Reverse mortgage industry leaders from the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA), a senior lending division and a title company, share a generally optimistic attitude toward business prospects through the end of 2023 and beyond after attending NRMLA’s Western Regional Meeting earlier this month.
However, concerns about industry liquidity and the general mortgage market tumult have tempered the optimism, according to those who spoke with RMD in recent interviews.
An ‘engaged conference’
For Finance of America Reverse‘s (FAR) Scott Norman, who is also a NRMLA co-chair, the conference was an energizing one thanks to the attendees.
“From my vantage point, this was easily the most engaged conference we have seen since before COVID,” Norman said.
The optimism was infectious, but Norman also cites the general attendance figures compared to the year prior.
“If I had one takeaway, it would be the unfiltered optimism everyone had for the second half of the year,” Norman said. “Clearly, the first half of the year saw some headwinds, but this conference had almost the same attendance numbers as we had a year ago. I think this bodes very well for our event in Austin next month, and especially for our annual conference in Nashville in late October.”
The conference also reinforced the content and support the industry wants from events like this, he said.
“Along with my co-chair Mike Kent and the NRMLA Board of Directors, we remain laser-focused on making sure the needs of everyone in our space, from the smallest broker to the largest issuer, are being met.”
Still, industry liquidity challenges remain on the minds of industry leaders, he said.
“While we spoke a lot about liquidity issues in Irvine, NRMLA continues to look at many other issues that will directly benefit the originator. They are the heartbeat of the industry, and we are doing everything can to support them and their borrowers. Additionally, as was evident by our HUD session and speakers, the government continues to be as involved as they have ever been,” Normal said.
Awalt, partner and president at FNC Title and Allegiant Reverse Services, said in a recent interview that he went into the conference a bit guarded mindset.
“I went into it guarded with a little bit of enthusiasm, and I think, walked away from it with a positive mindset,” he said. “Everybody [at the conference] had to tell their war stories, but once we got past that, I started to have really forward-looking conversations. A lot of people did feel that the worst was behind us, because they felt like there was some stability. And now that we’re three weeks removed from the conference, that stability has played out.”
For Jesse Allen, president of the 55+ Lending division at OneTrust Home Loans, cautious optimism is top of mind.
“I think the reality is that NRMLA and the industry has been appropriately focused in on the back side of the business,” he said. “I spent time really talking and comparing notes on the back end. That work that’s been going on there, I think has been it’s been really important, and has gotten to a reasonably good place. And I think it’s easy for originators to miss the gravity and the importance of that work. I feel cautiously optimistic that it’s on a solid path because of a lot of hard work from NRMLA.”
There are still challenges to sort out, however.
For Awalt, the volatility created by the exit of Reverse Mortgage Funding and the acquisition of American Advisors Group by Finance of America Reverse has led to a “feeling out” period for some. However, activity is starting to accelerate.
“We’re fortunate enough to work with a lot of those companies,” he said. “So we’re starting to see them start to get traction again, and doing some really positive things. As a vendor and as somebody that isn’t out originating, our bread is buttered by those who are out doing that work. And in at least all indications that I’m seeing, people are definitely feeling more positive about the third and fourth quarters.”
Allen said the feelings of pride that many reverse mortgage professionals have was likely bolstered by spending time among peers.
“[These] people see and feel that impact of what they do,” he said. “And I think that’s what breeds an optimism that we felt in the room. People understand the demand, because we’re running into it all day long. So, I think that was a shared theme, whether it’s from an executive or from loan officers. But I also think when you get into the leaders who’ve been around the space a while who understand the depth of some of the challenges and areas for improvement with the program, I think that’s where folks have this reality overlay.”