GRBblog

Welcome to the GRBblog! Get to know GRB, Rochester's only locally owned and managed commercial bank. A commercial bank, but also a community bank, with an entrepreneurial spirit about everything we do. We're committed to Growing Rochester Business and making our community a better place to live and work.

The GRBblog is where we post bank news and information, stories about the great organizations we support, and share relevant local and national business news.


Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) Provides Possibilities for Homeowners

A Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) is one of the lowest-cost sources of funding available to homeowners. Unlike a loan, which provides a lump sum of funds and a fixed interest rate, a home equity line of credit is a revolving credit line. It allows the borrower to take out money against the credit line up to a preset limit, make payments, and then take money out again as needed. The rate is variable.

Interest rates remain among the lowest in recent history. So securing a HELOC may be a good way for homeowners to reach other personal or financial goals. Homeowners regularly use them to:

  • Make home improvements
  • Pay tuition
  • Consolidate debt
  • Set aside emergency cash
  • Start a business
  • Take a vacation

Beginning spring 2021, GRB is offering a HELOC special with a low introductory rate and flexible terms.

There are many factors to consider when deciding whether a HELOC is a good borrowing option. Think about how you will use the money, what might happen to interest rates, your long-term financial plans, and your tolerance for risk with a HELOC’s adjustable rates.

Contact a GRB Personal Banker to discuss your goals and how a HELOC may be part of the solution.


GRB Recognized as Best-performing Community Bank in 2020 by S&P

S&P Global Market Intelligence report ranks GRB no. 23 nationwide for banks with up to $3 billion is assets

GRB is proud to be recognized by S&P Global Market Intelligence as one of the “Best-performing Community Banks for 2020” for banks up to $3 billion in assets. Ranked at no. 23, GRB is the only New York state community bank on the nationwide list.

No. 23 ranking graphic

To determine the ranking, S&P calculated scores for more than 4,000 financial institutions on six weighted metrics: pre-tax return on tangible common equity, efficiency ratio, net interest margin, operating revenue growth, leverage ratio and nonperforming assets and loans 90 days past due as a percentage of total assets, and the net of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. GRB performed well in all categories, delivering an efficiency ratio of 46.03%, keeping non-performing assets to 0.30% as a percent of total assets, and delivering a return on tangible common equity of 25.83%.

Meeting 2020’s challenges

“In a year filled with so much uncertainty, we are proud that GRB was able to maintain its stability, make significant gains in efficiency, and serve the local community as one of the region’s leading SBA PPP loan providers,” said GRB President and CEO Philip L. Pecora. “Our previous years’ investments in technology and ability to develop a committed, high-performing workforce allowed us to respond quickly to the PPP program and simultaneously move forward with other lending activities, deposit growth, and support a record-breaking year for our residential mortgage team.”

“Despite going through a challenging year filled with economic uncertainty, we have seen community banks and credit unions play a significant role in their regional markets, providing support and essential services needed in their local communities. I’m thrilled to see these community banks and credit unions thrive in a challenging time and proud to recognize these top performing local financial institutions in our annual rankings,” said Jimmy Pittenger, Senior Director of Financial Institutions at S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Relationships made the difference

Pecora points out that it was the bank’s strong relationships with its customers that provided the foundation for fully leveraging its technology infrastructure and shifting to a remote work environment for more than 70% of the bank’s employees.

“We take pride in being the kind of banking partner that knows its customers intimately and proactively works with them to face challenges and take advantage of new opportunities,” said Pecora. “In an environment like 2020, those relationships were critical. Even though things were changing for us and for our customers on a daily basis, they knew we were focused on doing the right thing for them, for our employees and for this community.”

Focusing on recovery

In addition to processing PPP loans for 575 small businesses, 2020 also brought GRB a number of other achievements: earning Emerald Award status from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and being the top SBA lender in the Rochester region, being named to the “Rochester Chamber Top 100” list of fastest-growing privately owned companies, and being recognized as one of the “Best Companies to Work for in New York” by the Society for Human Resource Management. The bank was also a leading purchase mortgage bank lender in the region and was recently named a top residential mortgage refinance provider by Expertise.com.

