Florida community bank launches mortgage arm

Amerant Bank, one of the largest community banks in Florida, announced that it is venturing into the mortgage industry with the formation of Amerant Mortgage.

The company said this expansion was a direct response to the state’s growing demand for residential mortgages.

At the end of last year, the number of closed sales for single-family homes in the South Florida area jumped nearly 24% annually, according to the Florida Association of Realtors. The median sale price also increased over 17% to $430,000.

“It is evident that Florida’s residential real estate market is booming,” said Millar Wilson, Amerant vice chairman and CEO. “The ongoing positive sales trajectory, coupled with generationally low interest rates, which are expected to continue throughout 2021, has created unprecedented momentum in the residential mortgage origination space.”

Amerant Mortgage is a joint venture between the bank and a team of residential real estate executives with a “long track record of success in the residential mortgage arena, most recently with one of the largest Florida-based financial institutions,” according to Amerant. The bank will retain the majority ownership of the JV.

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The industry executives include: Howard Levine, Tony Eelman, Marshall Martin and Joe Keel. The existing residential mortgage team for Amerant will be rolled into the new JV.

“Through the establishment of Amerant Mortgage, we have an exceptional opportunity to become increasingly active players in this industry,” said Levine, Amerant Mortgage executive vice president and chief revenue officer. “This JV is a truly unique business model. This model combines robust product offerings with exceptional service – an absolute win/win for the consumer.”

Amerant Mortgage will offer the full complement of residential lending solutions to include conventional, government, Jumbo loans, and unique product offerings.

“We are confident that this exciting JV will continue to further Amerant’s footprint in the communities we serve,” Wilson said. “The businesses to be created under Amerant Mortgage are consistent with our strategy of diversifying and increasing non-interest income at Amerant Bancorp.”

There have been other community banks in the South who have made moves to take advantage of the mortgage boom. Last month a subsidiary of First Community Bank of Tennessee struck a deal to acquire A Mortgage Boutique, which originates mortgages in Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Virginia, and Ohio.

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