At Arvest, $1bn in Mortgage Originations
The refinancing boomlet that hit the mortgage industry in the early part of 2009, thanks in large part to Federally-supported low primary mortgage rates, has helped at least one regional bank ramp up its mortgage lending in a big way. Bentonville, Ark.-based Arvest Bank said Wednesday that its Arvest Mortgage Company had originated more than $1bn through June 15 -- nearly double the mortgage volume booked one year earlier. The Southeastern bank, which operates 200+ branches in Arkansas, Oklahoma, southern Missouri and southeast Kansas, has touted the fact that it will not seek funding from the Treasury's TARP. It also retains servicing on nearly all of the residential loans it originates. While mortgage refinancing accounted for seventy-five percent of that six-month volume total, the mix between refinances and new mortgage loan applications has changed significantly in the last three months, Arvest officials say. Refinancing now accounts for just 60 percent of the overall origination mix at the bank -- the bank says this shift is evidence of increased homebuying activity in the markets it serves, despite waning interest among consumers in refinancing existing mortgages. "Record low interest rates and more affordable housing contributed to the substantial increase in our mortgage numbers, but we're beginning to see a shift in the type of loan applications we're receiving, from refinances to new mortgage loans. We are also encouraged that the first-time homebuyer tax credit is stimulating that interest," Todd White, Arvest Mortgage senior vice president, said. White said Arvest is pushing its message of localized loan servicing out to consumers aggressively -- a point of differentiation he says makes the bank able to connect with consumer's needs. "As more and more people realize that Arvest retains servicing on 99 percent of the loans we make," he said, "they appreciate the benefits that come with local service and having a bank that will be with them from the application process on their very first home to their last payment." Arvest's banking operations hold total assets of over $9.7 billion, and the company employs nearly 4,500. Write to Paul Jackson.