3. Invite a real estate agent you know out to lunch and ask him or her to bring a colleague. It's a small step, but imagine how powerful the simple act of getting together with different real estate agents becomes if you do it consistently every couple of weeks or once a month.
  4. Involve local real estate experts when you hold seminars for your members. If the topic is "Tips for First-Time Home Buyers" or "Construction Lending," participating agents can offer insights you don't have—and may also bring prospective purchasers to your seminar.
  5. Hold a casual get-together for local real estate agents at your office or a nearby restaurant. The invitation could simply say "Let's Get to Know One Another." Offer light hors d'oeuvres and promise not to make any long speeches.

If you're already doing all five of these things, congratulations. There's still more you can do, because as your participation increases, your knowledge will only grow.

In short, take any chance you see to get more involved in your local real estate community. Start modestly. Hosting a large-scale event is daunting.

With new real estate agents joining the industry every day, outreach is something you should be working on almost constantly.

Your efforts will enable you to serve your market with a deeper local perspective. Combine that knowledge with all of the advantages of credit unions, and you'll have a winning formula for building your mortgage business.

Shannon VanSickler

Shannon VanSickler is Vice President of the Credit Union Channel at United Guaranty. She has more than 23 years of retail and wholesale lending experience, including directing the real estate lending units of three large credit unions in the Western United States.

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