Managing the New Online Reverse Mortgage Advertising Landscape

While word of mouth is often touted as the best source of reverse mortgage business, originators large and small agree that advertising is also a necessity — particularly among a target demographic that is increasingly consuming information online. 

But as the number of consumers getting financial product information online increases, so too does the scrutiny around online advertising materials. With several federal and state agencies monitoring and enforcing advertising law, there are several compliance issues that have recently become more prevalent that reverse mortgage companies need to observe. 

One such area is accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Known largely for its enforcement of rules around physical places of business that must be accessible to all parties, including those with disabilities, the ADA also plays a major role in the regulating of websites. 


“If you haven’t looked at your own web properties from the standpoint of senior users, respectfully, you are missing out in two areas,” Jim Brodsky, partner with Washington D.C.-based firm Weiner Brodsky Kider PC, said during the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association Western Meeting last week. “[First] the area to be friendly and accessible, but also there are regulations and rules that govern the way a web presence needs to interact with users who bring different abilities to their user experience.” 

Those rules cover website characteristics such as color and contrast, which can be particularly problematic for users who are older or who have vision impairment. 

“On the federal level, there are a lot of laws you need to comply with,” said Melissa Klimkiewicz, partner with Washington D.C.-based law firm Buckley Sandler. “The ADA requires that individuals with disabilities receive ‘full and equal enjoyment of the goods services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations of any place of public accommodation.’”

A 2010 Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would have required websites for public accommodation to be accessible to people with disabilities was never passed as a rule, but a number of plaintiffs have recently had success in arguing that places of public accommodation include financial services, Klimkiewicz said. This has brought the issue into the spotlight for lenders, including those in the reverse mortgage space. 

In January 2018, there were more than 25 ADA lawsuits in Florida and New York alone, Klimkiewicz and colleagues from Weiner Brodsky noted. 

While most of the cases were settled, often plaintiffs’ firms demanded the payment of legal fees. 

There are several ways originators and lenders can work toward compliance in the online marketplace, the attorneys noted. 

Evaluate website and mobile property accessibility. Undertake appropriate risk measures depending on the evaluation. Do this before a demand letter arrives that takes issue with the website. 

Provide employee training. Ensure that company employees are aware of the rules. For larger organizations, designating a website accessibility coordinator can serve in this role for the company. 

Develop policies and procedures to ensure compliance. Having a framework and plan for accessibility can help direct web content so that it is in the best interest of the consumer. 

Post a notice on the website. A notice can direct those who are having problems with the site to contact a company representative by phone with feedback or complaints or to receive assistance.

Check vendor compliance. It’s important for vendors such as content providers or web designers to be compliant as well. This can be done by including language in contracts that makes vendors responsible for ADA compliance. 

“In terms of business realities, this raises interesting questions,” Klimkiewicz said. “We all want to do the right thing and make sure everyone is able to access our information. It’s also good for business.”

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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  • It’s too difficult to compete online anymore. I originated exclusively online, during the first 7 years of being a Reverse Mortgage Specialist, primarily using Yahoo and Google paid-per-click. It’s not cost effective anymore. Nowadays, I don’t think anybody can complete with – Cliff dominates the market. He’s organically placed in google for all the key Reverse Mortgage search terms, and also pays for sponsored search terms. Hes been doing it longer than anybody else, and has the online market cornered.

    • Not quite my friend. No one, in any industry, has the online market cornered and reverse is no exception. In fact, there are other companies quietly generating a significant number of reverse mortgage leads online as we speak. 😉

  • This article was informative and should be taken very seriously. I like the link to the check list “SoundOfReason” put on his or her comment, very helpful.

    No doubt that online marketing is increasing and consumers use it to a degree. However, they are also being bombarded with it. Is it as effective as it may sound?

    I am still a firm believer that networking, putting on educational workshops in conjunction with county department on aging in ones community and many more works best in the long run!

    Join various organizations, your local chamber of commerce and many more. Don’t forget newspaper advertising, it still works if advertised the proper way.
    I realize I got off track of the main purpose of the article but I felt these other topics were important to bring up and the timing was right for it.

    John A. Smaldone

    • John,

      It is not that you are wrong or right.

      All real estate is local as are reverse mortgages. In my part of the country, newspaper ads are costly and the leads leading to closings are a such low percentage, the costs of producing closed loans from this source make this advertising media a low profit source of leads. On top of that the time it takes to screen these leads is high.

      In about a 70 mile radius we have hundreds of HECM originators. In that radius there are about 8 counties, some areas of which are nothing but desert. Two of those counties have their highest population bases in two cities but most of their seniors no longer qualify for HECMs.

      Networking groups have been around for a long while here with the every best having difficult screening processes and high monthly and annual dues with no guarantee of producing sufficient closed loans to make them a profitable venture or even a time effective source of leads.

      So in many effective marketing reverse mortgage strategies are local as well.

      While one could go on and on in this vein, we all share the same basic Internet. So I, for one, appreciate the information in the article and from Sound of Reason as well.

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