Some borrowers will again have access to free reverse mortgage counseling, after many agencies were forced to reintroduce—and increase—fees last year upon funding cuts. Upon funding of $4 million allocated specifically for reverse mortgage counseling as part of $42 million for housing counseling overall, agencies say the funds are much needed, and they are already beginning to help borrowers by offering free counseling sessions.
“The funding was very much needed,” said Setina Briggs-Kelly, Housing Program Manager for Farmington Hills, Mich.-based GreenPath Debt Solutions. “We try to offer free services when we have the financial support of HUD grants, so the funding will definitely enable us to offer free counseling to the homeowners who are in need.”
GreenPath, a national agency that received one of the single grant allocations at just over $350,000, has been offering free counseling since the fiscal year started on October 1, in anticipation of the funding, Briggs-Kelly says. Prior to that, many borrowers faced the $125 fee after agencies watched funding dry up in the wake of a last minute budget deal signed last spring.
National Council on Aging, which received the largest funding allocation, told RMD it plans to offer additional free counseling under the new funding. NCOA previously offered free counseling but was forced in October to reintroduce those fees for borrowers not meeting a certain hardship requirement.
Regardless of whether they are able to waive fees entirely, agencies say they are doing everything possible to keep the fees low.
“We are definitely happy with our award,” Briggs-Kelly said. “Funding is very much needed. This is one of the counseling services that we really prefer not to charge for.”
Others are still working with their allocations to figure out how exactly things will play out over the course of the fiscal year.
Atlanta-based CredAbility, for example, has determined it can make free counseling available for at least some clients, and possibly all.
“We are still deciding how we will fully utilize our grant, and we are still considering making reverse mortgage counseling free for everyone,” Scott Scredon, public relations director for CredAbility told RMD.
“Everybody got less than what they got last year,” said Bruce McClary, ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions media relations director. “But we’re very grateful for what we did get. At this point, we’re taking a look to see exactly what we can do with the funding we’ve received.”
For ClearPoint, which has previously been able to offer reverse mortgage counseling for free, the goal is to continue providing the same service at the lowest cost to borrowers, McClary says.
“We’re looking at all options available to keep these services in place for those seeking them,” he says.
Written by Elizabeth Ecker