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Net Branch MonopolyRecent net branch activity

September 3, 2008


The business of mortgage branching has become a game of Monopoly, with some operations selling or shutting down as others continue to grow.

St. Louis-based Residential Mortgage Consultants has become a branch of First Houston Mortgage Ltd., an announcement last week said. The branch will operate as Envoy Mortgage.

First Houston, which launched its affiliated net branch program in 2006, said its branch count currently stands at more than 25, its headcount is at more than 300 and it is licensed in 20 states.

The Envoy branch is managed by Gary Bussard, who told that his first-half 2008 originations were $23 million — putting him on track to exceed his 2007 production of $33 million. Bussard founded Residential Mortgage in 1994.

Mid America Mortgage Consultants, also based in St. Louis, joined First Houston in July.

Garret Knox, branch manager of Mid America, said in a press release that the affiliation enables the branch to originate “more loans by reducing time-intensive, back-office activities that overwhelm most lenders.”

First Houston added that its branches have access to enhanced loan pricing, an in-house underwriting system and offshore processing in India.

Cascade Mortgage is also among the latest additions to the First Houston network. The new branch is out of Vancouver, Wash.

US Mortgage Corp. is courting loan originators and mortgage brokers for its BranchLink program, which it says enables small shops to obtain access to mortgage banking facilities while continuing as entrepreneurs. Branches also gain access to national mortgage licensing or exemption from licensing.

The Pine Brook, N.J.-based company said 100 percent commissions are available for both originations fees and yield spread premiums — which don’t have to be disclosed. Compliance and back-office support is also provided.

US Mortgage noted downsides to becoming a branch affiliate include lack of autonomy, which is offset by affiliation with a stronger brand, and W-2 employee status, which is offset by expensing business-related expenses from their branch accounts prior to taking wages.

“One’s decision with respect to becoming a branch partner is highly personal and individualized,” US Mortgage stated. “Branching certainly provides a faster and easier overnight turn-key solution compared to developing warehouse lines and creating an internal mortgage banking operation from scratch.”

CTX Mortgage, which has put its retail branches up for sale, has reached a deal to sell four Colorado branches to Cherry Creek Mortgage, Julie Callahan, a spokeswoman for parent Centex Corp., confirmed to in a statement.

Last week, ViewPoint Bankers Mortgage announced it acquired eight CTX branches in Texas. That acquisition came with 45 loan originators and processors.

In all, CTX hopes to sell 50 branches.

NFM Inc. has added 10 branches since March, spokeswoman Bernadette Pearson told in a statement.

Among the new additions are branches in Duluth, Ga.; Sewell, N.J.; Spencerville, Md.; and Harrodsburg, Ky., according to Pearson. Four Baltimore branches were also added as well as branches in Port Orange and Windemere, Fla.

Despite the branch additions, the total number of branches at Baltimore-based NFM has fallen to 34 from 36 in March. Pearson explained this was due to the removal of several non-performing branches.

Employee count at NFM, a advertiser, currently stands at 211.

A number of branches have come up for grabs as Carteret Mortgage Corp. winds down its operations.

The Centreville, Va.-based company, which had 1,700 loan officers and 622 employees as of 2007, notified its branches it would close down by the end of September.

Endicott, Md.-based Candor Mortgage, told that is has already picked up 180 Carteret loan officers and expects to pick up as many as an additional 220.

A former Carteret recruiter told, “The top percentage of loan officers [at Carteret] were some of the best in the industry” and would be desirable as loan officers at many companies.


Sam Garcia worked in mortgage lending for twenty years prior to becoming publisher of


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