In light of the weakened state of the reverse mortgage market, Live Well Financial has begun rapidly expanding its forward mortgage operations.
The Virginia-based lender has maintained a forward channel since its inception in 2005, but its focus has largely been on reverse mortgages, which have historically comprised 80% of Live Well’s business.
Bruce Barnes, executive vice president at Live Well, says the company will focus on promoting traditional mortgage products to its closed-loan sellers, wholesale partners, and retail branches.
“Our goal is to not shrink any portion of our reverse business, but to grow the forward side so that it is equal to or greater than our reverse operations,” Barnes says.
Barnes says that while October’s changes to the reverse mortgage program have influenced the company’s decision, concerns about future principal limit cuts have propelled the move.
“More than anything. it’s the potential for upcoming changes that is motivating us to move much further into the traditional mortgage space,” he says. “There’s concern of the mortgage insurance fund being separated from the traditional side of business, and if that were to happen, the reverse mortgage product would have to be self-sustaining. I don’t think they’d have any other choice but to make additional adjustments to the program, which may cut further into volume and qualifying criteria for the consumer.”
Live Well joins a variety of players in the reverse mortgage space making concerted pushes into the forward lending market, including industry leader American Advisors Group and software provider Baseline Reverse, which recently launched a platform specifically designed to ease forward lenders into the reverse lending field.
Barnes says Live Well is taking steps to build security considering the uncertainty that looms in the space right now.
“This is a defensive move, a strategic move, and a smart move in the environment we’re in,” he says. “For those who aren’t considering alternatives, it may get very difficult for them if program changes are made.”
Live Well is enhancing training for its sales staff so they can effectively originate both forward and reverse mortgage loans, and increasing its operational support for its forward channel.
“It’s our advantage right now — we’re one of the few reverse mortgage lenders that has the opportunity to offer both reverse and forward products, and we are building training and webinars to help reverse mortgage brokers navigate the traditional mortgage space,” Barnes says. “We’re working very hard to help our brokers in the space navigate this so they don’t get left on the sidelines.”
Written by Jessica Guerin