Less than 1000 Reverse Mortgage Counselors Have Passed Exam says HUD

image The US Department Housing and Urban Developments decision to require reverse mortgage counselors pass an exam is stumping veteran housing specialists says the Post and Courier.

A HUD spokesman said the agency “acknowledges the test is intentionally difficult, but we believe it needs to be so because of the vulnerable population who seek out reverse mortgages.”

So far, 995 counselors have passed the test, which leads HUD to believe the level of difficulty is not so stringent as to limit the number of counselors available said a statement from HUD.  However, not all would agree.

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Debbie Kidd, head of the Homeowner Resource Center at Family Services Inc. in North Charleston, told the Post and Courier that she failed the online test four times. "It’s humiliating for me," Kidd said. "I’ve done this for 20 years. … Why can’t we pass this test?"

Robert Mitchell of the Trident United Way has taught classes about reverse mortgages to other counselors, yet he, too, did not make a passing score on this first attempt. Asked if he plans to retake the exam, Mitchell quipped: "If I don’t retire before that."

The test is part of HUD’s commitment to improve HECM counseling.  The National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association reported that HUD expects to release its new counseling protocol sometime this month.

Included is a new financial interview tool (FIT) that counselors must utilize to help prospective borrowers asses the financial viability of remaining in their home said NRMLA.

Reverse-mortgage test a puzzler

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  • From a capacity standpoint, it seems like there is no shortage of counselors nationwide. As long as telephone counseling is broadly permissible there is no capacity problem, however, face-to-face counselor availability in many areas will be a challenge, (lenders using the HECM counseling roster to generate their counseling lists in low population states already know this).

    The test has always been regarded by counselors as challenging, so these kind of complaints are not new. What is new is that you now MUST have passed the test to counsel. There was a update in May 2009 and it is possible that the new updated questions are harder, but its very difficult for anyone but the administrators to know.

    The frustrating part of not passing the exam is that it is difficult to find out exactly what went wrong. As the exam has a limited question bank to test from, the questions are not released publicly or it would make the test easy to learn the specific answers. This means it is very difficult for a counselor to know why they did not pass, and harder still to do targeted training to correct any deficiencies.

    If you are interested: the general exam and the details are provide to the public at:

    http://www.hecmexam.org/exam/guide_exam_content

  • The test is challenging for conuselors given their room tempurature IQ as we have alluded to in this forum before.

    I think the ones that fail should be handed the paper hat and a spatula so as they may begin their new McJobs.

  • comeondude:

    The above intelligent comments makes me wonder what your IQ is or at least your level of compassion.
    From the critic's comment I don't know what you do but I hope it has nothing to do with seniors!

  • You may find this interesting…

    After being in the reverse mortgage business for 10 yrs, I signed up to take the HECM Exam and was “denied” because you have to work for a non-profit in order to take it. I can pass that test hands down!

    I called one of the major HUD Directors and was received with distaste because I was a reverse mortgage loan officer. I asked her if there was any way around this rule. She was very nasty and just kept saying NO!

    It is discrimation to deny “anyone” an education or the right to take any test they want. No one said you have to hire them, but everyone should have that right!

    We are the “best” at the reverse mortgage business!!

    • jen7243,

      So if you can pass the exam, what does that mean for the industry or even you? You make this like it is a competition — who is better. What is your point?

      We need counselors. We need them to be as good as they can be. Most importantly we need to work together.

      It seems you need to find yourself more knowledgeable than they are. Maybe you need to become a counselor for a while so that you can get this out of your system. I just don't get your point unless you really feel that inferior. For someone who has been in the industry for 10 years….

      • It means a LOT to me depending on where I want to go in the future!! Think beyond now. You clearly don't understand my statement because you think everything is about the person.

        What I am saying is, that I should be able to take that test “regardless” of who I am or who I work for. Inferior???? … No … I feel that I am equal.

      • Jen,

        Don’t let “The_Critic” rub you the wrong way, he/she/it thinks pride is your motive because that is what he/she/it obviously values highly; otherwise it wouldnu2019t have been the ONLY purpose for the demeaning remarks.

