For many originators in the reverse mortgage business, there are a series of tried-and-true methods that can be followed for someone to find his or her next prospective borrower. Typical examples include forging relationships with trusted advisors, meeting seniors face-to-face at community centers, or becoming affiliated with local commerce organizations.
Sometimes, though, originators can find business by looking outside the box in places not typically associated with these more standard methods of tracking down new clients. For one Washington-based originator, this includes traveling to a Home and Garden show in a small rural town.
Just north of Bellingham, Washington is the sleepy little rural town of Lynden, which sees a Home and Garden Show take place every year at the local fairgrounds. Because of the success she experiences in tracking down reverse mortgage business leads at the show, reverse mortgage originator Brandi Braley, with Neighborhood Mortgage in Bellingham, loves going to it.
The home and garden show
“We’ve been going to that Home and Garden Show for years, and I actually get a lot of traction from it,” Braley tells RMD in a phone interview. “This year I had around nine or 10 leads for reverse mortgages just by going to the [show]. It’s definitely something that I will be doing again.”
One of the reasons that Braley finds the show such a good place to generate leads is because there are rarely other reverse mortgage lenders set up there, and it gives attendees a unique chance to ask a professional about something they’ve heard a lot about but may have never seriously considered before.
“When people just walk through, looking at everything all the vendors are offering, they see my banner that says ‘reverse mortgage,’ and something clicks,” she says. “Maybe they’ve heard about it but not really thought much about it, so then they start asking questions and talking to me about it. They get a little more interested as I’m talking, so it’s definitely something that has helped me. I guess it’s just something that people don’t think about, but then when they see it right in front of them, it’s easy to ask questions about it.”
While many of the industry’s most typical reputational issues tend to follow her everywhere, Braley also sees events like the Home and Garden Show as an opportunity to connect with potential borrowers and to educate those who have lingering misconceptions about reverse mortgage products.
“Wherever I go, I always run into people that still believe the old stereotypes from reverse mortgages of the past. They might turn up their nose, but it is an opportunity for me to get to talk to those people,” she says. “Then I get to ask them questions about why they feel the way they do, and then they can actually tell me what their fears are. Then, I can explain to them how a reverse mortgage actually works. On one hand, you do run into a lot of people who still feel that way. But, then you also get the opportunity to talk to them about it. That’s always good.”
If other reverse mortgage originators have similar kinds of events in their local area, Braley encourages her colleagues to attend because of the opportunity to both connect with and educate potential borrowers.
“One way to educate people is just in getting in front of them, so I think it’s definitely worth going to home shows and events like them so you can get out there, talk to people, and even just to meet more people,” she says. “You might get out there and meet someone who may not be thinking about it for themselves, but might know someone else it could be a good fit for. So, it’s definitely worth going out to those things.”
While setting up at a Home and Garden Show could likely turn into a worthwhile endeavor for a lot of originators, sometimes business leads can also come from something as small as a pen.
Even though he says his wife occasionally teases him about what he spends on pens that have his contact information on them, Bruce Simmons, reverse mortgage manager at American Liberty Mortgage, Inc. in Denver, Colo., shares one instance where one of those pens turned into some surprising business.
“I got a booth at a senior legal fair put on by a county district attorney, designed for older people to show them how to watch out for fraud,” Simmons tells RMD in a phone interview. “I’ve always had pens with my name, number and website on them, and gave one out to this lady. She called me about a week later telling me she had a pen with my name on it, and that turned into a reverse mortgage.”
Simmons then quickly corrected himself: it actually turned into two reverse mortgages from the same borrower.
“It was actually two, because she refinanced a few years later,” he says. “She did a reverse mortgage in 2012-13, and then she refinanced again in about 2015-16. So, the pens worked pretty well that time.”
Simmons also takes his outreach in the community a step further by hosting a weekly radio show devoted solely to the topic of reverse mortgages.
“I do a weekly radio show, going on now for almost two years. I talk for half an hour about reverse mortgages. Every once in a while I’ll have a guest, like local reverse mortgage counselors along with other people who service seniors,” he describes. “But, mostly it’s just me blabbing on about reverse mortgages.”
Simmons shares that while a lot of his leads come from referral partners or trusted advisors, the radio show brings him enough new business that he counts it among one of his most regular sources of new clients. The show has also made a bit of an impact on the people who listen to it.
“It’s funny because the first loan I did from it, I’d only been on the radio for maybe a month or two, and I record the show on Wednesdays to air on the local radio station on Thursdays,” Simmons says. “I was meeting with this lady to take her application, and her phone rang. I told her it was okay for her to answer it if she needed to, and she told me, ‘No, that’s okay. That’s just my alarm reminding me to listen to your show.’ She actually had an alarm to listen to my reverse mortgage radio show on her phone.”
Simmons’ presence on the radio has allowed clients to reach out to him, and he says that his regular appearances likely helps him to build credibility with people who think about taking up a reverse mortgage.
“It helps build credibility, I think,” he says. “I’ve received calls from people who tell me they’ve been listening for me for a while before they finally decide to call, and it’s just like newsletters. You need to do it on a regular basis and if you do, it builds up over time.”