“We were well-positioned in 2020 to fulfill the rapidly changing needs of our customers and still provide opportunities for our employees and shareholders,” said Pecora. “We know that strength will be needed in 2021 as we continue to support the recovery efforts of the small businesses and community members in the Rochester region.” 

Read the full S&P report


Expertise.com Names GRB Top Rochester Refinance Mortgage Provider

Genesee Regional Bank is pleased to announce it has been recognized by professional services review website Expertise.com as one of the Top Refinance Mortgage companies in Rochester, NY.

Expertise.com scored GRB on more than 25 variables across five categories including availability, qualifications, reputation, experience, and professionalism.

Expertise.com finds and reviews the top service professionals in over 200 industries across the U.S. Each month, the company researches more than 60,000 businesses to help customers find the best-qualified professional for their needs. Categories available for analysis include legal, business, personal, and home services.

Mortgage Refinance Companies near me

Contact our Mortgage team for a home loan or refinance.


First-time Homebuyer Mortgage Program Offers Up To $10,000 in Grants

Homebuyer Dream Program logo

As a bank, GRB is able to work with the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York (FHLBNY) to provide grant assistance to qualified first-time homebuyers. The Homebuyer Dream ProgramTM provides grants of up to $10,000 towards the purchase of a home in New York.  This is a program that is only available to banks, mortgage brokers are not able to access grant funds for this program.

The FHLBNY is also returning to the allotment program this year, providing lenders with a set amount of funding and helping avoid the “first come, first served” difficulties many buyers experienced in 2020.

The program officially kicks off on May 3.

Homebuyer Dream Program* (HDP) eligibility requirements

  • Must be first-time homebuyers (have not owned a home individually or with a spouse in the last three years)
  • Reside and purchase a home in New York
  • Have a household income at or below 80% of area median income (i.e., in Monroe and Onondaga county, 1 or 2 person households, up to $68,080. 3-person households up to $78,292)
  • Complete an accredited homeownership course
  • Meet the income and credit requirements for the program
  • Have the minimum equity contribution of $1,000 toward purchase of the home
  • Remain in the home for five years or repay a portion of the grant funds back to FHLBNY

Important information

  • Up to $9,500 in grant funding is available to be applied to down payment and closing costs
  • Up to $500 in grant funding is available to offset the cost of the homeownership course

Find out if you qualify

For more information, contact our mortgage professionals.

Please note, the information in this post refers to the 2021 HDP. The Federal Home Loan Bank of New York assesses the HDP on an annual basis and the program is subject to change. Please go to our Mortgage Loans page for more information on the HDP and other grant and lending options.

* Homebuyer Dream Program is a trademark of the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York.


Refinancing was Hot in 2020, is There Still Opportunity in 2021?

Since late 2018, mortgage rates have been trending down across the board. If you have an existing home mortgage, lower rates can still spell opportunity.

Mortgage refinancing can offer homeowners a number of benefits:

  • Lowering the monthly payment
  • Lowering the amount of interest owed over the life of the loan
  • Converting an adjustable rate mortgage to one with a lower fixed rate
  • Taking cash out of the equity on the home for improvements or other investments
  • Eliminating Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

The “cash out refinance” enjoyed tremendous popularity in 2020, with homeowners using the funds to make significant improvements to kitchens and bathrooms, and add swimming pools and outdoor living spaces. The current pandemic certainly contributed to the desire to make our homes as comfortable as possible, inside and out, and the cash out refinance made that possible.

With mortgage rates at near-historic lows, does it make sense to refinance now? While there is still uncertainty regarding the pandemic, it does seem unlikely that rates will stay this low forever.

Use our free mortgage calculator, contact GRB’s mortgage team at 585.427.9200 or reach out to us online to see if the refinance numbers add up to opportunity for you.


New Conforming, FHA Loan Limits for 2021

House for sale with "for Sale" sign in front

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) have announced new maximum conforming loan limits and FHA loan limits for 2021.

Conforming Loan Limits for 2021

In Central and Western New York:

  • The maximum conforming FHFA loan limit for one-unit properties will be $548,250, an increase from $510,400 in 2020.
  • Multi-family property conforming limits increased as follows: Two-family properties are up to $702,000, three-unit homes up to $848,500 and the new limit for four-unit properties is $1,054,500.

The Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) requires that the baseline conforming loan limit be adjusted each year for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reflect changes in the average U.S. home price. The percentage increase in the maximum conforming loan limit follows the Housing Price Index for the prior four quarters.

“The annual FHFA adjustment is important for homebuyers, providing better financing options for loans that would traditionally have fallen into the ‘jumbo’ category,” said GRB’s SVP, Residential Mortgage Manager Mike Pulver.

For new loan applications or applications already in process, the loan amounts will be subject to 2020 limits as long as the loan closes by Dec. 31. Loans closing on Jan. 1 or after will fall under the 2021 limits.

FHA Loan Limits

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) announced new maximum loan limits for FHA home mortgages in 2021. In Central and Western New York:

  • The maximum FHA loan limit for one-unit properties will be $356,362, an increase from $331,760 in 2020.
  • Multi-family FHA loan limits increased as follows: Two-family properties are up to $456,275, three-unit homes up to $551,500 and the new limit for four-unit properties is $685,400.

Changes to FHA loan limits are linked to the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA), which requires that the baseline conforming loan limit be adjusted each year for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reflect changes in the average U.S. home price. FHA loan limits are typically 65% of the conforming loan limit.

“The annual adjustment is important for homebuyers, providing better financing options for those purchasing a first home,” said GRB’s SVP, Residential Mortgage Manager Mike Pulver. “In Rochester, our market has been extremely competitive. The increase in the FHA loan amount will be crucial in helping potential buyers keep pace with the increase in home values.”

In order to use the new loan limits, an FHA case number must be assigned on or after Jan. 1, 2021. Those with a case number assigned up through Dec. 31, 2020 will use the current year’s loan limits.

Contact GRB’s Mortgage Team with any questions.


GRB Celebrates Appearance on 2020 Top 100 List

GRB is pleased to announce it was named no. 83 on the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce “2020 Top 100” list.  GRB is the only bank on the Top 100 list.

Top 100 award logo with the Rochester skyline.

To be eligible for the Top 100, businesses must be privately held, headquartered in the nine-county Rochester region, and have earned at least $1 million in revenue in each of the three most recent fiscal years. The Top 100 is computed based on revenue growth, taking into account both dollar and percentage growth.

We are also proud to note how many GRB customers and partners are on the Top 100.  The exciting new ideas brought to market by newer companies on the list and the consistent growth of those who make the list year after year are a testament to the strength and innovative spirit of this region. Congratulations to everyone on the list for 2020!

And a sincere thank you to our GRB employees. Your hard work and commitment to serving our customers made this achievement possible. You are appreciated each and every day!

Although the information for the Top 100 was collected earlier in the year, it is not lost on us how challenging the environment has been in 2020. We are happy to be recognized as part of the Top 100, but we know there is a lot of work to do this year and into 2021 to ensure our community continues to provide opportunities and growth for individuals and businesses. Today, we take some time to celebrate. But we will be back to work in short order supporting our community.


GRB Earns Emerald Award from U.S. SBA for Small Business Lending

Picture of Rochester skyline with GRB and SBA logos

Genesee Regional Bank is pleased to be recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration with an Emerald Award for its lending activities for the period from Oct. 2019 through Oct. 2020.

The bank closed 45 loans totaling $19.4 million. According to the SBA, those loans supported 851 jobs in our community. As published in a recent issue of the “Rochester Business Journal,” this also makes GRB the top SBA lender in the Rochester area.

In addition to the new businesses and business expansions made possible through SBA lending, GRB also assisted more than 577 local businesses with their Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Nearly 35% of these businesses were not GRB customers, but they needed help. We created a process from the ground up and started submitting loans the moment the SBA opened its online portal.

Six months later, we continue to work with these businesses to submit their paperwork for loan forgiveness to ensure that these employers — businesses on which this community depends — can continue to be here for all of us.

This aligns with the Independent Community Bankers of America President and CEO Rebecca Rainey Romero’s assessment of community banks’ response to the pandemic and overall capabilities in a recent article in “American Banker.” In fact, Romero points out that, “Small Business Administration data shows that community banks made nearly 2.8 million PPP loans — more than half of the program’s total loans — that helped save millions of jobs.”

