Different and Enduring Reverse Mortgage Perspectives at National Policy Conference

In what was described by its moderator as “very lively, for the last session on a Friday,” a panel discussion at a meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures in San Diego last month once again demonstrated some different and enduring perspectives on reverse mortgages.

Panel participants included: Peter Bell, president of NRMLA; Rick Jurgens, advocate and investigative reporter with the National Consumer Law Center; and Duncan Goss, staff member with the State of Vermont General Assembly, who moderated.

“The sense I got was that [reverse mortgages] are a potentially useful financial instrument,” said Goss, “but there are things that need to be addressed when considering it.” He said the subject likely would come up again at the group’s spring forum in Washington, D.C., April 7-10, and at their annual legislative summit in Louisville, Ky., July 25-28, where some policy resolutions are voted upon by the full membership.


Vermont is one of the states that passed a new law in 2009 affecting reverse mortgages. On June 1, the governor signed the act, establishing consumer protection standards for reverse mortgage programs.

The NCLC’s Jurgens told RMD that during the December panel discussion, “there were some areas of shared concern. The primary difference is we think that ultimately counseling is not an adequate consumer protection.” Jurgens added that, “as this industry grows and more seniors’ equity comes into play, there must be some sort of suitability standard. Some obligation to operate in the best interest of potential borrowers is needed to check the potential for abuse. That is certainly not a generally applied standard [today],” he concluded.

NRMLA’s Bell said of the panel discussion: “All in all, it was a sparsely attended low-key event. Rick and I generally agreed on issues that policymakers and the industry need to remain vigilant about, although I did question some of the facts and ‘evidence’ presented in the NCLC report.“

Neil J. Morse has been a communications professional working in the mortgage finance industry for more than a decade. He can be reached at nmorse@reversemortgagedaily.com

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  • “The primary difference is we think that ultimately counseling is not an adequate consumer protection.” Jurgens added that, “as this industry grows and more seniors’ equity comes into play, there must be some sort of suitability standard.”

    I'd love to hear what this gentleman thinks would be reasonable suitability standards? Wouldn't it be more effective to actively pursue action against the “bad seeds”? I can't imagine telling prospective clients, “sorry, but the HECM loan will only provide you with a X percentage of proceeds vs. cost, so we can't help you”. Where does the over regulation of the industry end? I'm afraid of the answer to that one.

  • Mr. Bell, another fine job. Without RMD many of the things Peter does for the industry wold not be known.

    Admin, I appreciate your fair and impartial reporting and your overall support for the activities of NRMLA.

  • It is disappointing to hear that the session was sparsely attended. Where's the willingness to do the right thing for seniors? This should be noted whenever we see a negative article about the industry and we should be sure to include it in any contact with media etc.

  • The new counseling standards as presented at the Reverse Fortunes Web Cast yesterday present the senior with a tremendous hurdle. This system seems to be set up primarily to discourage the purchase of a Reverse Mortgage. At this point I would say that a senior will have to be very determined to apply before speaking with the counselor. RF stressed that getting the application before the issuance of the counseling cert would require a GFE at application. I would appreciate comments on this.

  • As of January 4th we stopped getting apps until we have received a counsel certification. I actually kind of like it this way. If they come back to you with a certification you have a pretty good idea of their commitment to proceeding.

  • Here we go again. Counselors are supposed to scare seniors with tests etc. Then that's not enough. Sorry but nothing satisfys liberals but control. Thay want to tell seniors they know best government is here to save you from yourself. Seniors are scared enough without going through bureaucratic hoops.
    A Reverse Mortgage is what it is a mortgage that doesn't have to be repaid until a senior and spouse no longer live in the home. A forward mortgage is fraught with many more problems for seniors like paying monthly payments. You miss 4 and you are all practical purposes gone into foreclosure.This is why all this counseling is not necessary. Seniors are smart I am one I don't need liberals telling me what to do it is my home and my money. May seniors are college graduates who are internet savvy they don't need to be coddled.