        I once had a counselor from “an un-named agency” DENY my Client a Counseling Certificate, solely because they felt that the Client “shouldn’t” get a Reverse Mortgage. I called and asked if I could go through their counseling session so that I could become better educated. I, too, was denied education, a service that was supposedly open to the public.

        Your point, to me, was clear and I have a HUGE ego (ashamed to admit). Even ego-boy/girl/thing admitsu2026 u201cwe need to work togetheru201d and then acts like your point was missed and that they came up with some revelation. “Gee boss that’s a great idea; wish I would have come up with that!!”

        I admire your confidence Jen.

        I agree with your statement, only if I understand correctly… The ones that spend the majority of time nurturing and handholding the Clients should be the “best”. Good for you for seeking to better yourself; we should all follow this example.

        Travis De Renzo
        http://www.HECM.net

      • Jen,

        I think there are arguments for and against letting non-counselors take the exam, but as a practical matter, the HUD Director is right; there is no way around this rule, and however nasty, she may have saved you some time and money.

        HECM counselors will be required to resit the exam every 3 years, so successfully passing the exam would only have helped you if you planned to become a counselor within that period.

        Also, HUD regs mean that approved agencies would not allow you to counsel part time and originate loans as well (appearance of conflict of interest); so, until you are ready to become a counselor full time, passing the exam really doesn't help you.

        If and when you are ready to make the change, you'll find HECM counseling agencies typically view experience in RM lending as very valuable asset in hiring a counselor, not having passed the exam prior to being hired is really not a big deal.

      • jen7243,

        I think you miss the point. You are not qualified to take the exam. There are many tests in life you are not qualified to take. Get over it. Like the other exams, nothing is stopping you from becoming qualified.

        I really cannot understand why you had to press the individual at HUD the way you describe. This hardly seemed necessary.

        It is nice you believe you know what I am thinking but you most likely don't. In life you are equal to any counselor but you are not qualified to take their exam — neither am I. Don't lose any sleep over it.

        Your future is in your own hands; take hold of it. If you become a counselor, I am sure you will be a good one.

      • I think “you” don't get it. I'm saying that I “am” highly qualified. It's clear you have no clue what a seasoned reverse mortgage rep must go through to sustain years of experience. I don't even think you know what we do or what kinds of training we obtain every year.

        Now, with all that said, my issue is still that fact that that test should not be restricted. Anyone should be able to self-educate; regardless of HUD's regulations or your beliefs.

      • jen7243,

        No doubt you are highly qualified. Yet you are looking to the future. Why would such a highly qualified person with ten years in the industry want to take an exam for counselors?

        I have been in the industry about half the time as you. You are clearly one of those self important types who believe the knowledge in this business is superior to that of most other industries. I am sorry but it is not. This is not rocket science, brain surgery, or even real estate.

        It takes little learning but a lot of care and compassion if it is done right. The CRMP that NRMLA offers requires 12 hours of NRMLA courses. Other than ethics there is no core knowledge courses required. It simply requires 50 funded loans or 5 years in the industry.

        You have no idea what I believe. I just think you are stirring up a hornet's net over absolutely nothing. Get qualified and you can take the exam of your dreams. You can do it.

  • The capacity problem is that very few counselors are only doing reverse mortgage counseling. The vast majority spend their days doing foreclosure prevention counseling and home buyer education training. It would be tough to make a living wage in many areas of the country if a counselor does 20 RM sessions/month and nothing else.

    • treadlightly,

      And….

      I respect the opinion of Daniel Fenton on this point. Most of us realize that the vast majority of counselors provide more services than reverse mortgage counseling. If the need goes up, those other responsibilities can be shifted. In business we call this delegation and allocation of scarce resources.

      Are you saying that we are naive that no responsibilities can be shifted or new personnel cannot be hired to fill those other functions? How many counselors were there before the passing requirement went into effect? Are 10% of the former counselors not eligible? What are you trying to say?

