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Dollar volume of Indian mortgages rises sharply

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WASHINGTON - The real estate boom has made itself a factor in Indian
country. For while the federal government said the number of mortgages made
to American Indians declined a little last year, the dollar value of those
mortgages zoomed by 40 percent.

A total of 3,510 financial institutions made mortgages to Indians or Alaska
Natives last year, Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data show. The 2003 total
of $14 billion was 40 percent above the $9.7 billion registered in 2002 by
3,154 lenders. That's fairly proportional to the nationwide increase in
mortgage lending from $2.7 trillion in 2002 to $3.9 trillion in 2003,
caused by booming real estate prices and ample refinancings.

An earlier HMDA "snapshot" released by the government showed a 4.8 percent
decline in the number of mortgages made to Natives year to year. But that
was based only on a partial count of home purchase mortgages, leaving out
the far-larger refinancing sector.

The top 10 lenders to Indians last year did a volume of $6.7 billion, far
outstripping the $4.5 billion the top 10 did in 2002. The top 100 was also
stronger in 2003, doing $11.1 billion in Native lending compared to $7.8
billion in 2002.

That means average lending to Natives at the biggest lenders has gone up,
with the top 100 averaging more than $100 million in mortgages to Indians.

Another milestone was the first-ever $2 billion Native mortgage year by a
single institution Countrywide Home Loans, Calabasas, Calif., led all
institutions with $2.7 billion in lending to Natives. With its sub-prime
unit, Full Spectrum Lending, factored in, Countrywide did $2.8 billion in
Native volume last year, almost doubling 2002's $1.5 billion. (These and
all volumes refer to mortgages made both on- and off-reservation.)

Second again in 2003 was Wells Fargo Bank of San Francisco. Wells has a
decentralized reporting structure, and more than 30 of its state banks
report HMDA numbers, as well as its mortgage company and finance unit,
which both finished in the top ten in lending to Natives.

Put together, Wells' top two units did more than $1.25 billion in Native
lending last year. Adding in the state units doing business in Indian
country would make its results even higher than that.

Taking the bronze medal was Washington Mutual Bank of Seattle. With two
reporting Washington Mutual units and a third subprime unit, Long Beach
Mortgage, Washington Mutual made more than $550 million in Native lending
last year, barely edging out Wachovia Bank of Winston-Salem, N.C., which
had $541 million.

In fifth was Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corp., Edison, N.J., at $390 million.
It barely edged its rival, Bank of America, Charlotte, N.C., which had $380
million in loans to Indians and Alaska Natives.

Seventh was a newcomer to the top-10 list, Lehman Brothers Bank, New York,
at $328 million. Eighth was ABN Amro Mortgage of Troy, Mich., at $319
million.

The ninth rank belongs to Citicorp, New York, which, like Wells, reports
its units individually. Totaling more than 10 Citi units gives it more than
$300 million in Native volume, besting number 10, Aegis Funding Corp. of
Houston, another newcomer, at $230 million.

A total of 19 institutions made at least $100 million in mortgages to
Indians last year. Besides the 11 mentioned above, they are National City
Mortgage, Cleveland; GMAC Mortgage Corp., Horsham, Pa.; New Century
Mortgage Corp., Irvine, Calif.; Flagstar Bank, Flint, Mich.; Mac-Clair
Mortgage, World Savings Bank, Oakland, Calif.; and First Horizon Home Loan,
Orange, Calif. The top 20 is a mix of commercial banks, subprime mortgage
companies, and a couple of finance companies.

Looking at the bottom of the list, one of three lenders tied for least
volume to Indians ironically has an Indian country name. That's Siouxland
National Bank, South Sioux City, Neb., at $1,000 (perhaps a home
improvement loan or a home equity loan). Siouxland tied for the bottom spot
on the 3,510 lender list with Kentucky Bank, Paris, Ken. and Sunrise Family
Credit Union, Bay City, Mich.

Those 3,510 institutions were less than half of a total of more than 8,000
that reported HMDA numbers to the Federal Financial Institutions
Examination Council. That means a majority of lenders in the country made
no mortgages to Indians at all last year.