Educating financial advisers, realtors and other non-industry professionals serving senior clientele will ultimately thrust reverse mortgages further into the public consciousness. Getting to the point when acceptance turns into more loan closings stands to be a slow grind.
Any reverse mortgage industry professional with an internet connection has noticed firsthand the changing tune of reverse mortgages covered in the mainstream press. While not all news has necessarily been bad news over the past few years, the sentiment has invariably focused on new borrower protections as well as an enlightened perspective on reverse mortgages, particularly when it comes to their place in the retirement planning puzzle.
New program changes, while intended to make reverse mortgages safe products for borrowers and their non-borrowing spouses, have had an adverse effect on industry volumes, albeit unintentionally.
Thus far through April 2016, industry endorsements are roughly 8% lower compared to last year, even as the one-year anniversary of the Financial Assessment fades into the rearview mirror. But even with April volume down 6.4% from March, the jury is still out on how endorsements will shake out in the coming months.
So while new borrower protections, positive press and a flurry of financial planning research have not yet translated into a greater acceptance of reverse mortgages, industry members hold out hope that the key to adoption lies in education.
In efforts to bridge the reverse mortgage industry with other senior-clientele focused professionals, two weeks ago the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association hosted its first-ever Education Week. The initiative, which consisted of four educational webinars on reverse mortgages, reached over 1,300 professionals, including financial advisers, mortgage bankers, real estate agents, caregivers, estate planners, among other pros who work with older adults.
Webinar sessions taught mortgage bankers about the most recent developments in the HECM program; showed caregivers and health care workers how to fund the costs of aging using home equity; and more broadly, showcased how a reverse mortgage can help seniors effectively plan for retirement.
The accessibility of the internet provides a broad soapbox for the reverse mortgage industry to educate a wide audience about the benefits of the HECM product.
Seminars and in-person educational events might be effective in reaching professionals and prospective borrowers living in a given area, but if the reverse mortgage industry wants to move the needle on volume, education efforts need to be a national focus—one that’s more than just one week of the year.
Written by Jason Oliva