First County Bank recently said it has streamlines the mortgage closing process.

"First County Bank delivered what big banks could not," said customer Ammar Murad, when referring to a recent search for a mortgage on a Greenwich condo. "The U.S. economy and the real estate market would be in much better shape today if large banks reacted quicker to borrowers' needs. These big banks are holding back our economy."

Ammar and Nehla Murad had to move out of their home in Rye Brook, N.Y. on June 27 and couldn't secure a commitment letter from Wells Fargo. "We had a deadline to meet and the bank's red tape was too time intensive. The bank kept extending the deadline until finally we decided to look at other banks for the loan," Nehla Murad said. Their realtor recommended First County Bank.

The Murads met with First County Bank mortgage experts Alice Robinson and David Zamary on Monday, June 20, and were able to close on their condo on June 30. "

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We walked out of that first meeting knowing these two people would deliver for us," Nehla Murad said.

"We felt very confident in their ability. At Wells, we had no access to the underwriters and neither did the originator. With First County, we had access to everyone. We have never closed a mortgage as quickly as we did with First County," Ammar Murad said. Over the years, the Murads have experienced three mortgage closings and two refinancings.

This customer experience gave First County Bank a marketing idea that it hoped would help spur on the residential home market, especially for first-time homebuyers, and attract new borrowers to the bank. And for those borrowers looking to buy or refinance a home and want to close within 30 days, First County Bank offers a new mortgage closing guarantee.

The First County Bank Mortgage Guarantee applies to both purchase and refinance mortgage loans on one- to four-family, owner-occupied residential properties in Connecticut.

"We'll close your mortgage within 30 days or we'll pay you $1,000, provided all required documentation is received by First County Bank within 48 hours of your submission of a completed application," Kathy Harris, president and COO of First County Bank, said. "Today's borrowers demand assurances that their loan will close quickly. For the Murads, our assurance they would receive a commitment letter when promised avoided the possible loss of the 10 percent deposit on the new property."

With today's technology and online access, First County Bank originators are able to fill out all appropriate applications, determine credit scores, approximate market value of a home and what a monthly payment will be, in order to give the borrower a pretty good idea if he or she will qualify for a loan and what it will cost all before the customer leaves the branch.

"We've streamlined the entire mortgage processing system at First County Bank," Harris said. "In fact, we're putting our money on it."

Every customer looking to take out a mortgage at First County Bank is assigned a loan originator, processor and underwriter. The loan originator becomes that borrower's key contact throughout the process. Any time the borrower has a question, he can call his originator who will quickly answer that question. Originators counsel the borrower in order to determine the best product for his or her needs. And it all starts the minute the borrower sits down with a bank representative.

"Everybody wants to save money. It is our job to make sure our customers' needs are matched with the correct product in order to achieve his or her financial goals," Harris said.

"We didn't go with the larger banks because we didn't feel a connection to the people. They were too lax in their approach," Ammar Murad. said "The people at First County care about you and want to make sure you know where you stand every step of the process."

For more information about the First County Bank Mortgage Closing Guarantee, visit www.FirstCountyBank.com/guarantee.

First County Bank, headquartered in Stamford for more than 160 years, is an independent mutual community bank with 15 branches in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Norwalk and Westport offering deposit products, mortgages, trust and investment services, business banking services and online banking. First County Bank has more than 220 employees and assets in excess of $1.3 billion. For additional information, visit www.firstcountybank.com.