In November, more than 15,000 real-estate professionals gathered in San Diego for the National Association of Realtors (NAR) annual conference and exhibit. America’s Credit Unions again used its exhibit booth at the conference to spread the word on how a partnership between a local Realtor and credit union can benefit both parties.
I had the opportunity to talk with dozens of Realtors at NAR and hundreds over the past few years. The one question that kept popping up was: How are credit unions different than other financial institutions?
Their perceptions of credit unions are familiar but disconcerting:
- Only certain people can join.
- They are not well versed in complex transactions like housing finance, securities and insurance.
- Their availability for service is limited to 9-to-5 Monday to Friday.
These perceptions tell me that credit unions are not doing a good job in reaching out to Realtors, helping them understand the difference between a credit union owned by its members and a bank owned by its stockholders.
Many advantages exist for Realtors to work with credit unions, but those relationships will never develop if credit unions do not first reach out to Realtors in the local community to dispel these perceived inadequacies. Only then can the relationship develop and you can answer questions like these:
What kind of Realtor profile does your mortgage lending organization use when seeking purchase-money loans? How well do your local Realtors understand your products–and how they differ from the Big Banks? How often (and when) during the loan process does your credit union contact the Realtor involved in the sale?
Based on my recent conversations at NAR, consider these suggestions for reaching out to Realtors to establish a relationship, assuring them that working together is in the best interests of both:
- Tell the Realtor of your passion to serve people who live and work in your community. It’s how they work, too. Then-NAR President Steve Brown, speaking at the ACUMA Annual Conference in 2014, noted that Realtors and credit unions strengthen the communities they share. To me, that is among the strongest arguments you can make in your conversation.
- Communicate your policies for working with Realtors. Tell them which methods you employ for communication–phone, fax, email, text. (If you answer “none of the above,” please go back and start over.) Share your loan process and, hopefully, other Realtors you have worked with. If you are willing to refer some of your members to the Realtors, mention it. All of these examples build trust.
- Work hard to collect testimonials from homebuyers and other Realtors. Display them on your website and make them available to Realtor prospects.
Like credit union lenders, Realtors want to make the dream of homeownership come true for their clients. Of course the Realtor benefits; so does the credit union as the lender. But Realtors and CUs share the goal of making that dream come true and approach it locally–within the community where they know the people, the economy, and therefore, the people’s needs.
With all of that said, what is really on the mind of the Realtor? Other than reaching the finish line of the transaction, the closing, they work hard with the lender and all of the parties involved with the transaction.
A final thought: You may see the relationship between a credit union and a Realtor as a piece of a loan transaction that ties into the credit union’s financial performance. I see it as a potential partnership that brings assistance with exploring your primary service area and identifying people who can become new members and have a home loan as their introduction to you.
That’s my dream. Now go ahead and chase yours.