    • Jerome, I hear your passion, frustration, and anger and I agree wholeheartedly with the opinion that the “big government control” types always look down their noses at people who are too stupid to make their own decisions and have to “protect” them from themselves and it doesn’t look like government control is going to be shrinking anytime soon, either! Another problem is that some folks make decisions and then don’t accept responsibility for those decisions and blame someone else. Example: a younger senior taking himself off title so the couple can either get more money or because he’s not old enough then makes national headlines because he’s being foreclosed after his wife passes away and it is the big bad “profit-making” bank that’s the scapegoat in spite of the fact that they signed the documents agreeing to the title change. Having said that however, there are indeed scoundrels out there who may not inform seniors what would happen if someone goes off title or even lie to borrowers, so overall, I am personally (but very reluctantly) in favor of the counseling requirement. I do however, think they should simply inform by just giving them the facts and stay out of their personal lives… just my opinion! 🙂

  • Jerome, you're about as smart as the average houseplant. I'm having trouble thinking of a cogent way to dumb down the definition of irony so that you can see the irony in your own diction:

    “Seniors are smart I am one I don't need liberals…”

    I mean, wow. Just wow. I know 4th graders who can express themselves more coherently.

      • comeondude,

        There really is a website out there where your comments will be appreciated; you just need to find it. dduck12 is not part of our industry but his contributions are genuine and bring a different view. Even though we do not always see eye to eye, he is very constructive in what he has to say.

        You are also from a different industry but I cannot say the same for what you produce. Again there are some out there who will appreciate your highly spirited point of view.

      • I appreciate the thought Critic, but having Commondude, here reminds me of the good days in JHS. Ah, the joy of making that funny noise with your arm pit. Maybe we are to harsh with him, I think his attitude will clear up with his acne.

  • It still amuses me that appearently all in attendance at these “sessions” have never faced to face with a real Senior while taking an Application for an FHA HECM (including the ever esteemed Peter (…) (……) Bell–Please tell me I'm wrong Peter (…)…Better yet PROVE IT. By the way are YOU going to takeYOUR own Orginzation's CRNS $1,000 RIP OFF Test and give your Originzation $1,000?). Quite frankly, I tell my Clients the Counseling session is required by FHA; just endure it; the bottom line is “Could using some of your equity in the last years of your life help you financially? You aren't going to take the value into the casket with you understand. Just do what you have to do to start the process. The Feds and the State folks are concerned someone (ME) might be trying to swindle you out of your life-long, hard earned money (And that's good that they are concerned. I wish they would be as concerned about the thieves on Wall Street.). Just listen to what they have to say, answer their questions, and call me when you're done. By the way, if you think the counseling session is something, wait until you see the almost 50 page hernia Application I have for you. Boy is that a dandy. Written by lawyers and bureaucrats, guaranteed to give anyone a headache. Don't worry, though, we highlite where you have to sign (Really, it's a breeze and it is what it is.)

    • James,

      If properly marketed, the CRMP could be very helpful. If it is not going to be marketed well, it is a little pricy. The qualification standards are a little too low for my tastes but that is solely a matter of opinion. I wish every reverse mortgage originator had to take a standardized examination not on forward mortgages and related laws but on reverse mortgages. It would help weed out the ones who give bad information and do not have the knowledge to do the one of the primary jobs we do as originators, educate.

      This is not a Peter Bell rip off. Peter is doing his job. The board has decided to move forward with the program and Peter's job is to convey the benefits of the program to the reverse mortgage community. Peter is the messenger; don't kill the messenger.

