Every reverse mortgage professional works with a title company to close a reverse mortgage loan, and with ongoing regulatory and industry changes, title companies, too, have felt the effects of a leaner reverse mortgage business. We sat down with Alissa Scott Prieto, vice president and eastern regional sales manager for Premier Reverse Closings, to get her take on what every originator needs to know about title, where there’s room to grow in the reverse business, and how sometimes a hug is better than a handshake.
Reverse Mortgage Daily: When did you first get started in reverse mortgages?
Alissa Scott Prieto: I was a Settlement Officer for a title company that specialized in home builder transactions during the refinance boom. I was 23 years old, working until 12 o’clock at night and on weekends. Although I enjoyed the excitement of closing loans, I knew I didn’t want to be behind a desk forever.
My dad, who at the time worked for Financial Freedom, mentioned to our President and Senior VP at a conference that I was in the title business and asked if they needed a sales person. I was the very first sales person hired at Premier Reverse Closings and I have now been in the reverse industry for almost nine years.
RMD: What has changed since you got your start?
ASP: So much has changed! As we say, the only thing constant in this industry is change. Counseling seems to be the most affected by all the changes. We have gone from face-to-face counseling or face-to-face application requirements (although in some states that’s still required) to over the phone, borrower paid counseling, and so forth. Also, the lending limits were so much lower! We have seen them increase and transition to a national lending limit. In terms of loan programs, there was no such thing as a fixed rate reverse mortgage. Also, we have seen some state specific changes. For example, in Texas, you could only fund the loans one day each month. Needless to say, it was a very stressful day!
RMD: What’s something you wish you could tell every originator about reverse mortgage title?
ASP: Make sure you have a really strong relationship with a notary closer or a closing attorney who is going to represent you at the closing table. If any questions come up regarding the closing, they will know how to reach you and chances are they already know the answers to the questions because they have been working with you so closely. As a title company, we can always make introductions to experienced notaries and attorneys, but if you can meet that person face to face and build a relationship, it makes the transaction go that much smoother and chances of a referral that much greater.
RMD: What’s the biggest challenge facing this industry right now?
ASP: From what I am hearing, the biggest challenge for everyone is making sure they are compliant, properly licensed, LOs are being paid correctly, GFEs/HUDs are accurate, well—I think you get the idea. In the title business, we feel the pressure too. It has always been our responsibility to make sure that all of the I’s are dotted and T’s crossed but with so many payoff lenders no longer in business and reports on mortgage fraud, we are hyper-aware.
RMD: On the flip side, where’s the biggest opportunity?
ASP: I think it depends upon your perspective and what your goals are. Some people might be focused on gaining more market share now that Bank of America and Wells Fargo have exited the business where others are satisfied consistently closing several loans a month within their region. We are fortunate in that it is a small industry and that the individuals that remain are dedicated. I believe that there is still a lot of room for growth and nothing surprises me anymore.
RMD: How can lenders benefit?
ASP: I think that in order to be most effective, you should create a business model that caters to both the baby boomers and children of the boomers. With that being said, you should offer both forward and reverse mortgages. They used to say that if you wanted to be successful in reverses, then you needed to focus on one product. I still agree with that statement, but I think that you should be able to offer other products so that you can be a one-stop shop for your clients.
RMD: What makes this business stand out?
ASP: It is such a small industry and it is a feel good industry. I remember a comment from a lender that entered the space about four years ago. He said, “I have never experienced so many people at a conference greeting each other with hugs instead of handshakes.” I feel that this statement couldn’t be more true. The business relationship will always take precedence but I can say that I have developed a lot of close friendships throughout the years. This business is full of a lot of like minded individuals striving to help seniors change their life for the better.
RMD: Case in point?
ASP: I met my husband in this industry!