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CHARLOTTE … The mortgage industry may lose 100,000 jobs over the next 12 months, but Goodmortgage.com Chief Executive Officer Keith Luedeman says his company is hiring.

The 25-person company has lost a few people who could not make the transition from doing easy refinancing deals to becoming loan consultants. They have been replaced by “people doing fantastic in this environment,” Luedeman tells Local Tech Wire.

Not only that, Luedeman says that Goodmortgage.com is experiencing its best month ever this June. It recently added two states, California and Florida, one and three respectively in the business, and joined the LendingTree network.

The company also got industry exposure in the June issue of the trade publication, “Bank Systems and Technology,” in which Luedeman discusses the “Holy Grail” of online lending, the completely electronic transaction. But the mortgage industry itself is likely to see turmoil this year and next, he says.

“What everybody is saying is true. You’ll see 30 to 40 percent of the mortgage industry go out of business,” he says. Goodmortagage.com does not intend to be among them, the CEO adds.

Luedeman admits that Goodmortgage.com profited from the refinancing boom like others in the industry. However, he points out, “It may actually have slowed our growth.” For instance, he says, the company delayed a move to larger offices able to accommodate a larger staff in until last September when it moved to its current space in Southend, which in turn, stalled growth.

“If we’d know the refi boom would last two or two and half years, we would said damn the torpedoes and moved anyway,” he says now. “It really was fast and furious for years. Once, rates dropped at the end of a week and we had an unbelievable number of business the following Monday. We didn’t really have the infrastructure to handle it.

Volatile market

Luedeman says Goodmortgage.com, founded in 1998 and actually doing business since 1999, has already experienced the mini-refinancing boom followed by a rate change from 7 percent in 1999 to 8.5 percent in 2000 then back down to 6 percent in 2002 and even lower, almost to 5 percent in 2003.

The Mortgage Bankers Association says it expects total loan volume to drop 37 percent to $2.4 trillion this year with the long-term mortgage rate averaging 6.1 percent in 2004 and rising to 6.9 percent in 2005.

Although the refi boom is over, Luedeman says rising rates actually drive more business to Internet-based brokers. “The harder it is to shop, the more likely people are to come to the Internet,” he says.

Even though some folks who concentrated on refinancing during the boom may have gotten rich, focusing on that niche “Is not a sustainable business model,” says Luedeman.

For companies in the mortgage business for the long haul, rather than just to milk the refi segment, “It’s just going back to a more normal way of doing business,” Luedeman says. “That means one of five Americans buys a house every year, rather than nine in ten wants a refinancing.”

Even falling 40 percent from last year’s record $3 trillion in loans, this year looks to be “one of the top five in the mortgage business,” Luedeman says.

Seeking the Grail

One of the reasons he sees a rosy future for Goodmortgage.com despite rising rates and a tougher mortgage climate ahead is that “Holy Grail” of the industry he talks about in this month’s “Bank Systems and Technology.”

That goal, while still a ways off, is nearing reality, he says. “We already do most appraisals electronically,” he notes, adding that an appraisal is different from an inspection and can be done according to preset criteria electronically.

The real obstacle to total electronic mortgage processing, he says, is “The last mile. Not every courthouse is ready for electronic filing.” That last mile can take a long time to travel. Once traversed, however, Goodmortgage.com will have an advantage in competing for the up to 70 percent of all loans done by mortgage brokers.

“Many mortgage brokers are going to have a hard time crossing the chasm to have a Net presence on a scale like ours, licensed in 13 states with electronic transactions in our DNA from the beginning.”

GoodMortgage.com: www.goodmortgage.com