NPR Segments Sparks Informed Reverse Mortgage Discussion

NewImageA National Public Radio segment Thursday gathered opinions from within and outside the reverse mortgage industry and set the record straight on several misconceptions. Titled “Reverse Mortgages: Proceed with Caution,” the segment, featured on NPR’s daily Kojo Nnamdi show, included interviews with experts as well as calls from listeners that sparked a lively discussion of reverse mortgage products.

Host Kojo Nnamdi posed questions to a panel from within and outside of the industry. Michael McCully, partner of New View Advisors; Jean Constantine-Davis, AARP Foundation Senior Attorney; and Nina Simon, of the Center for Responsible Lending.

The segment addresses issues including industry trends, fixed versus adjustable rate products, recent lawsuits filed by AARP concerning reverse mortgage lending, and advice from McCully as an industry advisor. Several calls from listeners span concerns regarding marketing to seniors, a happy reverse mortgage customer, and one lender who explains differences between the standard product and the HECM Saver.


“Are reverse mortgages still a good option if you are house rich and cash poor?” Nnamdi asks.

McCully provides a description of the product while the Center for Responsible Lending’s Simon says reverse mortgages are complex financial products and advises that borrowers obtain advice not from banks offering the products, but from those who are not ingrained in the industry. Constantine-Davis addresses questions about two lawsuits filed earlier this year regarding reverse mortgage borrowers.

From counseling to happy customers and bank exits, the segment provides a glimpse into the current world of reverse mortgages with a variety of perspective.

Listen to the segment here.

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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  • The segment was confusing, full of poor content, and terribly misleading; however, there were also three highlights:
    1)      Michael McCully gave an excellent response as to why Bank of America and Wells Fargo left the industry; he simply provided a good summary of their official statements. 
    2)      Michael also did a great job of describing HECMs as varying little between lenders. 
    3)      The attorney from Clarksville presented the positive experience of her parents. 
    While Michael might have been responsible for creating the largest servicer while at Lehman, at times his responses were confusing and misleading; he definitely was not experienced at presenting the product in a public setting.  Throughout the entire segment the only products which were directly or indirectly addressed were HECMs and Home Keepers.  Michael addressed the upfront MIP and accrued interest but in describing the balance due, he failed to discuss accrued ongoing MIP or monthly servicing fees.  He also stated that to qualify, borrowers must pay off forward mortgages.  He never stated that if the net principal limit plus borrower cash was sufficient, liens (including an existing reverse mortgage) can be paid off through the reverse mortgage.  Michael also stated that the unsuitable products which were purchased in the past with HECM proceeds had been removed and were no longer available; he did not describe how that occurred since it never did.   
    While Kojo Nnamdi, the MC, seemed familiar with reverse mortgages he made some ridiculous claims.  He stated that lenders do not explain risks.  He also stated that only 39% of HECMs have multiple borrowers and then FALSELY concluded that only one spouse is signing on most HECMs involving married couples implying that over 78% of all HECMs are originated by married individuals.  No one called him on this very false statement.  He went unchallenged when he claimed borrowers are not properly told about their obligation for taxes and insurance.  He also spoke of the now famous 30,000 estimate of defaults given by Sue Hunt earlier this year as if established fact.  He falsely claimed that HUD won the first of two recently filed lawsuits.
    Jean Constantine-Davis stated that proceeds were mainly used for personal expenses, home repairs, and medical expenses but failed to mention refinancing of existing mortgages.  She also incorrectly claimed that the reason why lender payment of defaults was such a problem now more than ever had to do with property values but failed to discuss increased warranties due to having to securitize HECMs through Ginnie Mae rather than selling HECMs directly to Fannie Mae. 
    Nina Simon accused lenders of providing leads to those who sell other products.  Nina questioned the high number of fixed rated HECMs indicating some of it may be due to incentives and far worse, steering.  She correctly discussed the value of the available line of credit as a source of emergency funds.  She declared reverse mortgages are complicated financial products and advised that prospects go to CFPs first for information before lenders.  She talked about shared appreciation which was once offered with Home Keepers but not for well over 7 years.  She also claimed that almost all reverse mortgages are upside down.
    It was odd to hear either Nina or Jean describing all seniors as having diminished capacity.  She stated that they have poor eyesight and stated some of the most demeaning things; as a senior what she said was insulting.    

    Richard Wills, a broker from Sykesville MD, made the cost of adjustable rate Savers and what appeared to be fixed rate Standards very confusing.  When the MC suggested that lenders determine value, Richard rambled about the basis upon which principal limit factors are determined and never stated that independent appraisers determine the value of the home.  While he correctly described HECMs as negatively amortizing mortgages, he oddly stated that the balance due gets larger when the borrower leaves the home.
    Counseling was a forgotten topic until near the end.  It was never presented as a consumer protection.  One caller called it a joke.  There was an attempt to defend it but it was weak at best.

    NRMLA was asked to participate but it declined!!!
    All in all except for the three highlights, it was very disappointing.

  • If Richard Wills follows RMD, could he please not call into shows like this, he didn’t help or clarify anything.  You could almost sense the winces from the 2 folks he referenced knowing.

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