Express Elevator in Apartment Loans

Article excerpt

Home Savings of America vanished from the California landscape four years ago, but its multifamily lending unit lives on.

The $52 billion-asset thrift had been the state's largest multifamily lender -- its share was about 20% -- until Washington Mutual Inc. bought it and its parent, H.F. Ahmanson & Co., in 1998.

After the sale closed, two top Ahmanson executives and a New York investment banker started a mortgage company and got most of the lenders and back-office support personnel at Home Savings' multifamily lending unit to join them. Two years later they bought a small savings bank and formed a thrift holding company, and today Commercial Capital Bancorp Inc. is the state's fourth-largest originator of apartment loans.

It is also one of the nation's fastest-growing thrift companies, and Stephen Gordon, its president and chief executive officer, said Commercial Capital aims to use the proceeds of a just-completed public offering to make more loans and open new branches throughout California.

Robert Gallivan, a principal at Clark/Bardes Consulting in San Diego, said Commercial Capital has become one of California's largest lenders of apartment loans virtually overnight because the people from Home Savings came with a very loyal customer base.

"This is a very experienced team that has had a vast book of business throughout the state for years," Mr. Gallivan said.

Commercial Capital's assets have more than quadrupled in the last two years, to $753 million at the end of the third quarter. Such rapid asset growth usually comes at the expense of credit quality with start-ups, but according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Commercial Capital Bank has posted no chargeoffs or noncurrent loans in more than two years.

A big reason the company has grown at such a fast clip is that the mortgage arm, Financial Institutional Partners Mortgage Corp., has been the primary originator of apartment loans, since it is allowed to make more loans for its capital base than the thrift. Financial Institutional makes mortgages ranging from $500,000 to $5 million before selling them to thrifts and banks, including Commercial Capital, Mr. Gordon said. …