Six Tips for Building a Reverse Mortgage Referral Network

In today’s rocky reverse mortgage landscape, it’s clear that a strong referral network is a major component to success. With profit margins shrinking, there’s little room in the budget for lead buys and marketing, and those who can cut costs by networking for clients might have a better chance of survival.

But connecting with other professionals to find clients can be challenging. Whether your focus is on Realtors, CPAs, attorneys, or financial advisors, there are barriers that take skills to break down.

To help, RMD spoke with two seasoned reverse originators to glean tips on how you can build a strong referral network.


Tip No. 1: Look around you

If you’re looking to grow your network, look to the people around you first. Initiating contact with someone based on an existing connection will likely be more effective than a cold call.

“Tap into your own network before you start doing any mailings or joining any groups,” says Harlan Accola, branch manager and trainer at Fairway Independent Mortgage in Wisconsin.

“You’re already a part of groups. What about your friend at the gym? Does he have a financial planner? Use those connections and talk to the people you know first.”

Tip No. 2: Learn their language

The reverse mortgage world has its own lingo, and other professions are no different. If you’re going to reach out to a Realtor or a financial advisor, learn their terminology so you can converse in the language of their businesses. Do your homework to learn about their work and the challenges they face before you sit down.

“Talking with a financial advisor can be a little intimidating, because they’re talking in a language that originators may not be familiar with,” says Chris Downey, president of Harbor Mortgage in Massachusetts. “You want to learn how the relationship works between a financial advisor and their wealth management client, and be familiar with the terminology. More importantly, be familiar with the compliance and regulatory obligations that financial planners have with their clients and the boundaries and restrictions he faces.”

Tip No. 3: Ask questions

If you want to connect with someone, you need to understand their perspective. The best way to do that? Ask questions.

“The more you learn about somebody else, the better you can connect with them,” Accola says. “Think about the people you really enjoy being around — they don’t talk about themselves, they ask about you, your kids, your job. Find out what the financial planner is doing, ask them what they know about reverse mortgages, and then talk to them on their level.”

Downey agrees.

“You need to understand what’s going through their mind,” he says. “If you can do that, you can address any concerns they might have about referring a client over to you.”

Tip No. 4: Rely on the research

Before sitting down with anyone to discuss how their clients might benefit from a reverse mortgage, it’s critical that you know your stuff.

“Be aware of all the data that’s out there,” Downey says. “It’s not just us coming out with this message — there are a lot of financial analysts who are saying the same thing. Use that information to your advantage so that you can educate.”

Accola echoes this idea. “It amazes me the number of reverse mortgage professionals who have not read Wade Pfau’s book, which is an absolute textbook on reverse mortgages and retirement,” he says. “Why would a financial advisor waste time with us if we can’t teach them something that they don’t know?”

Tip No. 5: Offer a solution

When talking with a professional, think about the challenges their clients face and explain how a reverse mortgage could help. Frame it as a solution that can solve specific problems, and make your services comprehensive.

“We’re not just giving them a reverse mortgage and sending them on their way. We’re really trying to make sure that when this process is said and done, they are in a much better position than when they started,” Downey says. “We’re addressing a health care issue; we’re addressing an estate planning issue. If they don’t have an updated will, a power of attorney, we’ll get all those things in place. That’s what a CFP or elder law attorney wants to see… We bring a comprehensive approach to the table.”

Tip No. 6: What can you do for them?

Frame the conversation so that you are talking about what you can do to help their business — not what they can do for you.

“Nobody is going to send you referrals unless you’re doing something for them,” Accola says. “Nobody wants to talk to you about helping you with your business. You have to talk about how you can do something for their business.” 

Talk to a Realtor about how a reverse mortgage can help their senior clients qualify. Talk to a financial advisor about how the product can help prevent their senior clients from withdrawing from their portfolios too early.

“Understand what the problems and the challenges are for that person and talk about how a reverse mortgage can help,” Accola says.

Written by Jessica Guerin

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  • All of the points in this article brought up are excellent! If we followed these points to the letter, everyone would see a significant increase in their business!

    Number 3, “Ask questions!” Simple but so effective, ask, ask and ask away, by doing this simple suggestion and asking the right questions will give you all the information about what you need to know as far as how to serve your senior client best!

    Don’t forget, seek new markets and new horizons, we are in a different market place today. Set your sites on going after the professional sector that deals with senior citizens, build these relationships. Start forming partnerships with those that you can help build their business and Visa, Versa!

    Get out, join your local chamber of commerce, Kiwanis Club along with other organizations, start networking heavily!

    Start doing what some of us old timers used to to, make arrangements with your local senior recreational centers and go to the counties senior citizen department on aging to try and set up educational workshops for seniors. This works, many leads come from them and real quality leads leads to loan applications!

    There are so many things we can be doing to increase our awareness in our communities and to increase business but we need to take the plunge and do it!

    John A. Smaldone

  • No doubt Jessica is reporting what she heard. My issue is not with the quality of the reporting but the endorsement count.

    Like wise King Solomon wrote in the Ecclesiastes, what is new under the sun? Item number one has been a standard of the industry for decades. The other items may be more recent to the industry but are standards that competent salespeople have been using for decades if not centuries.

    The lower PLFs of 10/2/2017 as minor as they were should have made no substantial difference to two groups of seniors, senior home buyers and clients of financial advisers. As to senior home buyers we are constantly being told that most borrowers would have been all cash buyers. Most clients of financial advisers supposedly need the product to avoid the risks of sequence of returns not because they need a loan of last resort.

    We will grow as we become more honest with ourselves rather than using rather meaningless descriptions of our own anecdotes, ideas, and visions(?). Remember the academicians are not HECM salespeople. Most of the HECM trainers are not in the current market. While minimum training is needed as indicated in the column, THE best sales trainer is getting out there, learning from mistakes and most importantly, getting up the next morning and looking in yourself for the strength to do your best that day knowing that you will fail once again (but hopefully much less frequently as your skills grow).

    I went to my first meeting on reaching financial advisers eight years ago. The presenters were people who had been trained by one of the best originators when it came to CPAs in particular and had been meeting with financial planners for over six months. They seemed to know what they were doing but even with that kind of success and training, have endorsements grown?

    Thanks to some in the industry, I have also been closely watching the growth in H4Ps over the last decade. Their growth has been wretched at best. Once again we are hearing about the secrets that will unlock the doors to the fabulous growth these products have in store for us. so far the promises have yet to be fulfilled.

    Everyone in this space is well meaning. The problem is without better and less face saving assessments of the effectiveness of our efforts, we will be wondering why substantial growth remains an illusion.

  • No HECM salesperson ever contacted me about HECMs before I was part of the industry. I approached them trying to determine if my deceased best friend’s widow should obtain a jumbo reverse mortgage (in 2004).

    For months I searched for someone I could talk to about it. Most originators I spoke with were ignorant and for good reason — they did not offer them. As I looked into HECMs, too many would say they would have to get back to me but never did. I was ready to give up on the industry until I spoke with a man who knew how to sell the product but did not understand its workings all that well; however, he did follow up and did get me answers. It is not obvious by now, the last originator mentioned was the originator I used to get my friend’s widow a HECM.

    All of the points are futile if you do not follow up and admit you do not know something but immediately try to get an answer. If it is taking as long as a day, call the professional and tell the professional you are waiting for the answer and will get back to the professional as soon as you get it. Remember to push your own people to get the answer you need if one is not readily available; that is what the professional expects of you.

    So in conclusion, as the tax partner in charge of taxes for the ninth largest CPA firm in Los Angeles County, CA, I looked for someone who knew the product and also was diligent to follow up where necessary.

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