Reverse originators expressed feelings of optimism at the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA) Western Regional Meeting this week. But they weren’t the only industry veterans present. A number of industry vendors were also on-hand — and they also felt the energy at the conference.
Here’s what the vendors had to say about how the business climate is shaping up this year, as well as what being at this type of conference offers them.
Value of attendance
For Megan Awalt, VP of title company Allegiant Reverse Services, being among peers is a lift in spirits, especially since many businesses have not returned to the same business atmosphere that existed prior to the pandemic lockdowns.
“We’re the only title company that’s here representing, so it’s a great opportunity for our team to build and meet with our customers,” Awalt said. “A lot of customers are showing up that we haven’t seen since before COVID, and so it’s great to be able to see them face to face, especially when we haven’t been able to go visit people in offices like we typically do.”
Travel is still limited, Awalt said, which adds to the importance of conferences — especially those focused on the reverse mortgage business.
“These conferences are really our only opportunity to get together and really get our finger on the pulse to see what’s going on out there,” Awalt said. “And, there’s been different people from companies than years past. They may be the same customers, but there might be different people within those organizations that are here, which has been great for us to expand those relationships and get deeper into the organizations.”
When asked if it might create a false sense of optimism about business prospects for 2023, Awalt said it was a possibility — but also remembers what a true lack of optimism looks for the industry.
“There have been years in the past where you could tell people were not optimistic, and it was obvious,” she said. “I don’t feel that this time around. I feel like people are really happy to be here; they’re all working and actively trying new things. They have strategies and are hopeful that some of those will pan out. They may not be panning out at the moment, but I think that people are at a point where they’re trying new things and being creative. And that brings optimism.”
Determination and an uptick in business
Mohan Lalwani, reverse mortgage program manager at counseling agency DebtHelper.com, makes it a point to attend any NRMLA conference he can. And, while Lalwani said the business environment is challenging right now, it has picked up recently.
“I would say it was slow since the third quarter of last year, but since February and March, it’s started picking up,” he said. “Which is a good sign. And as you know, the refi market is done. There are borrowers out there who need assistance, and you’ve just got to tap into them. All we do is keep things moving in the education department.”
The networking opportunities at NRMLA conferences are valuable, Lalwani said, and he doesn’t plan to slow down on attendance in the future, either.
“It is always great to be among our peers,” Jon McCue, director of client relations at Reverse Market Insight (RMI), said. “I do a lot of Zoom meetings with people, and they are really great to help connect with people in a form of face to face conversations, but they always have an end time. When you go to these meetings, the organic conversations that happen along with new connections are really terrific.”
McCue spoke to numerous people at the conference who were concerned about the reduction in volume that has occurred since last year, an indicator that the headwinds remain at the forefront of attendees’ minds.
However, that did little to dampen the eagerness industry pros who are ready to work through it, he said.
“I know that there is a concern in the industry regarding volumes, but the conversations I had at the conference were much more positive with a real hope for the near future,” he said. “There are real changes coming down the pipeline, and I for one am excited to see what the industry will look like 24 months from now.”