LendingTree Goes Brick and Mortar

November 16 2010 (Shirley Allen)
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LendingTree LLC has agreed to buy a traditional mortgage originator with branches in Louisville, Nashville, Tampa, and Indianapolis. The $6 million deal for SurePoint Lending will be the first time since LendingTree was created that it has traditional brick and mortar branches.

LendingTree, whose core business is generating leads for sale to lenders, has had a direct lending operation since 2004, when it bought HomeLoanCenter.com, in Irvine, Calif., and renamed it LendingTree Loans. But it has always operated exclusively online.

SurePoint currently has nearly 500 employees, including more than 300 loan officers. The outfit has purchased leads from LendingTree for 11 years and has originated more than $10 billion of loans since it was founded in 1995. LendingTree currently has over 700 employees.

“This acquisition is a key component of our aggressive growth strategy for LendingTree Loans, which also includes expanding our team of loan officers headquartered in Irvine, Calif., increasing our marketing spend, and continuing to invest in process and technology to meet both regulatory requirements and our customers’ needs,” Doug Lebda, the chairman and chief executive of Tree.com Inc., LendingTree’s parent company in Charlotte, said in a press release issued Tuesday.

LendingTree Loans paid $6 million in cash for SurePoint, but the purchase may cost up to $17 million more depending on earnings over the next three years. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2011.