MADISON, Wis. (11/7/14)--Syndicated real estate columnist Lew Sichelman cited a pair of credit union milestones, and included insight from Mike Schenk, Credit Union National Association vice president of economics and research, in a recent column.
Sichelman highlighted credit unions reaching the 100 million-membership milestone in June. He also noted cooperative financial institutions have posted a 10% year-over-year increase in mortgage originations as of the first half of 2014.
"Nearly two-thirds of all credit unions offer mortgages, and those that don't tend to be small. So some 98% of the vast credit union membership is affiliated with institutions in the mortgage business," Sichelman wrote.
Schenk told Sichelman that credit union members have posted huge membership gains, in part, because they offer home financing. Mortgages currently account for 41% of all credit union loans, an increase from 25% in 2000.
As cooperatives, credit unions answer to their members, not outside stockholders, Schenk said.
"As members, you are the primary focus," Schenk said. "If you have an account, you are an owner and you have a voice in running that institution."
Credit unions avoided the dangerous loans that led to recent financial collapse, and they continued to engage consumers during the recession, when many other lenders pulled away. That approach built trust with consumers, Schenk said.
As smaller, local financial institutions, credit unions are nimble enough to take a more innovative approach to lending. Sichelman cited Mountain America CU, West Jordan, Utah, with $3.8 billion in assets, which was the first mortgage lender in the country to actually close on an electronically signed Federal Housing Administration loan.
"Bottom line: If you've overlooked credit unions as a source of financing, look around. Join one and see what it has to offer," Sichelman wrote.