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Origins: Using Reverse Mortgages to Do the Right Thing for Seniors

Reverse mortgage originators often find themselves in very difficult circumstances depending on the reason that clients reach out to them for help in the first place. Sometimes it’s for a more affluent person to get access to a product that can strategically help their portfolios, while other times it’s to try and make sure a senior can stay in his or her home. This is why the consultative reverse mortgage process between borrowers and originators is so important.

Jason Eichmiller

For Jason Eichmiller, reverse mortgage specialist at Bank of England in Ambler, Penn., a reverse mortgage career path started out as simply needing to find a job in a new city. It ended up developing into a product and service that he believes in, and he has seen firsthand how a reverse mortgage has the potential to change a senior’s life for the better.

In the latest edition of our “Origins” series examining how originators find their path into the reverse mortgage industry, Eichmiller shares how he has come to value the service that he and the industry-wide corps of originators provides to seniors.

How long have you been originating both in general, and in reverse specifically?

I had a very brief stint originating “regular” mortgages late in 2006. I was there for a few months, actually led the branch in sales for 2 of those months, and then the company shut down(just like everybody else in the subprime world). I started originating reverses in 2008, so I’ve been at it for just under 12 years.

How did you first learn about the reverse mortgage product, and what led to you to believe that reverse origination was something you could do?

In November of 2008, I had just moved to Philadelphia, Penn. chasing a girl. Surprisingly I caught her, too. I had the new place and the girl, but I didn’t have a job. That’s when luck intervened: I kept seeing Robert Wagner pitching reverse mortgages on TV. Then, looking through craigslist, I saw that the same company was hiring in Center City in Philadelphia. I had some major misconceptions about reverse mortgages – just like everybody else – but I thought, “What the heck, I’m jobless. What do I have to lose?”

The owner of the company taught me that reverse mortgages were actually programs that helped seniors without hurting their kids. At the end of the interview I asked “When can I start?”  

As far as belief goes, I had been selling over the phone since I was out of college, I just needed a product that I believed in. I found that in reverse mortgages.

What would you say was your earliest big test that you found most challenging in your career as an originator?

Back in 2008 and 2009, reverse mortgages were the ultimate “no doc” loan. If you were 62 or over and had equity, then you qualified. The commissions were also sizable, to boot. I was able to learn the product pretty quickly, and was always good at building rapport over the phone, but my biggest challenge was ethical.

We did financial worksheets on each prospect, and I could tell that some folks couldn’t be helped even with a reverse mortgage, they were just bleeding out too much cash. So, I went against the wishes of “management” and recommended that they sell the home instead. I took some heat from the company leadership (or, “the Bobs”) but stuck to my guns, and looking back now I’m glad that I did.

What is your most unusual case that you’ve had to deal with in your capacity as an originator, and how did you solve it?

One of my toughest cases was in the early days. I had a borrower named Barbara who was in her mid 80’s, owned a Brooklyn brownstone, and needed a reverse mortgage. However, when we ran her title, we saw a stranger on it with her. Turns out it was fraud. Together, we found a real estate attorney in Brooklyn who brought the case to court and won. Barbara was able to get a reverse mortgage and her life changed for the better because of it.

I’ll never forget the attorney telling me, “I’m shocked that a reverse mortgage salesperson would work so hard to do the right thing.”

What would you classify as your biggest accomplishment in your work as a reverse mortgage originator?

I’ve helped over 400 seniors get reverse mortgages. Each of those 400 people are (or were…some have passed away) living better lives because of this program. I’ve won awards, but they don’t mean anything compared to the lives this program has changed.

What do you think is needed for potential borrowers to be more fully educated about home equity release?

We need to do a better job of educating seniors. Financial professionals are now finally waking up to the idea that utilizing home equity to fuel retirement is a good idea, but there are plenty of seniors out there who don’t have financial advisors or attorneys. The 30-second Tom Selleck ad is great, but we need our advertisements to do more explaining.

Fortunately, there are lots of seniors (and family members) on channels like YouTube, and putting up videos there is free.  

Where do you see the reverse mortgage industry in 5-10 years?

It’s hard to know what HUD will do to loan limits, but I’m pretty excited by the growth of proprietary reverse mortgages. I think that with more positive outreach we’ll continue to trend in the direction of seniors and their advisors looking at home equity as an asset to be utilized.

The demographic shift is certainly in our favor!

What is the industry’s biggest challenge today, and how can it be overcome?

We’ve got a couple of challenges. The most obvious challenge is HUD’s squeezing of PLFs. Every time it happens, fewer seniors can qualify, but we can’t do much about that. What we can work on is the fact that many seniors don’t understand how reverse mortgages work. A majority think that we give them some money, and then lenders take the home when they die.

If we can continue to work on educating seniors on how reverse mortgages really work, we’ll be able to serve more folks in the future.

Complete the sentence: If I could change one thing about the reverse mortgage it would be:

Lower IMIP for seniors who just take a line of credit.

If I could erase one reverse mortgage misconception it would be:

The bank/government gets my home when I die.