NORMAN — Kent Carter is bullish on the real estate industry in general and on Oklahoma in particular. As president of Citywide Mortgage and a veteran of the Oklahoma banking and finance industry, he has ridden the waves of uncertainty and watched the national headlines.
Oklahoma, he said, never had the big run-ups in collateral. As a people, we are more risk averse. The dust bowl and oil bust contribute to that mindset.
“But oil is strong now. We have a major military presence and our economy did not get overblown,” said Carter. “It’s an exciting time to be in Oklahoma. We’re in great shape. We really are.”
The housing crisis really began with a few metropolitan areas, he said. But national headlines from those big media markets send shivers throughout the industry.
“Twenty three counties gave us more than 50 percent of the initial foreclosures. Just a small pocket took us down that spiral staircase,” he said.
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Citywide, formerly in Norman and now located on I-35 on the north side of Cleveland County, grew 40 percent this past year. They have 22 employees and are planning an expansion. They are a partner company to Ideal Homes and work with other builders, Realtors and individuals in originating loans that are eventually sold to a small group of financial institutions.
Ideal makes up about 20 percent of their business today compared to 90 percent four years ago.
In 2011, they partnered with First American Bank to process real estate loans.
Carter is confident smaller mortgage bankers that have lower operating costs can compete in the market against national lenders.
“People like us are so competitive. We can operate so much cheaper than they can,” he said. “If we go head to head, we most always win.”
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Carter will serve as president of the Oklahoma Mortgage Bankers Association. About 300 of them will meet at the Skirvin Hotel in April. His message to them is an optimistic one.
“My grandparents lived through the Dust Bowl and the Depression. Family members left their homes and went to places like Iwo Jima and Normandy. We knew people who died in the federal building bombing. Those were hard times. What we’re doing is not hard.”
Banks today are sitting on lots of cash. New regulations restrict lending but it’s still a good time to invest. Interest rates remain historically low but are creeping up.
“The new regulations are different and challenging but things are not that hard,” he said. “We’ve been through much harder times.”