The top-10 lender didn’t become one overnight, but for Reverse Mortgage USA’s Dallas-raised founder John Mitchell, the reverse mortgage business made sense from the get-go. Mitchell launched his company in 2002, before quickly rising to become the industry’s largest mortgage broker. He then took the company from broker to banker in 2011, and worked into the top-10 lenders in terms of reverse mortgage volume last year.
Mitchell sat down with RMD to share the success story on his Austin-based business—as well as a few tips when it comes to the best of Texas.
RMD: What companies have you worked for in this business?
JM: No other companies would have hired me! But in all seriousness, I started out as a correspondent for Financial Freedom. We all did, didn’t we?
RMD: When did you decide to get into the reverse mortgages?
JM: I started in 2002 when reverse mortgages were brand new to Texas. They had just been authorized in Texas in 2001, but nobody knew about them yet. I decided to start my company because I thought the idea was great, but initially put it on the shelf until about 2004.
RMD: What first piqued your interest?
JM: The idea that we were going to give people money and they were never going to have to pay it back in their lietime. How could I have a hard time selling that? I thought, “How good is this? I get to tell people that they come to me, I give them money they never have to pay back, and it’s all wrapped up in a government program?” It sounds too good to be true.
It was the greatest business opportunity I’d ever seen. And being a CPA, I’ve seen all sorts of businesses. One thing I learned as a CPA is that some are a grind every day and some can really be a lot easier. When I saw the reverse mortgage business concept I thought to myself, it isn’t getting any better than this.
RMD: What is the most exciting thing about this industry?
JM: Today, I think that it’s really two things: One, I think you can make really good money in it. Two, I think it really helps people. I think it’s that combination and the older I get, the more concerned I am with helping people, so it’s really that combination of the two.
RMD: How about its biggest challenge?
JM: I think everbody is skittish about everything right now. It starts with declining home values, but that combination of being skittish about our whole world is the biggest issue right now.
RMD: What’s the best advice you can give to a newbie in this industry?
JM: To be truthful and honest to the customer. Never try and gloss over things you shouldn’t gloss over. Look out for customer’s best interest. It will be to everybody’s benefit long-term.
RMD: Finally, we know you have spent a lot of time in Dallas, but now you’re based in Austin. We had to ask: what’s the single best BBQ in Texas?
JM: Rudy’s. (Editor’s note: There was no hesitation whatsoever to this answer. Looks like we might have to get down there and see for ourselves.)
Written by Elizabeth Ecker