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VOL. 126 | NO. 38 | Thursday, February 24, 2011

Local Office Latest Proof Of M&P’s Growth Mode

By Andy Meek

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Merchants & Planters Bank has something in common with a few of its local lending peers like BankTennessee and Evolve Bank & Trust.

Merchants & Planters, which a few weeks ago inked a lease for a new space in the Hobson Building, 5384 Poplar Ave., keeps adding to its team of loan officers and is working to gain more referrals from local real estate agents.

David Umsted, vice president of the bank’s home loans division, said the bank hired a new loan officer at the end of January and four additional loan officers in the nine months prior to that.

“And we’re aggressively adding more,” said Umsted, who in 2008 joined Mortgage Lending Consultants, the company Merchants & Planters acquired in 2009.

Since then, Umsted said the local office has grown from three to 12 employees in 12 months. It closed more than $45 million in mortgage volume in its first year under the Merchants & Planters banner.

“We had done well,” Umsted said. “But with the government regulations coming in and the changes in various requirements, we thought it was best to kind of seek out a bank to partner up with to get on their balance sheet and do the kinds of things we needed to do as lenders, like underwriting and approving our loans in house and get access to better interest rates – things like that.

“So we hooked up with Chuck Newell, the CEO of Merchants & Planters out of Bolivar, Tenn. And they purchased us in October of 2009.”

Such growth in lending operations is starting to multiply around Shelby County as the frozen real estate market starts thawing.

Evolve Bank & Trust, for example, is growing its mortgage business, and Collierville-based BankTennessee plans to scoop up more loan originators in the coming months.

“We continue to remain available for our customers on a personal level,” said BankTennessee chairman Joel Porter.

Moves like that can be construed as indications of bullishness on the real estate market in Memphis.

On the one hand, the national Mortgage Bankers Association is predicting total mortgage originations in 2011 will drop from above $1 trillion in 2010 to just shy of $970 billion.

However, during last month’s quarterly seminar on Shelby County market trends, “Master Your Market: Year-in-Review,” hosted by real estate information company Chandler Reports, one bit of good news that came out of the discussion was the historic affordability of Memphis real estate.

The average sale amount for homes in Shelby County increased 1 percent to $124,278 in 2010, according to data from Chandler Reports, www.chandlerreports.com. But the average sales amount increased due to higher average price on bank sales, which made up 32 percent of all sales last year.

Umsted said the in-house approval of loans at Merchants & Planters is a big plus in building the customer base. He added the bank is definitely in a growth mode.

“It allows us to close mortgage loans quickly, in as little as two weeks,” he said. “Buyers and sellers of homes are taking advantage because many larger banks are taking up to 60 days to close a loan. Realtors are starting to refer clients to us because we are local and can complete a complicated mortgage transaction with a quick turn time.”

Chandler Reports is a division of The Daily News Publishing Co. Inc.

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 70 224 13,880
MORTGAGES 105 298 18,124
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 16 55 3,560
BUILDING PERMITS 0 430 32,733
BANKRUPTCIES 81 211 13,214
BUSINESS LICENSES 23 68 4,773
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 103 307 20,206
MARRIAGE LICENSES 39 72 4,269

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