Responding to a demand for face-to-face Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) counseling in New York State and a lack of available counselors to meet this need, one HUD-approved Housing Counseling Agency is opening a new branch next month with a team of counselors to deploy in force.
For years, Agawam, Massachusetts-based Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp. had been receiving calls from senior homeowners in New York requesting in-person HECM counseling services.
But while the company provides a variety of services nationwide, including debt management as well as counseling for bankruptcy, foreclosure and student loans, Cambridge was only able to provide its reverse mortgage counseling over the phone to New York residents.
“We could counsel them over the phone, but they were looking for face-to-face HECM counseling,” said Jennifer Cosentini, housing director at Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp.
Although New York doesn’t require all HECM counseling to be done face-to-face, Cosentini noticed over the years, from attending industry conferences and events, that despite the number of HUD-approved counseling agencies in the state, only a few HECM counselors are employed at each, and thus, only a few counselors were available to provide in-person counseling.
As of this writing, there are 21 HUD-approved HECM counseling agencies in the State of New York, including Cambridge, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HECM Counseling Agency Roster.
“When I started doing research, there were 20 agencies in New York and all of those only had 1-2 HECM counselors,” Cosentini said.
This was really causing a problem in New York, she added, noting that in some cases HECM counselors presently available in the state had waiting lists that were up to two months long.
When Cambridge’s new branch officially opens shop in Hawthorne, N.Y. on February 1, the agency will employ 18 certified HECM counselors to meet the demand in the area—a strategic location for Cambridge after considering the area’s demographics.
Approximately 21% of Hawthorne’s population comprises residents age 62 and older, according to U.S. Census Bureau data as of 2015. Looking at New York as a whole, 15% of the entire state’s population is age 65 and older, compared to 17.7% of Hawthorne.
These favorable demographics mixed with the preferential demand for face-to-face HECM counseling have already resulted in a few calls to Cambridge from homeowners interested in HECM counseling—even before the new branch opens this week.
“We’ve received a handful of calls so far,” Cosentini said, surmising that people found the company’s contact information on HUD’s HECM Counseling Agency Roster on HUD.gov. “We are definitely hoping for interest in the area. There is a new branch opening and there will be plenty of counselors there.”
Written by Jason Oliva