Bank of America Home Loans has entering into marketing agreements with national and regional real estate brokerages in which the lender pays for the right to provide tools to consumers, advertise its rates and products, and generate leads on the brokerages’ Web sites.

The latest such deal, announced Wednesday, will put the "Bank of America Mortgage Center" on, allowing visitors to the site to research loan products, get preapproved, or apply for a mortgage online beginning in September.

Bank of America already has similar agreements in place with RE/MAX International and Prudential California Realty, with those brokerages providing access to the Bank of America Mortgage Center through their Web sites.

ZipRealty and Bank of America executives would not disclose the terms of their agreement, but emphasized that it is intended to facilitate better service to ZipRealty’s clients and agents in the 36 major markets where the company does business.

"We wanted to be able to provide a place for customers to go to get preapproved and apply for a loan," said Leslie Tyler, vice president of marketing for ZipRealty. "Customer satisfaction is very important to us, and Bank of America has committed to provide higher customer service than other lenders."

In the past, ZipRealty has provided mortgage tools and the ability to click-through to obtain preapproval from E-Loan. Because E-Loan "didn’t have all the loan products our customers wanted," ZipRealty also launched a pilot program with Countrywide Financial Corp. before the company was acquired by Bank of America, Tyler said.

When the Bank of America Mortgage Center goes live on in September, the mortgage tools currently provided by Leadfusion will be replaced by Bank of America’s, Tyler said. No other lenders will be permitted to advertise on, Tyler said, although ZipRealty clients will be free to use any lender.

"I think the heart of the alliance is the value proposition of service," said Bank of America Home Loans’ Todd McKenzie, national business development executive for strategic business alliances.

McKenzie said that includes the level of service provided not only to ZipRealty customers, but the brokerage’s agents.

The goal of the pilot program in two markets — one in the Northeast, the other in the Northwest — was "to test drive the relationship, as well the tools and processes that were meant to drive this culture of service for the (ZipRealty) agents and customers," McKenzie said. "Those results turned out very well."

McKenzie said Bank of America is willing to enter into similar relationships "with any Realtor in the country." Real estate, he said, "is a local business and a relationship business, and Bank of America wishes to have a relationship with any Realtor."

Partnerships between lenders and real estate brokerages aren’t uncommon, although they often involve joint ventures in which two companies invest in an affiliated business and share profits.

Bank of America recently announced a joint venture with John L. Scott Real Estate to provide mortgage loans to homebuyers in Washington and Oregon through Response Mortgage LLC (see story).


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