      • Daniel hit the nail on the head. You had asked what the problem was, and the problem is that an increase in demand won't easily translate into an increase in counselors. Even if we needed to increase our RM counselors, it would be months before that ramp up would be in place at our agency due to the training and exam requirements. At this point, the soonest I'd have someone in training would be June, with a listing on FHA Connection probably not occurring for another month, assuming they pass the test the first time around. I agree with you that, at this time, the number of counselors isn't a significant issue. That may change, but my phone isn't ringing off the hook. Keep in mind that there is some room for agencies to decide how they will provide the counseling, so some agencies will only do face-to-face counseling, others will do phone counseling. There's some variation and not all will be available for phone work.

      • Allocation of scarce resources can be difficult but that is why you make the big bucks. I'm sure as it becomes apparent vacancies exist, many qualified people will be standing in line to take on those new positions. Time will tell. This is not a bad thing.

  • Jen, HUD has always required that the counseling be performed by a HUD-certified housing counseling agency, which, by definition, means a not-for-profit. They tightened up the rules by requiring that counselors pass an exam, so now counseling is limited to the counselors who are listed on FHA Connection. I haven't looked to see how many counselors are in FHA Connection, but I wonder if there are more counselors available than this piece implies. I was grandfathered in because I had passed the AARP exam (which preceded the HUD exam) within the last couple of years. I'm not sure if I count as one of the 995 or not. 😉

  • I am a reverse mortgage counselor and have taken the test several times and passed it every time. It's not a difficult test. However, it was developed with the help of a professional test developer so that the multiple choice answers are all plausible and the test taker must understand the program well enough to pick the correct answer. Any counselor who assumes that they can pass the test based on their experience without reading the HUD handbooks and Mortgagee Letters is in for a rude awakening. Any counselor who believes they can pass the test simply by reading the HUD handbooks and Mortgagee Letters with no counseling experience will also be disappointed. Counselors need the book knowledge, experience using the reverse mortgage analyzer, and the counseling experience to pass the test. I believe that this makes the HECM exam a valuable certification tool.

  • rmcounselor:

    If your comments are true and this test can only be passed by experienced counselors how does anyone new get into the field? Does this mean as counselors retire or leave the industry there will be no one to take their place. This does not make any sense! How valuable is that as a certification tool?

    • It's called mentoring. New counselors receive a lot of on-the-job training in addition to the formalized training sessions sponsored by HUD and NeighborWorks. And they receive a lot of supervision by experienced counselors. Getting them to read the Handbooks and Mortgagee Letters is a different matter. It's just like any other business. You have some employees who don't want to study.

      • Sounds much like many professional licenses. Ever looked into what it takes to become an Appraiser? It requires a ton of experience, at least in WA. Contractors licenses are sort’a the same here too… to get insured, I believe you must demonstrate to the insurer that you have adequate experience and in order to get the license, you must have insurance.

        The word internship comes to mind.

  • The test is hard because it has outdated info such as FF's Cash Account. It refers and asks questions about things that doesn't apply to the RM world today. It also has trick questions so even veteran closing agents (that know the docs well) and veteran RMSs (that have written loans for 5+ years) can't even pass this 100 question exam. As the one HECM counselor said above: there is more than 1 correct answer but the answer HUD is looking for is the one that is MOST right.

    When the new HECM protocol is released (later this month?) the counseling sessions will get longer (2 hours?) and the delays in counseling turn-times will occur. Also the cost per counseling session will increase to the max allowed ($125) …at least the compliant agencies will charge the higher fee (and rightfully so) for this extra work. Some agencies and counselors will quit doing HECM counseling all-together.

    In addition to this exam (cost is around $100) …in order for a person to get certified as a HECM counselor now they must attend a several day (week long?) session in a city like Chicago, DC, etc and pay upwards of a $1,000 for the class(es) from Neighborhood Works (the HUD authorized training agency). Plus the cost to fly to this city, hotels and eats. Estimated cost is around $2,000 just to get ONE counselor certified to provide HECM counseling.

    BTW, I think there is more than 995 counselors because a great number of them were grandfather'd-in from pre Oct 1, 2009 protocol change. But as someone said above the majority of these counselor counsel other housing related items so the HECM counseling may be only a few per week (or less).