“The 5,000 community banks across the nation continue to get the job done without fail while serving as the backbone of local economies through nimble decision-making, personal relationships and yes, technological innovation,” added Romero.

As a community bank, we don’t have a branch on every corner. You won’t find us on your stock ticker, and our name isn’t on a sports arena (well, maybe a Little League field).

But we are proud to say that you will find GRB right here, right when you need us. GRB remains Here. For You.


Your Home Purchase Details are Public Record and Scammers Know How to Use Them

Illustration with house in red and "SCAM" on the front.

Almost from the minute you close on your new home, you receive a multitude of offers for dozens of home-related services. It’s all part of being a new home owner. That is, until the offers cross the line into scams.

Like it or not, the information about a home purchase and the terms and conditions of the mortgage loan are recorded among the land records in the jurisdiction where the property is located. With many jurisdictions offering online access to public records, it is easier than ever for unscrupulous individuals to use the details available about your home purchase to perpetrate any one of a number of scams targeted at new home owners.

Typically, these scams use the public details about your home purchase to try and gain access to more of your personal information (credit card numbers, bank accounts, social security number, etc.) or to simply bilk you out of your hard-earned money by making you buy a product or service you don’t need. Scammers will often use your lender’s name and the mortgage amount to look “official.” Some even create fake documents and websites using your lender’s logo or may try to impersonate your lender in phone calls to gain your trust.

“Buying a home is such a big step and everyone wants to do everything right. Scammers take advantage of that state of mind and leverage the few details they have from public records to prey on home owners,” said Meghan Antonitto, Genesee Regional Bank’s Risk Management Officer.

Common scams include:

  • Purchasing unneeded mortgage protection insurance – While there are legitimate insurers, many of these offers are phrased to appear as if the mortgage insurance the home owner may have purchased through the lending process is inadequate and additional insurance is required. Always contact your lender if you have questions about your mortgage terms.
  • Unpaid utility bills – A “representative” from a utility company calls the new home owner explaining that the previous owner of the home still has outstanding bills due. In a threatening tone, the representative tells the new home owner to send a check or pay by credit card to eliminate the debt. Otherwise, the electricity will be cut off or the needed service (cable, water, etc.) won’t be provided.
  • Mortgage payment administration – After closing, the homeowner receives a solicitation from a company that promises to administer payments for a bi-monthly mortgage which promises to save them “lots of money” over time. This intermediary administrator charges a hefty processing fee and a smaller—but not insignificant—monthly fee, which is often not revealed until it’s too late.

Antonitto recommends that new home owners be on high alert in the weeks and months right after they close on their home. The problem can be complicated by legitimate information the home owner may receive as a follow up to their mortgage transaction.

“Home owners do receive additional communications from their lender, perhaps a notification saying their loan has been sold or even a satisfaction survey, in the weeks following their closing. It can be difficult to tell what is real and what is not,” said Antonitto. “If a home owner is having trouble discerning whether a letter or notification is genuine, they should contact their lender immediately.”

While the introductory offers for landscaping services can be helpful, home owners need to be vigilant as they settle into their new home. Scammers know just how to use your home purchase details against you.  


GRB Community Give Back Supports Local Businesses

The last few months have left nearly everyone wondering what we can do to help our local businesses recover. As a community bank, this is a particularly important question for GRB. We eliminated fees, deferred loans and supported a number of not-for-profit organizations. We focused on processing the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans as quickly as possible so we could bring money back into the local community.

Thumbnail for a video with GRB Community Give Back

But even more inspiration would came from our Board of Directors, which suggested a way to both support the local business community and thank our employees for their extraordinary efforts over the last few months. The GRB Community Give Back program was born, with the bank giving each employee money to spend on gift cards from participating GRB business customers. From gift shops to roofing companies and electrical contractors to restaurants, nearly 60 local businesses were selected!

On the day we distributed the gift cards to our employees, we had sunshine, balloons, an ice cream social (distance) event, as well as the opportunity to see our work-from-home team members and their families as they picked up their gift cards. The day was absolutely perfect!

There is a long road ahead for all of us, but we hope the GRB Community Give Back program is another step in the right direction to help our community stay #ROCstrong!