Mortgage lending boosts Sterling


Mortgage lending

boosts Sterling

Sterling Financial Corp., which operates Sterling Savings Bank, regained its mortgage-loan mojo in 2012. The Spokane-based bank reported 2012 year-end income of $385.7 million, which included mortgage income of $96.9 million, up 85 percent over 2011.

Sterling Chief Financial Officer Patrick Rusnak noted 2012 income was inflated by an income tax benefit of $292 million. When that number is deducted, Sterling’s fiscal 2012 income is $93.7 million, compared with 2011 net income of $39.3 million.

After struggling to survive after the 2008 bank crisis, Rusnak said, Sterling has refocused on smarter lending, including a strong reliance on servicing loans for multifamily housing and commercial buildings.

The bank’s fourth-quarter 2012 earnings report noted a total $261.3 million in loans for refinancing or purchases of existing multifamily residential buildings.

Rusnak said that’s up significantly from the $179.6 million for those loans in the fourth quarter of 2011.

“Multifamily (loans) have been an area of focus for us for a while,” he said. About two-thirds of multifamily residential lending is in California. About 25 percent is based in Washington.

Business and industrial loans would be the second largest component of new loans, said Rusnak, but that sector is only one-third the volume of multifamily lending.

Of Sterling’s 2012 multifamily loans, about two-thirds involve refinancing, Rusnak said, reflecting near-historic low interest rates.