    Seniors will be annoyed when they have to provide even more personal information about their budget, income, expenses, etc, etc, etc. It is an invasion of privacy – all for a no income/credit required program. …and to spend so much time on the phone. This is all in addition to all the hours the RMS spend with the client. Brain surgery is quicker!'

    I can't imagine how the “no payment mortgage” (i.e. RM) cannot make the senior's financial life better.

    I totally disagree with this new protocol. A senior can get a “payment mortgage” with less hassle than a no payment mortgage. Gov't is disrespecting seniors and their intelligence. With all this required (new protocol) counseling one would think there is something wrong with the HECM. as if they gov't is saying “are you SUUURRRE” you want to do this reverse mortgage?” or “you don't really want to do a reverse mortgage, do you?”

    Those are my thoughts!!

  • Tim,

    It is statements like the following that cause us all grief: “I can't imagine how the 'no payment mortgage' (i.e. RM) cannot make the senior's financial life better.” Making it a separate paragraph provides no cover to declare: “Well, you know what I meant.”

    You hold a CLTC and are a CSA. You know better than that. It is easy to be a zealot and hard to be a voice of reason. But just in case my conclusions are not clear enough, the following paragraph lists a very minute portion of the reasons why seniors would be financially worse off getting a HECM or any other RM.

    If a senior does not need cash or does not need to get rid of existing debt requiring payments, the RM upfront costs are a waste of money. If the senior will not be in the home for more than a few years, generally the RM upfront costs are a waste of money. If the senior plans to make regular monthly payments on a fixed rate HECM (and some do), a RM is a waste of money, especially if the interest rates of the HECM are higher. If the senior has a high value home and will need more cash than the HECM can provide, the upfront costs of a RM are generally a waste of money.

    My hands are getting tired of typing. As the adage says, “Every senior should look into reverse mortgages but not every senior should get one.”

    So let's come back to the alleged new counseling protocol. Parts of it appear to be nothing more than overkill. If one views counseling as a process to provide answers and education from an independent source, this new protocol would seem to dilute that goal. If the goal of counseling is to provide a source of evaluating a HECM from every possible point of view, counselors are ill-prepared to do that. When tested by GAO, counseling could not meet the most basic criteria under the prior protocol. The new protocol will not strengthen the prior purpose; it will water it down and will most likely not be effective at all. What a shame to dilute this truly great consumer protection!!! Believe me — with AB 329 it is worse in California.
    .

    • The Critic

      I just wanted to comment on this particular comment you made.

      “If the senior plans to make regular monthly payments on a fixed rate HECM (and some do), a RM is a waste of money, especially if the interest rates of the HECM are higher.”

      I think I would have to disagree. I think the key word here is plan. They plan on making payments. With seniors more than anyone, plans change, health changes, income changes, priorities change. I look at the HECM as a safety net for those that want to access their equity and have plans or would like to pay it back. I actually think it is one of the better benefits of the HECM. What a great feature for seniors. A loan that allows them to access their equity and make payments on the loan WHEN they are able.

      I have worked with several people who almost lost their home by taking out a HEL as opposed ot a HECM. Here is 1 example.

      “Jane” had lived in her home for 46 years. Her home was paid for and she was 72 years old. She was still working so between part time work and her SS benefits she was moving through life comfortably. Then one day her daughter became very ill. Her daughter didn't have insurance and ran up quite a chunk of medical bills. her daughter also lost her job because of this illness so she lost her income. After 4 months of not maying her mortgage the lender filed foreclosure papers on the daughter.

      Well, the Mother, being a kind and loving Mother, wanted to help her daughter out. She didn't want her daughter to lose her home. SO, she took out a HEL so she could pay off her daughters medical bills and save her home. Her NEW monthly debt was $700. She had borrowed 80K against her home. For a year or so things went along swimmingly. She made her $700 payment every month and all was well.

