Longer counseling sessions for reverse mortgages

As the federal government continues to insist on increasingly more diligent counseling protocols for reverse mortgage customers, the counselors charged with compliance are concerned about the “senior fatigue” that could ensue – an inability or unwillingness by older clients to sit through such sessions, now said to approach two hours in length.

On top of already existing rules, recent HUD HECM protocols require counselors to use the National Council of Aging’s Web-based Financial Interview Tool (FIT) to create a budget for the client, based on their income, assets, debt and expenses. In addition, counselors are required to complete a BenefitsCheckUp for clients whose income falls below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), or who are disabled.

Jackie Boies, director, branch counseling, in the Gulf Coast East office of Money Management International, Lake Charles, La., says the Benefits Check Up and Financial Interview tool means counseling sessions are taking longer, “but these are valuable tools for educating our clients and providing them with additional resources,” Boies says. The new additions to the process, she reports, are taking 15-20 minutes of additional counseling time.

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One professional in the field says that as “counselors become more experienced with both the content of the sessions, we expect to be able to improve on the amount of time it takes.” This person also said HUD may relent on some requirements as it receives comments from the field on what their growing regulations require in terms of time to implement.

“These sessions can now go on for two hours and for many seniors that’s just too much,” the counselor says.

One mitigating factor coming down the pike is that reverse mortgage customers are actually getting younger, according to Jerry Tomlin, Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, who notes that “the 72-year-old widow was our typical reverse mortgage customer [but] now it’s the 60-ish couple and single men – [generally more] active adults.”

Written by Neil Morse