Thomas J. Owen runs one of the few savings and loans in the metropolitan Washington area to show a profit in the first half of 1981.

As chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Perpetual American Federal Savings and Loan, Owen can take a lot of the credit for Perpetual American's firm standing in a turbulent savings industry. He is hard-nosed, aggressive and willing to try different approaches. He has been called a pacesetter.

Some of the innovations Owen has spearheaded at Perpetual are discounts of 5 percent to 20 percent to customers who prepay mortgage loans under certain conditions; assumptions of mortgages at less than market rates, and an active refinancing program in which an older mortgage rate is blended with a newer one closer to, but at a lower level than, prevailing rates.

In 1979, Owen succeeded his father, Thornton W. Owen, as chairman of the board of Perpetual American, which was founded in 1881 as the outgrowth of a group called the St. George's Society, whose members pooled their resources on a loan basis to help each other buy new homes. Under Thornton Owen, the assets of the savings and loan more than doubled.

Owen recently became president-elect of the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade, a position that puts him in line to become president of that body in 1983.

In 1971, Owen was the youngest person ever to be elected president of the Washington Board of Realtors. He has also been a director of the National Association of Realtors.