  • All borrowers need to be advised of potential down sides to reverse mortgages. They are loans, not a panacea. The suitability of a recommended purchase of a reverse mortgage should be determined, with reference to the totality of the particular borrower's circumstances, goals, and needs, including, but
    not limited to, the following:
    (1) Whether the homeowner intends to reside in the property on a long-term basis.
    (2) Alternatives to the reverse mortgage that would serve a substantially similar purpose. These alternatives may include, but are not limited to, low-cost housing rehabilitation grants and public
    loans, tax postponement, or government aid programs.
    (3) Whether the homeowner is planning to use the proceeds of the reverse mortgage loan to purchase a product, including, but not limited to, annuities or investments, that is not appropriate for the
    (4) If the borrower intends to use funds obtained from a reverse mortgage to purchase investments, a determination of whether the cost of obtaining the reverse mortgage outweighs the anticipated earning from the investment.
    (5) If the homeowner will use the proceeds of the reverse mortgage loan to purchase a long-term care insurance product, an evaluation if that product is appropriate for the homeowner.
    (6) The borrower's apparent physical health and probability for living independently into the foreseeable future.
    (7) The borrower's marital status and the impact of the reverse mortgage on the future economic security of a spouse or dependent.
    (8) The borrower's ability to pay for long-term care services, whether institutional or community- based, once the borrower exhausts his or her equity in the home.
    (9) How a reverse mortgage will affect the borrower's eligibility for receiving government benefits, including, but not limited to, Medi-Cal benefits.
    (10) The borrower's intent to pass the residence to an heir and the impact of any reverse mortgage on his or her ability to accomplish this.
    (11) Whether a resident of the property who is not the homeowner would be displaced at the maturity of the loan, against the homeowner's wishes, because he or she will not be able to pay off the reverse mortgage loan.
    (12) With regard to name removals:
    (A) Was another homeowner removed from title prior to or during underwriting?
    (B) Was the removed homeowner under the age of 62?
    (C) Was the removed homeowner significantly younger than the remaining homeowner?
    (D) Is there any reason to believe that the removed homeowner will outlive the remaining homeowner?
    (E) Was the removed homeowner fully appraised of the legal ramifications of being removed from title, including, but not limited to, the consequences upon the death of the remaining homeowner or upon a divorce settlement.
    (13) Whether the homeowner is fully aware of all loan costs and the method by which costs will be paid.

      • Recently passed legislation in California will mean that (effective
        January 1, 2010) the brokers and lenders are to furnish the
        prospective RM borrowers with a “suitability” checklist prior to
        counseling. The borrowers are advised (in the notice in the
        checklist) to the suitability issues with the counselor. It's a
        “should” not “shall” to there is no absolute directive that the
        counselors reply to the borrowers questions. There is no specific
        language that indicates that the counselor is obligate to actually
        discuss the checklist with the borrower. Hopefully, the counselor
        will discuss things on the checklist, but if he or she doesn't, then
        hopefully the borrower will seek out answers somewhere else before
        committing to the loan. Regarding Brokers, another bill passed
        nailing down their duties to borrowers as “fiduciary duties”. Even
        though there is no express language about the a broker's obligation
        to go over the suitability checklist with the borrowers, because of
        the expressed “fiduciary duty”, there may be a civil remedy against
        them for not doing so, should the reverse mortgage prove unsuitable.
        To be on the safe side, brokers would be well advised to spend as
        much time as they reasonably can in order to insure that the
        transaction is suitable.
        BY THE LENDER.
        (b) (1) In addition to the plain statement notice described in
        subdivision (a), no reverse mortgage loan application shall be taken
        by a lender unless the lender provides the prospective borrower,
        prior to his or her meeting with a counseling agency on reverse
        mortgages, with a written checklist, or in the event that the
        prospective borrower seeks counseling prior to requesting a reverse
        mortgage loan application from the reverse mortgage lender, the
        counseling agency shall provide the prospective borrower with a
        written checklist. The written checklist shall conspicuously alert
        the prospective borrower, in 12-point type or larger, that he or she
        should discuss with the agency counselor the following issues:
        (A) How unexpected medical or other events that cause the
        prospective borrower to move out of the home, either permanently or
        for more than one year, earlier than anticipated will impact the
        total annual loan cost of the mortgage.
        (B) The extent to which the prospective borrower's financial needs
        would be better met by options other than a reverse mortgage,
        including, but not limited to, less costly home equity lines of
        credit, property tax deferral programs, or governmental aid programs.
        (C) Whether the prospective borrower intends to use the proceeds
        of the reverse mortgage to purchase an annuity or other insurance
        products and the consequences of doing so.
        (D) The effect of repayment of the loan on nonborrowing residents
        of the home after all borrowers have died or permanently left the
        (E) The prospective borrower's ability to finance routine or
        catastrophic home repairs, especially if maintenance is a factor that
        may determine when the mortgage becomes payable.
        (F) The impact that the reverse mortgage may have on the
        prospective borrower's tax obligations, eligibility for government
        assistance programs, and the effect that losing equity in the home
        will have on the borrower's estate and heirs.
        (G) The ability of the borrower to finance alternative living
        accommodations, such as assisted living or long-term care nursing
        home registry, after the borrower's equity is depleted.

