Recent rule changes and demonstrative research has helped some financial planners change their minds about the use of reverse mortgages in retirement planning. But while, some have simply adopted a newfound liking toward these products, other newly enlightened planners are taking a more active approach to serve their clients’ reverse mortgage needs.
The combination of positive media attention and increasing recognition from planners has been enough to convert any former reverse mortgage skeptics, from financial planners to a nationally syndicated personal finance expert. The same can be said for what happened to David Holland, a certified financial planner and owner of Holland Financial, a financial services firm headquartered in Ormond Beach, Fla.
Established in 1997, Holland Financial provides a variety of financial planning and investment services through its various subsidiaries. The company maintains several businesses under its main Holland Financial company, including a fee-based money management firm, a tax and accounting division, as well as an insurance arm that offers products like annuities, life and long-term care insurance.
On February 29, the company announced its newest subsidiary, Holland Mortgage Services (HMS), a licensed mortgage broker specializing exclusively in reverse mortgages. The new business line is setup as an independent broker. As such, HMS is able to work with any reverse mortgage lender that has a wholesale channel.
Creating a new mortgage origination division has not only allowed Holland Financial to diversify its services, but it also helped the company address an increasing need among its clientele, the average age of which is 66 years old, according to David Holland.
A skeptic at first, Holland admits he is a “full convert,” having evolved from previously questioning the viability of reverse mortgages to becoming more of an apologist who now believes reverse mortgages can be logical and proper financial tools when used for the right situation.
“I am very much a skeptic, but when I stopped and really took a hard look at the product—how it evolved and how it could be integrated into a retirement plan—that’s when I said this is something that I want to do,” Holland told RMD.
For Holland, the change of heart began sometime in 2013-2014 after several clients inquired about reverse mortgages. So Holland took to LinkedIn and began connecting with as many reverse mortgage professionals as he could to learn more.
“I wanted to help my clients, but the other concern I had was how to integrate a reverse mortgage into a financial practice,” he said, acknowledging the clear position of regulators such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau prohibiting the cross-selling of financial products.
What was interesting about the process, Holland said, was that he found very few of the reverse mortgage professionals he contacted understood what he was asking, let alone knew the answer of how to integrate reverse mortgages into his financial services business.
“That piqued my interest and told me that there was even more of an opportunity to find a niche, because if these reverse mortgage professionals didn’t know then I bet most financial planners know even less,” he said.
Eventually, Holland was able to connect with a reverse mortgage lender, working as a loan originator with them.
“They were a broker,” he said. “I did that for a while, got my feet wet.”
After that while, Holland realized that the company’s location up north and his position down in Florida created too much of a geographic divide that he didn’t have the manpower to move his reverse business forward. It was at this time that Holland took to one of his reverse mortgage connections on LinkedIn, asking if he knew anyone who could join Holland’s efforts and help him “do a lot more” with reverse mortgages. It was then that Holland came into contact with Michael Peerless, who has served as the reverse mortgage director for Holland Mortgage Services since joining the company in November 2015.
The pair then spent several months figuring out how it would structure Holland Financial’s new reverse mortgage division. Eventually, they decided it would be best to start-up as their own broker, as this would allow them to have their own independence, be objective and have control over origination fees, Holland said. It also helped the company remain consistent with the branding of Holland Financial’s other subsidiaries.
To quell anxieties about potential cross-selling, Holland said the company forthrightly tells all clients—whether they are reverse mortgage clients or not—that if they do receive proceeds from a reverse mortgage, Holland Financial cannot invest those proceeds in any of their other financial products.
Holland attributes the addition of Peerless as the driving force behind Holland Mortgage Services finally getting off the ground. So far, the new division employs only two staff members, Holland and Peerless, but plans to ramp up its efforts in the coming months.
“We’re now on the cusp of really starting to market the reverse mortgage services alongside our existing services,” Holland said, adding that the company is going to have a “robust” marketing effort, specifically targeting direct mail, newspaper ads and radio commercials.
A market study of Holland Mortgage Services’ area, which comprises both Florida’s Volusia and Flagler Counties, revealed about 600,000 people live in the two-county region, about 20% of which are seniors.
“The market is wide open,” Holland said. “There is no other firm in our two-county area that has a footprint like ours.”
Holland Financial serves close to over 500 clients, according to Holland’s estimations. The company plans to target this population, as well as other age appropriate consumers in the community, with its direct mail campaign launching in the next couple of weeks.
Holland also plans to market his company’s new reverse mortgage offerings on his daily radio program, which he hosts Monday through Friday on the top AM and FM stations in his area. The radio show has featured several notable reverse mortgage industry experts and veterans including Shelley Giordano, who chairs the Funding Longevity Task Force, and Wade Pfau, professor of retirement income at The American College in Bryn Mawr, Pa.
The show often discusses the basics of reverse mortgages while also serving to debunk some of the most common misunderstandings associated with the product.
Apart from the radio program, Holland also writes a weekly column for a local paper, for which he plans to continue writing articles about reverse mortgages to increase consumer education in his area.
“We have a natural market here,” Holland said. “We have a strong marketing machine already built, so we will be able to plug reverse mortgages into what we are already doing.”
While Holland Mortgage Services solely comprises just two licensed originators, Holland anticipates he will have to staff-up and add a few more people to the company’s reverse division within six months to a year.
Nearly one year ago, the Federal Housing Administration finally came through with its long-awaited promise to implement the Financial Assessment, forever altering the structure of the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program. This momentous program change opened the floodgates to a deluge of positive press, with various mainstream media reports highlighting—even to this very day—the new and improved reverse mortgage and its newfangled role in retirement income planning.
Along the way, reverse mortgages have also been winning over the acceptance of several esteemed members of the financial planning community, some of whom have been actively researching the effectiveness of weaving housing wealth via reverse mortgages into modern day retirement strategies.
While there may be a lot of reverse mortgage originators looking to establish referral partnerships with financial planners, Holland has taken this strategy one step further, wearing two hats as a financial planner who is also a reverse mortgage originator.
He acknowledges that while most planners are not going to do what he’s doing, some may become more open to the idea of reverse mortgages as they learn more about the product. But the reality, he says, is that unless financial planners are completely independent, a lot of them are going to be limited by the firm they work for, be that a bank or insurance company.
“For the ones who are open-minded and have the latitude, if planners really stop and take the time, they will have a better understanding for how reverse mortgages can be used properly as part of a plan,” Holland said.
Written by Jason Oliva