The mission of reverse mortgage product education is one of the proverbial “front lines” of the industry, since all stakeholders maintain a vested interest in countering the often intense and persistent negative product perceptions that permeate consumers’ understanding of what a reverse mortgage is.
One of the ways that can be beneficial in combating the reputational issues that reverse mortgage products have is by expanding education efforts into new areas and platforms, and one prominent reverse mortgage educator has sought to do just that with the latest edition of his long-running reverse mortgage education book.
Dan Hultquist, VP of organizational development at Finance of America Reverse (FAR), has released the 2020 edition of his educational reference book Understanding Reverse, and the new edition marks the first reverse mortgage title ever available on Amazon.com’s ubiquitous audiobook platform Audible.
Greater accessibility for all types of customers
When asked what major feedback led to the most work-intensive revisions for the 2020 edition of Understanding Reverse, one of the major pieces of feedback the author received was in making it available in a format that could be accessible to someone with impaired vision.
“Surprisingly, it was two reverse mortgage professionals that reached out to me asking for audiobook versions for their blind clients,” Hultquist tells RMD. “It never occurred to me that some reverse mortgage candidates would be unable to research products on their own without this option. As I floated the idea to other professionals, they indicated to me that many loan originators might also benefit from this option on long work commutes.”
The process was a challenging one, but making the book available in this way helps to meet the further goal of expanding the availability of educational material related to reverse mortgages to as many receptive customers as possible, Hultquist says. Interpreting this title for a new medium also meant coming up with creative solutions for relating some of the ideas, he adds.
“It’s my understanding this is the first and only reverse mortgage book available on Audible. Maybe that’s because it’s a little more challenging than I had envisioned,” Hultquist says. “For example, with financial books you must find creative ways to describe the charts and graphs. I also narrated it myself. This was difficult and time-consuming, but I’m hopeful this option will encourage others to seek the truth about this retirement planning tool.”
Reaching more potential customers through new technology
It was the idea of broadening the proverbial “umbrella” of reverse mortgage awareness that served as the primary motivator to put in the work and make the title available in this way, he adds.
“Going the audiobook route certainly had no financial incentive – Audible controls the pricing and Amazon takes the lion’s share of any proceeds,” he says. “Nevertheless, I think it’s important to embrace new technology and new mediums as they come along. In fact, some authors are beginning to abandon print media and focus entirely on electronic and audio content. So, if this is one more way to reach the public, let’s give it a shot.”
After taking this step to make the book more widely available through embracing a new medium and platform, Hultquist says he hopes that other industry educators and content creators will potentially take this route to try and reach the ears of new people, offering them accurate reverse mortgage information.
“Nobody writes for the money, so competition isn’t a concern – it’s all about influencing public perception,” he says. “The mission of Understanding Reverse has always been to make accurate educational material available to industry insiders, influencers, referral partners, and the public. However, I would caution anyone looking to write on this topic that regulators will indeed read, or listen to, your material.”
Because of that fact, authors of any reverse mortgage media have to have a good understanding of, and respect for mortgage compliance, Hultquist says.
“And, you better be right,” he adds. “If you publish something inaccurate or deceptive, you will be called out, and none of us want that.”
That’s not to say that the process was a simple one even in drafting the writing portion, he says. Recording the audio for the book came with different concerns that had to be addressed including the audio levels of the room in which the recordings took place, file formats and bit rates, Hultquist says.
“Fortunately, I have a good microphone and audio software. However, my initial submission was still rejected because the opening credits were too long with the legalese and my audiobook image didn’t follow their specific guidelines,” he says. “Every revision took 10-14 business days for review before being approved. If others in the reverse space wish to go this route, don’t hesitate to give me a call. I can save you a lot of time and effort.”
2020 revisions for the book
In terms of what changes primarily informed the revisions made for the 2020 edition of Understanding Reverse, the changes aren’t as numerous as those made to last year’s edition, but are still necessary.
“Outside of the new chapter and expanded principal limit factor tables, there were approximately 50 minor changes,” Hultquist says. “Some of these changes are updated every year like nationwide HECM limits. However, 2019 was a slower year for regulatory changes, and even the language related to condominiums only needed minor tweaking this year.”
The biggest focus for change went into commonly-used reference materials for reverse mortgage professionals, he adds.
“It may seem rather insignificant to many readers, but the condensed Principal Limit Factor (PLF) tables in the back of the book are widely used by mortgage professionals and financial services professionals,” he says. “They use these tables to estimate a prospect’s principal limit. But when rates dropped so significantly in 2019, the rates I included in my book were not market rates for most HECM loans. Therefore, I expanded the PLF tables to allow for a much wider range of expected interest rates, all the way down to the floor rate of 3.00%.”
As to whether or not Hultquist will go through the effort to create a new revision to the audiobook version of future editions, it primarily depends on how the current version is received, he says.
“Only time will tell. Certainly the support has been there for the print version to be updated each year,” he says. “Most of our sales come through bulk shipments to industry insiders at [the book’s website]. But if the public finds this new option helpful, I’ll have to consider it.”