      • Mr. Cole, speaking as a CA loan originator, I foresee a whole host of problems for the CA reverse mortgage industry because 1) At least some of the national counseling agencies (whose names and phone numbers must appear by law on our list of counselors offered to the senior) have no idea about what requirements AB329 places on them 2) There is some confusion on the part of the CA loan originators (and as we know this includes only those who are not a part of nationally chartered banks thus doubling the pressure on the counselors) as to who provides the forms and when they are to be provided, and 3) Who will be policing this act and how? Was state funding to an overseeing agency provided at enactment or can we look forward to haphazard enforcement crazy quilting all over the place as we have been experiencing on the national front?

        Who can we look to for guidance? We are all scrambling to comply with the national counseling and appraisal laws, along with the new national licensing requirements (Excuse me, involving only those of us who are not part of nationally chartered banks) and just wonder whether we will be gunned down for unintentional missteps caused by well meaning but overwhelmed originators and showered with yet more legislation that does not affect all originators equally. Any help would be appreciated.

  • Hey Prescott Buddy, for many sick, broke (except for a heaven sent Social Security check) sometimes lonely, sometimes condfused, always
    thankful for any interest or help they can get, Seniors–Believe me it is a panacea. Only one who doesn't deal with Seniors on a face-to-face basis
    would think otherwise.

  • Ahh Yes, “In The Heat Of The Moment”: How well I remember those
    days (Nights: My Wife I'm sure says “me, too.” To The Critic: The proof, I suspect, will be in the reception NRMLA gets from Loan Originators opening
    their empty wallets to put another $1,000 on their credit cards. “Messenger”?; are you kidding me? I could think of a few other names; since it's Friday, I'll be nice and just close with Peter (…) (……) Bell.

  • Sure, seniors enjoy getting “more money” to spend. Who wouldn’t? I agree that most of the seniors are elated when they get the loan. My concern is that the seniors be able to get a reality check before they jump into the loan. No harm asking them if they have a Plan B. By Plan B I mean, have they given any serious thought to what they will be able do (and not do) when they have run through all of their money and are all tapped out? There will come a time (and rather quickly for those who take out large lump sums) where the senior borrower hits the limit. What then? In the meantime, I looked up “panacea”. It means a remedy for all ills, a cure all, or a solution for all difficulties. Reverse mortgages are not panaceas, they are loans and they are loans that do have downsides. Incidentally, for the past fifteen years I’ve been working as an attorney for an organization that tries to help senior consumers who have been financially abused. Believe me, it’s heartbreaking.

      • As long as the senior fully understands the ramification of the loan
        there is no problem. California did not outlaw reverse mortgage.
        California simply requires the borrowers received notification,
        through receipt of a checklist, of things to think about before
        committing to the loan. If they, the borrowers, understand the
        plusses and minus of the loan, and there are no viable options, then
        they can (and should) get a reverse mortgage.

  • Prescott: You, Sir, are to be praised for your legal work: You probably could make a great deal more money with your “Sheepskin” than helping abused Seniors. I am curious, however, during your fifteen years, how many Loan Originators have you actually caught ripping off Seniors through the use of an FHA HECM? (Other than those thieves who either still attempt to sell or have sold Annuities to a Senior.)

