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Steve King, director of residential lending at Great Southern, says as market conditions force out smaller lenders, there is opportunity for growth.
Steve King, director of residential lending at Great Southern, says as market conditions force out smaller lenders, there is opportunity for growth.

Great Southern expands mortgage operations amid flat market

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The last day of February was moving day for Great Southern Bank’s residential lending department, which relocated to a standalone building at 1520 E. Primrose St.

The bank’s residential lending division previously was located on the third floor of its 1451 E. Battlefield Road branch, but recent growth precipitated the relocation.

Great Southern posted $208.5 million in mortgage volumes for 2010, an increase of 7 percent from 2009 and enough to secure the No. 1 spot on Springfield Business Journal’s list of the area’s largest mortgage lenders.

Great Southern spokeswoman Kelly Polonus said some of the bank’s residential lending growth is the result of its Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.-assisted purchases of Team Bank and Vantus Bank in 2009.

“We nearly doubled the company in 2009,” Polonus said. “With that came a lot of opportunities and new markets for us, and we still enjoy a lot of opportunity in Springfield and southwest Missouri.”

Steve King, who joined Great Southern in August 2009 as director of residential lending, said some growth also came from a market that was ripe for refinancing in late 2010.
About half of Great Southern’s 2010 volume was in refinancing, he said.

Another factor, he said, is that market conditions are forcing smaller lenders to change their practices or exit the market for compliance reasons.

“There’s a really good opportunity … to capitalize on the fact that the smaller brokers and mortgage companies have gone out of business,” King said. It’s a good time to expand in the market.”

Overall, the 11 companies on the list of local mortgage lenders posted 2010 loan volumes of $1.32 billion, a roughly 1.2 percent drop from 2009, with a volume of $1.43 billion.

While the list doesn’t include responses from Bank of America or Commerce Bank, it does provide a snapshot of mortgage lending activity in the area.

Among the lenders that showed residential lending gains, OakStar Bank reported $185.9 million in local mortgages for 2010, up 102 percent from 2009. U.S. Bank posted $98 million in mortgage loans, up $9 million, or 10 percent from 2009, and Arvest Bank’s mortgage volume grew 15 percent to nearly $63.8 million last year.

Grandview-based North American Savings Bank, which has a Springfield location on South National Avenue, posted local 2010 loan volumes of $80.2 million, down 32 percent from 2009, and volume for BancorpSouth Mortgage fell 48 percent to $130 million in 2010.
Calls to Brad Burney, vice president and regional production manager for BancorpSouth Mortgage, were not returned by press time.

North American Savings Bank’s decreased volume is a result of its focus on new purchase loans, said Bruce Thielen, senior vice president.

“We’re focused primarily on referral sources like Realtors and builders, and that’s really where we’ve driven a lot of our business,” Thielen said. “In 2009, all of our past customers had pretty much refinanced, and in 2010, we’re still primarily working purchase business.
The purchase business is down quite a bit, because people aren’t buying new homes as much.”

Great Southern isn’t the only area bank to add a standalone mortgage facility in recent months. In November, Farris Mortgage Co. merged with Guaranty Bank, which now operates a standalone mortgage production facility at Farris’ former location, 1350 E. Bradford Parkway.

Farris told Springfield Business Journal in January that he was approached by six banks from across the country that were interested in acquiring Farris Mortgage, which he opened in 1993. Ultimately, he said he chose Guaranty Bank because of its local ownership, understanding of the area lending market and the fact that it already residential lending in place.

According to SBJ list data, Guaranty Bank posted 2010 mortgage volume of $83.6 million, up 0.5 percent from $79.6 million in 2009.[[In-content Ad]]

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