Credit Union teams up with real estate agents

Aerial view of South Bay neighborhoods in Los Angeles County, California (Source: Shutterstock)

Realtors who agreed to take a hit on their commissions have teamed up with a Los Angeles-area credit union to help first-time home buyers navigate one of the country’s most expensive markets.

Orange County Credit Union of Santa Ana, Calif., 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles, announced Tuesday that it is working with HomeSmart Evergreen Realty of Irvine, Calif., on a new program designed to make home ownership more accessible to residents of Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The credit union ($2.4 billion in assets, 124,061 members as of March 31) said it set up the Home Connections program to help people who might be discouraged from even exploring the possibility of buying a new home due to misinformation, complexity of the process, or a lack of understanding of the requirements.

The new program connects members with one of the credit union’s mortgage advisors and a HomeSmart Evergreen Realty agent. These experts are meant to guide members through a home search, and potentially, a closing.

Carlos Miramontez, the credit union’s vice president of mortgages, said connecting members with experts provides a clearer path to homeownership.

“We are pleased to offer this free and unique program to our members to help them realize their dream of home ownership,” said Miramontez. “Having a reliable source of information can make all the difference for aspiring homeowners, no matter where they are in their housing journey.”

Carlos Miramontez Carlos Miramontez

Through the Home Connections program, homebuyers can receive a 20% discount on their buying agent’s commission at closing, and sellers pay a flat 1.5% listing fee. This compares to the traditional 3% referral fee and additional 3% listing fee that agents charge. Sellers pay fees to selling and buying agents at closing.

Members will also have free access to tools and resources, such as a home search website with real-time access to MLS data during their home search, an instant estimate of their home’s value on the current market and a 20% discount on escrow fees for sellers.

Orange County Credit Union created $99.1 million in residential real estate in the first quarter, down 28% from a year earlier. It created $469.9 million in residential real estate in the 12 months of 2021, down 27% from a year earlier.

ATTOM, an Irvine-based real estate data curator, reported on June 30 that the median selling price of a home in Orange County in the second quarter was $1.05 million, up 19% from over the previous year and the ninth most expensive among the 575 counties in its database.

ATTOM estimated that a household would need to earn $220,115 a year to be able to put down a 20% down payment and stay below a 28% debt-to-income ratio in the county.

The ATTOM affordability index for Orange County was the worst since the second quarter of 2006 just before the housing bubble burst, followed by the start of the Great Recession in December 2007.

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