  • Prescott: You, Sir, are to be praised for your legal work: You probably could make a great deal more money with your “Sheepskin” than helping abused Seniors. I am curious, however, during your fifteen years, how many Loan Originators have you actually caught ripping off Seniors through the use of an FHA HECM? (Other than those thieves who either still attempt to sell or have sold Annuities to a Senior.)

  • Here's some of what I'm seeing:
    Case #1
    New Reverse Mortgage of $364,000. A senior had a reverse mortgage but an agent convinced him to take out a new reverse mortgage. The reason given was that the senior would get a better interest rate.
    The senior took out a new reverse mortgage and the agent opened up a credit line along with the loan. The credit line was for $33,000. The agent diverted some of the money into an account, which was to pay for ongoing property taxes and insurance requirements. The agent placed the funds into his own private account.
    Case #2
    On November 11th, 2007 caller’s mother-in-Law, passed away. Sometime late in December he received a notice from WSFS Bank that this mother-in-law had a taken out a reverse mortgage, and because of the death, the loan was due. The family called the bank to see if they could negotiate the payoff. During the course of the loan the mother-in-law had received $77,000.00. According to the bank, they were owed an amount of over $550,000. There was a non-contingent interest of $232,000.00 and a Premium Fee of $242,000.00, for a total of over $550,000.00.
    Case #3
    87 year-old currently residing in a nursing home with no ready cash.
    Wife died in 2006
    Reverse Mortgage Contract Executed: 10-22-07
    Financing fees/costs: $17,829
    Annuity purchase: $266,000
    Executed: 11-12-07
    Senior will not begin receiving benefits in October 2017 (at 106 years of age)
    Case #4
    The daughter of a single mother who had worked and expected to leave her home to her daughter died leaving a home that was being foreclosed on. In 1983 the mother had taken out a reverse mortgage credit line and w/d $702 per month. Mother died in February of 2008 at the age of 90. Her total w/d from loan had been $136,000. With that, the bank said the loan balance, because of interest and certain assessments, was $577,000. The market value of home is $540,000. The caller also has an aunt (her mother’s sister) who is 93, is still alive, and currently has a reverse mortgage with the same institution. The aunt is now in the early stages of dementia. The aunt had taken out the loan back in the 1980’s. She has been pulling out $800 per month.
    Case #5
    96-year-old woman widow with mild dementia took out a $309,000 reverse mortgage and sent the funds to the Canada Lotto. The broker was aware of the elder’s plan and had instructions for the bank to wire the money to Canada. The broker’s fees were $16,000.
    Broker made $16,000 in loan fees
    Case #6
    84 year-old seniors with an 81 year-old wife suffering from dementia.
    Has home valued at $410,000. The senior responded to a mailer on reverse mortgages from sent from a bank. The senior took out a loan. The loan settlement fees were $16,000.
    The senior was mistaken in his belief that the money he took out was to earn him interest. He was lead to believe by the individual that set him up with the loan that he’d net $14,000 per year through interest earned. He discovered that he wasn’t making money and had to pay an ongoing $100 per month loan service fee.
    Case #7
    A reverse mortgage used to finance $100,000 annuity. The borrower is 83. He was sold a $20,500 Medi-Cal “pre qualification plan” by a senior service group. The group had the elder take out a revere mortgage to finance their plan. The elder use the $100,000 to purchase two annuities. The couple had no need for the Medi-Cal planning services or an annuity because their assets, as a married couple, were such that they would qualify for Medi-Cal simply by filling out an application form.
    Case #8
    In 2005 a husband and wife went to see about a reverse mortgage. The agent advised the wife take her name off of the title telling her that in the future she could put it back on and get a lower interest rate when she did this. The wife took her name off of the title and the husband took out $38,000 was taken out in a lump sum and $9,000 as a line of credit. The wife never was able to put her name back on the title. The husband died in April of 2008 and the reverse mortgage loan was $272,000 and due. The home is now in foreclosure.
    Case #9
    An elderly widow with mild dementia and has a recent history of being victimized by various financial scams. She had become involved in a series of payday loans and most recently took out a reverse mortgage. The money she received was sent over the internet to “Nigeria”. The amount sent was $304,000. The elder may have not been competent when she made the transactions.
    Case #10
    In 2006 a 70 year-old single woman took out $11,000 to paint her condo in Vallejo. Three years later she owes $53,675. During the three-year period she was talked into re-doing her interest rate, which she did, and was charged $5,000 for doing so. She is very unsophisticated. She wanted to go back to the bank where the loan originated and borrow money from them in order to pay them back. When the loan has a market value of $230,000 and now since the market has dropped the condo has a market value of $190,000.

