Most reverse mortgage competitors agree that MetLife’s exit from the business will turn out to not be such a bad thing in the long run. But the future may be less clear for one important segment of the market: the HECM Saver.
“Wells Fargo and MetLife were far and away the biggest originators of Savers,” says John Lunde, president and co-founder of Reverse Market Insight. “That’s going to be one of the things that is unknown right now,” he says. “MetLife definitely was leading the way, although some other companies have been active as well.”
While the Saver has never reached the 20% benchmark that was hoped for it when it launched via the Department of Housing and Urban Development in late 2010, it has shown climb in term of proportion of overall reverse mortgage volume from less than 5% in early 2011 to 7.02% in February, the latest month for which HUD data is available. In mid- to late-2011, that percentage reached and surpassed 9% for three consecutive months.
In 2011, MetLife told RMD its Saver volume was around 20% of its business overall. Some originators have focused exclusively on the market, with others reporting that Saver adoption has recently picked up as borrowers use the credit line option as a short term solution for immediate financial needs.
Without the big banks in the market, pricing for the fixed rate Saver is likely to suffer, one originator told RMD.
“The issue right now I see is LIBORs and Savers, with most lenders having sold them through MetLife,” he said. “The products will be weak for a while coming at the worst timing.”
Other lenders will likely step in to fill the gap, Lunde predicts, although it will take a certain kind of lender to drive the market forward.
“If the Saver is going to continue to grow, there needs to be a company that has the right capability,” he says. “Not every company is well suited to offer the right economics on the Saver.”
As long as there is a lender—or lenders—to offer the right economics and allow for brokers to market Saver loans, the industry may not need a corporate giant to lead the market, however. Recent interest from industry outsiders with the potential to spur growth could be a major factor.
“We’re past the point where we have to have a single lender leading the charge,” Lunde says. “On the academic side and in the financial planning community, hopefully that interest keeps going. That’s where a lot of future borrowers and growth comes from.
Written by Elizabeth Ecker