CrossCountry acquires First Choice Loan Services Inc.

CrossCountry Mortgage, LLC (CCM), a nationwide full service mortgage lender headquartered in Brecksville, Ohio, has acquired the assets of New Jersey-based residential mortgage lender First Choice Loan Services Inc.

CrossCountry did not disclose the acquisition price of the assets purchased. But according to the First Choice loans website, the company has nearly 500 team members with offices in 15 states, serving more than 200,000 customers in all states except New York, generating over $2 billion in mortgage originations annually.

“To my knowledge this is one of the first successful bank-to-non-bank integrations following the passage of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act,” said Norman Koenigsberg, who was the Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of First Choice before joining CrossCountry as EVP. “The transition has been seamless. They really are crazy good!”

Following the merger acquisition, other members of the First Choice executive team joined CrossCountry, including its EVP and Chief Financial Officer and EVP of National Production.

The merger resulted from “extensive discussions between the leaders of the two companies,” said Ron Leonhardt, Chief Executive Officer of CrossCountry Mortgage, which he founded in 2003 as a mortgage broker. The addition of these professionals to our team “is a terrific fit for us.”

First Choice explored merger options with several other companies, “but CCM stood out,” added Koenigsberg, “CCM never deviated” from a roadmap both teams laid out during their first meeting. 

As a mortgage industry financial executive, said EVP Ralph Picarillo, another First Choice executive negotiator, he was immediately struck by the balance sheet, CCM’s leadership, and its well-deserved reputation for integrity.

EVP James Iley, a 25-year mortgage industry business development and recruiting veteran who managed national production at First Choice and participated in merger negotiations, said he appreciates a company culture that puts loan originators first by allocating dollars and marketing efforts “to advance loan originators and build their market share.”

For example, after an extensive review process, the two executive teams jointly decided to continue to offer First Choice’s Mortgage Program for Costco Members.

The merger enhances “both our strategic growth in several regions as well as our consumer-direct component,” said Leonhardt. As a result, CrossCountry committed to, and achieved, “a smooth transition for the loan originators.” The new team already is seeing immediate success with this transaction, he said.



Richmond sees strong demand, 1,000 virtual sales

Richmond American Homes, (RAH), reported its shift to virtually working with homebuyers during the pandemic, to contract on a new home has paid off leading to 1,000 virtual sales appointments by mid May. Which marks a new milestone for the Denver based national homebuilding subsidiary of M.D.C. Holdings, Inc.

Technology helped people continue house hunting assisted by sales associates who answer  questions, even show fixture and finish selections during one-on-one virtual tours of the model homes using a smart phone or other device. Many homebuyers want to learn about floor plans, neighborhoods and community features and how to start the home buying process virtually, the company said.

“Customers are really embracing the new process,” said Todd Baker, Sr. Division President of Richmond American Homes of Colorado, Inc.

While in-person appointments are available in many places, RAH is promoting the virtual approach by setting up detail oriented digital photo albums for customers. For example, if a homebuyer wants to know what the walk-in shower looks like up close, or wants photos of the clubhouse and pool, sales associates provide snapshots and approximate measurements.

“Many people have leases running out or are planning for life on the other side of the pandemic,” said Baker. “The American Dream is still alive!”

C.A.R: California feels Covid-19 brunt in April

Existing, single-family home sales totaled 277,440 in April, down 25.6% from March and down 30.1% from April 2019, as the housing market began to feel the full impact of the Covid-19 outbreak and the implementation of the statewide stay-at-home order, according to C.A.R. – the California Association of Realtors.

These declines mark the first time home sales dropped below the 300,000 level since March 2008, the report notes. The 25.6% month-to-month decline was the largest since at least 1979, when C.A.R. began tracking this data from surveys of more than 90 realtors’ associations.

The year-over-year drop was the first double-digit loss in 15 months, and the largest decrease since December 2007.

As expected, Covid-19 kept both buyers and sellers on the sidelines prompting California home sales to experience “the worst month-to-month sales decline in more than four decades,” said 2020 C.A.R. President Jeanne Radsick, a second-generation realtor from Bakersfield, Calif., who expects the housing market to remain sluggish for the next couple of months.

Additionally, in April, the statewide median home sale price of existing, single-family detached homes in California was $606,410, down 1% month-to-month, and only 0.6% higher than a year ago the report found. The year-over-year price gain “was substantially smaller” than the six-month average gain of 7.8% recorded between October 2019 and March 2020.

“With the recession-level decline in closed home sales, the statewide median price was just barely able to avoid going into negative territory in April, in part because high-end homes saw the biggest sales declines,” said C.A.R. Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. “Even with tight supply and low interest rates, home prices will continue to be tested by economic deterioration in the short term.”

Consumer sentiment can change, but so far, especially sellers may continue to stay in the sidelines “reflecting the dramatic change in market conditions,” a monthly Google poll conducted by C.A.R. in early April found.

At 29%, nearly one-third of the participating consumers said it is a good time to sell, up from 26% a month ago, but down from 45% compared to April 2019.

By contrast, homebuyers appear to be more optimistic in the face of the current market uncertainty, with 31% of the consumers who responded to the poll saying that now is a good time to buy a home. The sentiment has sharply improved from last year, when 22% said it was a good time to buy.

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