Closing Services Firm Makes Reverse Mortgage Push

A California-based closing services firm is attempting to make major inroads into the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage space by launching a new training program for notaries.

The Closing Exchange released an online reverse mortgage educational program in October and began advertising in earnest last month, according to CEO Alan Frelix. So far, they’ve already seen 1,000 notaries take advantage of the program, which highlights the key differences between the forward and reverse closing processes.

“We think it’s an opportunity for the reverse mortgage industry to have a trained and vetted panel of notary signing agents who understand, from end-to-end, what the process needs to be like,” Frelix told RMD.

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The free online course includes three tests that walk the notaries through a variety of specific concerns  that notaries may face when working with HECM clients: For instance, unlike forward-mortgage transactions, the paperwork signings may occur directly in a consumer’s home instead of a lender’s office. Notaries are told to be deliberate in explaining all of the documents to the senior, and are also warned in advance that the closing process can take upwards of two hours.

“It’s not going to be like a typical forward mortgage, where you’re going to get in and out,” Frelix said.

Formerly the head of Bank of America’s title platform, Frelix was a founding member of the Signing Professionals Workgroup, an offshoot of the National Notary Association that oversees a code of conduct for notaries as well as the criteria for annual background screenings. 

Frelix sought to build his own closing company, starting with the acquisitions of Notary Direct and Skye Closings this year, which created a network of 60,000 notaries from around the country — including a base of those with HECM experience. After clients expressed an interest in having the same notaries handle applications and closings, he decided to focus on a reverse mortgage training program.

Though he couldn’t name names, Frelix said the Closing Exchange works with two of the top-10 reverse mortgage lenders in the industry, along with two top title agencies in the space. Those lenders and title agencies pay the Closing Exchange for access to its network of notaries, who serve as independent contractors.

The company has a goal of making reverse mortgage closings a key part of its business, with HECM specialists trained in the intricacies of the reverse mortgage product accounting for 10% of its overall roster.

“That’s standard practice — the pace and the expectation and the attitude of interacting with the senior,” Frelix said.

Written by Alex Spanko