Writer: Felipe Rivas
2 min read May 2021 — In a year filled with uncertainty, disruption and a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, local communities have relied on the banking sector for financial-related guidance and support. Banks and credit unions have armed local communities with resources and expertise needed to best navigate the COVID-related challenges. In the Peach State, whether advising clients through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) process or providing loans in a dynamic housing market, Georgia’s Own Credit Union has been a source of support for its local members.
The PPP was much needed respite for local business owners, for which Georgia’s Own helped fund more than 400 loans amounting to over $14 million. “The PPP program presented a great opportunity to support our community, introduce new businesses to the credit union, and provide essential support during the COVID pandemic,” Chief Business Officer Drew Putt told Focus: Atlanta. The loans were critical to the success of local business owners as many of the recipients were self-employed with limited other support available, she said.
In addition to the PPP measures, Georgia’s Own provided loan payment modifications to the majority of its portfolio “This allowed members to focus on their business and families rather than concerns about making loan payments. We also provided recommendations on other support options to make sure they were aware of the entire range of federal and state programs that could be tapped.” Putt said.
The housing market has been nothing short of dynamic throughout the pandemic, prompting Georgia’s Own to finish 2020 with record-high mortgage volumes, Vice President of Retail Sales Todd Lambright told Focus: Atlanta. “The fact that we were able to achieve record results while we changed our Loan Operating System, as well as migrating our operations to a new source, speaks volume to our team of seasoned mortgage professionals, regardless of market conditions,” he said.
The low interest rates have also allowed younger homebuyers to capitalize on their real estate dreams. “I wouldn’t say there’s been a ton of change to the mortgager profile, except for younger millennials becoming first-time homebuyers. Prior to 2020, it was the older generation of millennials more active in the home purchasing process, but 2020 and the historically low rates introduced a younger millennial to home ownership,” Lambright said.
However, the tight housing inventory and multiple offers are influencing homebuying dynamics. “One thing that has changed in the current market is purchase contracts. Inventory is in such short supply, and securing a home is so competitive, that buyers are waiving their due diligence period, not completing home inspections, and guaranteeing, or trying to, guarantee a 14- to 21-day close. It’s great for a seller, but it can be quite risky for a buyer,” he said.
But a potential slowdown in purchase and refinancing activity may be in store for the region’s housing market. “We’re bracing for a slowdown as the year progresses. I’d project that the refinance market will continue to slow down as rates tick up a little, which places more emphasis on the purchase market. Home inventory and high building costs have tempered volume here, but it will be more important than ever,” Lambright said.
The pandemic influenced member behavior to save but as the recovery continues, Georgia’s Own expects a balance between saving and investing activity. “As an organization, we have seen an increase in deposits since the beginning of COVID, as more and more members continue to save their cash,” President and CEO Dave Preter told Focus: Atlanta. “Since the start of the pandemic, consumers have largely put their money in more traditional savings accounts that provide safety and liquidity. As economic recovery occurs and consumer confidence rebounds, we expect members to return to a greater mix of savings and investments.”
For more information, visit: https://www.georgiasown.org/