      Then she was laid off from her job and lost about $1,000 a month of income. She looked for work. No one wanted to hire a woman in her 70's, especially in this economy. After 4 months of stressing out, crying, searching for work to no avail, talking to her lender, over and over and over again, they finally filed foreclosure papers on her. She was devastated. She had lived in this home for the better part of her life and now she was going to lose it.

      This is when I met “Jane” and worked a RM for her, saving her home of 48 years. She cried when her loan funded and she knew she was going to be able to live in her home for the rest of her life.

      My point is “plans” are great when they work. But what about when they don't? Seniors can enter this loan, accessing their equity with the plans of paying it back and with the security of knowing that if they can't make a payment they are not going to lose their home. As long as they have the money and are able they can make payments BUT if something unexpected comes up and they cannot make a payment, well, there are no payments required so NO STRESS, NO WORRIES.

      This is the only loan that I know of where you can send in payments on a loan every month and if you don't have the money IT IS OK. No ding to your credit, no possibility of losing your home to foreclosure for failure to make a payment.

  • timlinger:

    Great info! I know this is off the counselor topic but I can't imagine some of the seniors I have helped in their upper 80's going through a 2 hour telephone or face to face counseling session for that matter. I have seniors in desperate need that will never get through this!

    You're comments on the forward mortgage are spot on! That is exactly what HUD is doing! If you can jump through all our hoops we will ALLOW you to take some equity out of YOUR home so you can live a more secure life and meet your needs in your supposedly GOLDEN YEARS!
    BTW- Reverse Fortunes had a great webinar on the new counseling protocols with great tips on preparing your clients for counseling. It can still be acessed on their website for free!

  • The CriticrnrnI just wanted to comment on this particular comment you made.rnrn”If the senior plans to make regular monthly payments on a fixed rate HECM (and some do), a RM is a waste of money, especially if the interest rates of the HECM are higher.”rnrnI think I would have to disagree. I think the key word here is plan. They plan on making payments. With seniors more than anyone, plans change, health changes, income changes, priorities change. I look at the HECM as a safety net for those that want to access their equity and have plans or would like to pay it back. I actually think it is one of the better benefits of the HECM. What a great feature for seniors. A loan that allows them to access their equity and make payments on the loan WHEN they are able.rnrnI have worked with several people who almost lost their home by taking out a HEL as opposed ot a HECM. Here is 1 example.rnrn”Jane” had lived in her home for 46 years. Her home was paid for and she was 72 years old. She was still working so between part time work and her SS benefits she was moving through life comfortably. Then one day her daughter became very ill. Her daughter didn’t have insurance and ran up quite a chunk of medical bills. her daughter also lost her job because of this illness so she lost her income. After 4 months of not maying her mortgage the lender filed foreclosure papers on the daughter. rnrnWell, the Mother, being a kind and loving Mother, wanted to help her daughter out. She didn’t want her daughter to lose her home. SO, she took out a HEL so she could pay off her daughters medical bills and save her home. Her NEW monthly debt was $700. She had borrowed 80K against her home. For a year or so things went along swimmingly. She made her $700 payment every month and all was well. rnrnThen she was laid off from her job and lost about $1,000 a month of income. She looked for work. No one wanted to hire a woman in her 70’s, especially in this economy. After 4 months of stressing out, crying, searching for work to no avail, talking to her lender, over and over and over again, they finally filed foreclosure papers on her. She was devastated. She had lived in this home for the better part of her life and now she was going to lose it.rnrnThis is when I met “Jane” and worked a RM for her, saving her home of 48 years. She cried when her loan funded and she knew she was going to be able to live in her home for the rest of her life.rnrnMy point is “plans” are great when they work. But what about when they don’t? Seniors can enter this loan, accessing their equity with the plans of paying it back and with the security of knowing that if they can’t make a payment they are not going to lose their home. As long as they have the money and are able they can make payments BUT if something unexpected comes up and they cannot make a payment, well, there are no payments required so NO STRESS, NO WORRIES. rnrnThis is the only loan that I know of where you can send in payments on a loan every month and if you don’t have the money IT IS OK. No ding to your credit, no possibility of losing your home to foreclosure for failure to make a payment.rnrn

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