Area lenders say mortgage rates hovering in the historic 4.5% range is keeping them busier than last year, but the credit crunch and recession is still taking its toll on borrowing. Mike Anderson, president of Essential Mortgage Co., says his mortgage business is up nearly 30% over the same time last year and he expects it to stay busy at least another two months. “Purchases are picking up and there are a lot of tire kickers right now. It’s the rates bringing them out,” Anderson says. “Web hits are up with more people looking at property.” But he also says three of every 10 loan applicants are rejected, especially investors.
Rusty Cloutier, president of Lafayette-based MidSouth Bank, reports growth in refinances, but overall loan business has dropped 20% although he says the number is closer to 60% at other banks in the nation. “On the commercial and industrial side, it has slowed up a great deal in the last two to three months,” he says. “You can’t find anyone willing to take on any new projects.” At New Orleans-based Fidelity Homestead Savings Bank, President/CEO Boyd Boudreaux says mortgage and refinance applications are 32% higher in the first half of January compared to the same time in December. Of that activity, 80% has been refinances. “Business in the Greater Baton Rouge market is very good,” Boyd says. “Loan volume in very good in the residential and commercial lending areas.”—Anna Thibodeaux