    • Case 1 — This is outright theft. How is it that could have been prevented?

      Case 2 — This sounds like shared appreciation. No reverse mortgage has that feature today.

      Case 3 — This is an annuity problem. Since the senior could have purchased this annuity at any time, the only way to prevent this beyond the laws currently in place is to deal with annuity laws.

      Case 4 — The 1983 sale precedes HECMs.

      Case 5 — No broker could earn that much on any reverse mortgage today. Since 2006 counseling has been required on all California reverse mortgages. If dimentia was mild, did broker know the problem? If he/she did, current law would punish the broker.

      Case 6 — There are no such $100 per month servicing fee on any reverse mortgages being originated today.

      Case 7 — What was wrong was the Medi-Cal planner. All other sales individuals could be completely innocent. This is not a problem with the reverse mortgage itself.

      Case 8 — Where was counseling? Of course this is one side of the story. What is the originator's side? If he lied about the interest rate issue and admitted it or could be found guilty of lying about a material fact, is the statute of limitatios over on fraud in this case?

      Case 9 — This sounds like outright fraud over the use of the funds. Again where was the counselor in all of this?

      Case 10 — I cannot understand the facts in this case. Please rewrite it.

      Most of the things you point out are “old news.” Most of the reverse mortgages mentioned in the early cases are now defunct. Some of the cases, the reverse mortgage is tangent to the heart of the problem. We have bad apples in our industry just like all industries and professions. Many of their actions are punishable under current law. If counseling was adequate some of the problems could have been nipped in the bud.

      These cases would be helpful if they pointed to some thread that could be used to write a law that adjusted the wrong. Bringing up resolved issues is hardly what is needed.

      In 20 years, the financial damage of all reverse mortgages does not come close to the theft of Mr. Madoff and he is but one story of an industry filled with such stories.

      You are right some of your stories do point out some bad apples but many also show why we changed our products. We do a good job of self policing and we will continue to do so.

  • Thank you, Prescott, for your examples; Thank you, Critic, for your excellent critique. I hope some of those dishonest Salespeople saw some jail time. I've often wondered why this Industry doesn't require those dealing directly with Seniors to have E & O Insurance, as are required by Insurance Industry for its Salespeople. (Of course maybe I am uninformed and the Companies
    they work for are.) As an aside, Item 8 reminded me of my own situation in 2009: To make the FHA HECM work, I had to take my Wife's name off the Title ( I robbed the cradle, you see; my Wife is eight years younger.). The only reason we did is I have over $350,000 worth of Life Insurance (which my Wife has threatened to forceably collect on for many years now. Poor Girl, anyway.) I told her she could use the proceeds to pay down the mortgage debt upon my passing; then, get her own FHA hECM at her age. Of course her reply was maybe, maybe not–She just might sell the house, pay off the debt and use the remainder, if any, plus the Life Insurance proceeds and go find a younger, more handsome (and sexy) man! One interesting thing that
    did happen during this process: our Homeowners Insurance (Farmers) contacted our Agent to have them inquire of my Wife if She was aware of this act. I thought that Action was damn decent of them. Of course, since its a California Company (Farmers), maybe they are required by law, I don't know.

  • What I can muster is that the_critic has way too much time on his hands. What a loser. What a complete and utter zero. Critic, you need something to do. Give me your address and I'll send you some hand cream. Maybe that will take some of the edge off.

  • What I can muster is that the_critic has way too much time on his hands. What a loser. What a complete and utter zero. Critic, you need something to do. Give me your address and I’ll send you some hand cream. Maybe that will take some of the edge off.

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