For the reverse mortgage world, 2016 was bleak. The year came to a close with less than 50,000 endorsements—the lowest on record in more than a decade. Added expenses and reduced efficiencies associated with the implementation of Financial Assessment (FA) took its toll, and many lenders felt the pressure as volume dipped across the board.
But with a lackluster year behind us, some lenders are planning to staff up in the coming year, confident in 2017’s promise.
Paul Fiore, AAG’s executive VP of retail lending, says the company is planning to grow, albeit conservatively, in the year ahead.
“There was shock when FA hit in ’15, and ’16 was about resetting to get back to where our business was pre FA,” Fiore says. “Now we are at a place where we’re able to comfortably say we feel very confident going forward that we have a business that is moving it the right direction and now we can grow our headcount.”
Fiore says he expects the company’s thee call centers in New York, Atlanta and California expand.
“We’ll grow slowly quarter by quarter while monitoring and assuring that we keep improving our efficiencies,” he says. “We went through a lot of change in 2016, so we think there is some runway now for growth for us this year. But I would say it’s conservative; you wont see AAG growing in the way it did in 2013 and 2014.”
Mike Kent, president of Liberty Home Equity Solutions, says they are also anticipating modest growth in the coming year. Kent says that despite low endorsement totals for the industry last year, Liberty ended the year on a solid note.
“We had a pretty good growth story in 2016. We grew our production for the year and expanded both our call center staff and field advisory staff, and we expect to do the same in 2017,” he says. “We’re always on the lookout for new talent.”
While Kent says he predicts a fairly flat year for the industry in terms of volume, he expects Liberty will fare well. “I think here at Liberty we are going to see some increase in our overall production. Whether it’s by entering into new markets or through increasing market share, we are going to look for a modest increase in 2017.”
Smaller lenders are also expressing optimism about the year ahead by releasing how to calculate my reverse mortgage guides.
HighTechLending, a forward and reverse lender based in Irvine, California, experienced record volume in December and has added to its operations staff in anticipation of similarly strong months ahead. The lender cross-trained its staff in most areas with the exception of underwriting so that existing personnel could step in to speed up the loan process when needed.
HighTech president Don Currie says he plans to continue staffing up in the coming months. “HighTechLending is expanding its national reverse footprint with confidence. In my 35 years in the mortgage industry, I have not seen a better emotionally and financially rewarding product on the market,” Currie says. “We have expanded geographically into the East Coast from New York to Florida.”
Sharon Falvey, VP of reverse division sales at Open Mortgage, says they are planning to add to both their retail and wholesale channels. “Open Mortgage launched its wholesale division in mid-2016 and built the back-end to support the growth opportunity. We have already begun to lead our retail team into a major growth pattern, and will continue to ramp up our wholesale group.”
“Open Mortgage is planning an aggressive approach in 2017. There has never been a time when the opportunity has been greater and the market penetration smaller. The business is there for those willing to use the right strategies and go after it the right ways,” she says. “For Open, 2017 is not a year to pull back, but rather to press on!”
Written by Jessica Guerin