Have you avoided promoting your credit union’s mortgage products this year because the real estate market has been in such a slump? Take a look at the market from a different angle: Many people can benefit from refinancing, often multiple times. And there are still many consumers out there who need homes and still believe in the American Dream.
While demand for mortgage refinancing eased slightly at the beginning of the year, in late January the Federal Reserve indicated it would seek to keep interest rates low for the next three years. With mortgage rates the lowest they’ve ever been, refinancing is still a good topic to bring up with members. They might have refinanced within the past four years and think they have the lowest rates possible. But rates have decreased even more, and some members might be able to save more.
The Fed announced that projected economic conditions would warrant exceptionally low short-term interest rates at least through late 2014.“The implication of stable and low inflation expectations by financial market participants today could be lower long-term interest rates,” notes Steve Rick, CUNA’s senior economist.
In addition to those who’ll benefit from refinancing, other members might be ready for first mortgages. While many reports show more consumers are opting to rent over buying in this weak market, many still recognize the benefits of home ownership and the fact that home prices are at historic lows.
“There’s a lot of optimism building in the real estate community, too,” according to moneyland.com, “so when prices turn, they might turn suddenly." Unemployment claims, for instance, almost hit a four-year low, while the national jobless rate is at 8.3%—not spectacular, but certainly better than the 9% to 10% range of recent years.
It all starts with basic member conversations. Explore each member’s current situation to discover which loan product will benefit them.
While the recovery might be slow, many indications are pointing toward a better year in real estate and the overall economy. That’s good news for credit union lending and great news for your members.
MICHELE FEATHERSTONE is owner of Marketing Insightz, Ramsey, N.J. Contact her at 201-914-8332.
MORTGAGE TALKING POINTS
Lower unemployment and a slight uptick in consumer optimism might be enough to give consumers the confidence to jump back into the real estate market.
Keep this in mind and consider these points when communicating with members about mortgages at your credit union:
● Money down: Many buyers have the perception that they have to put down 20% to get a mortgage. If your credit union offers programs for members to take out mortgages with less than 20% down, make sure you mention this when talking about your mortgage program. Don’t assume members know this already.
● Fees: Typically credit unions offer mortgage programs with fewer fees than their competitors. Provide an overview of the typical fees your credit union charges for its mortgage program, and educate members about this benefit.
● Service: The mortgage process is often an arduous one that can be overwhelming to many buyers. Never underestimate the importance of superior service during the process. Reassure members that your credit union’s real estate staff will help them every step of the way.
● Home equity loans: Don’t assume all members lack equity in their homes. Many Americans still do have available equity, and now that the unemployment rate has dropped, some consumer confidence will return. Some consumers will jump back into home projects they’ve put off for the past few years.
This article first appeared in Front Line newsletter.