First California Mortgage of Petaluma plans to triple the number of home loans it makes this year with the help of $50 million worth of specialized financing through a new initiative by Fannie Mae.
The company announced Monday that it is among the first to take part in a new $1 billion pilot program involving Fannie Mae and the New York-based Guggenheim Partners, a global financial services firm.
First Cal plans to use the funds to generate about $125 million worth of new home loans each month, enough for 5,000 more loans a year, said Christopher K. Hart, the company’s president.
First Cal is the largest mortgage lender headquartered in the North Bay with $1.1 billion in home loans last year, Hart said. For 2010, he estimated First Cal will make more than 9,000 home loans, compared to about 3,000 in 2009.
The government-backed pilot program involves warehouse lending, essentially a short-term revolving line of credit provided to a mortgage banking company. For First Cal, the lending will be provided by Guggenheim’s new warehouse operations company, NattyMac.
For home buyers, the pilot program will mean “more access to mortgage loans that are in alignment with what the government’s trying to do,” Hart said. He characterized the aim as “quality loans” for “quality customers,” with loan conditions designed to ensure that borrowers meet mortgage obligations and remain in their homes.
The amount of funds available through warehouse lending is a fraction of what it was in recent years, Hart said. That reduction explains why many homebuyers today have difficulty getting loans and “why so many lenders folded up shop.”
First Cal was founded in 1977 and sold in 1995. The company was re-established in Novato in 2003 and moved its headquarters to Petaluma in 2005.
First Cal has 145 employees, 92 of them based in Petaluma. It operates in eight western states.
— Robert Digitale