The ranks of state-licensed lenders on Long Island have thinned big time, but Continental Home Loans, based in Melville, is bucking that trend.

It has been expanding with new offices and hires in the past year, said its chief executive Mike McHugh.

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But in filling the void left by lenders, the company has learned lessons in its expansion. In 2008, it opened a telemarketing arm with 60 employees, the kind of bulk business and cold calling that was Lend America's specialty.

Nine months later, McHugh was done with telemarketing, saying the loans approved were not up to Continental's standards.

Now, it fully relies on "relation" building with real estate agents and others who could refer clients.

"There's a need for people who can do the business and do it well," McHugh said. "Now is not the time for unprecedented. Now is the time for stable, steady growth, for doing what you do very well."