Local Spotlight: Reverse Mortgages in the Pacific Northwest

One year ago, two U.S. cities saw significant year-over-year growth far outpacing the national loan volume average, according to 2018 data from Reverse Market Insight. Have those two cities – Portland, Ore., and Seattle – slowed down since? And what’s the market like in the rest of the Pacific Northwest region?

The answer is: It’s complicated.

  • Regional Stats:
    • Total PNW Population: 6,358,194 (combination of both Seattle and Portland metropolitan areas via 2010 census data)
    • Senior Population (Ages 65 and up): Approximately 763,000 (12% of total population based on 2010 Seattle census data)
    • Average Home Value: $358,050 (average between WA and OR via Zillow)
    • Year-over-year Home Price Appreciation: 12.3% (Averaged from area numbers via FHFA for Bellingham, Seattle, Tacoma, and Portland figures)

The Pacific Northwest has grown in popularity in recent years as a relocation destination, says Brandi Braley, a licensed mortgage advisor for Neighborhood Mortgage in Bellingham, Wash., but that growth isn’t all good.

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“We have a large demand for houses in the Pacific Northwest, but we don’t have the supply. For those looking to get into the market or downsize, it can be an issue,” she says. “The disadvantage that we’ve been experiencing is the lack of affordability for seniors. They are finding that downsizing does not always equate to lower cost.”

But the Pacific Northwest is far more than just Portland and Seattle, says Lynn Wertzler, CRMP, president at Greenleaf Financial, LLC, in Portland, Ore. What makes the area so unique is its diversity – it’s comprised of growing, dense urban areas, as well as many small, rural communities.

“The greater Seattle and Portland areas have enjoyed many recent years of being on the top ten list for high appreciation, and housing values are now well above the pre-recession peaks,” he says. “Unfortunately, appreciation in many of the rural areas has not been so great and housing values are often found to be still well below the pre-recession highs.”

Any originator attempting to serve the entire region should have ample experience with different types of borrowers, Wertzler says. What works in urban areas probably won’t work in rural areas.

“My opinion is that serving the rural markets will continue to face greater difficulties and therefore become decreasingly attractive in the future,” he says. “We may see reverse mortgages move toward becoming a resource that is feasibly available only to homeowners in more concentrated population centers.”

But that future isn’t here just yet.

Braley, who expects 2019 volume to be roughly the same as 2018, says that locals from all areas are still showing interest in reverse mortgages.

“The phone is certainly ringing with reverse mortgage inquiries, which substantiates the need, and it is a great option for those who qualify,” she says.

Written by Meredith Landry