Christina Harmes Hika of Amerifund Home Loans in San Diego, Calif. has already described for RMD the perhaps less-discussed benefits of the reverse mortgage business specifically for younger mothers. However, the stresses that she sees from professionals in the forward/traditional mortgage broker and originator communities are not restricted only to that attribute. For many who might be predisposed to seeking out a career change, however, reverse mortgages simply don’t come to mind.
That’s why Harmes Hika has taken it upon herself to try and introduce the possibilities of a reverse mortgage career through a new business endeavor; one involved in coaching professionals and educating them about how they may find a rewarding career in a business they may not have considered before.
With a traditional mortgage business under a kind of stress that is not currently present on the reverse side, much of the principles that she spoke about related to her interactions with the industry as a mother – particularly in terms of professional latitude and the ability to balance different personal and professional priorities – could have the potential to entice new professionals into reverse, she says.
Stress and reverse mortgage opportunity
While her own experience is understandably shaped by parenthood, Harmes Hika still sees a lot of professionals in the communities she is involved with go through a lot of the same things that makes her thankful to be in the reverse business.
“I’m seeing young mothers in the broker and loan officer communities that are just totally stressed out,” she says. “Whether it’s young mothers or anyone else, they’re very stressed out. Reverse is a challenge to get into, I’m not going say it’s as easy as turning your reverse talent on one day. But if you start now, you can build a business so that you have the time and flexibility you want.”
While her children are still very young, looking ahead and thinking about how present she wants to be with her own kids is something she believes reverse is good for, and she doesn’t see the need for that kind of flexibility going away as her kids get older.
“Aren’t I going to want that type of flexibility when they’re five, six, 12 and 18?,” she asks rhetorically. “It’s not like that need for flexibility goes away when they’re older. And that’s what I’ve been telling people.”
In the professional circles she travels in, Harmes Hika says that people are very aware of her reverse advocacy. When it is coupled with her shared anecdotes, a flood of inbound calls and emails came in asking her to walk them through what it takes to get up-to-speed on reverse. The correspondences became so regular, in fact, that she didn’t think she could handle them casually anymore.
“The demand for education, training and coaching that people were asking for took me too far away from my own work,” she says. “This literally started because I couldn’t take one more 15-minute phone call just to pick my brain about reverse. I had already taken a ton one week, and I was kind of running over my income because I’d spent so much time on the phone for free just giving people advice, and I didn’t get enough of my loans done.”
A unique market gap
Immediately, Harmes Hika identified a gap in a very unique market that could also go on to serve a longtime reverse mortgage industry goal: bringing more new professionals into the fold. That endeavor has also helped people to realize exactly what they know – and don’t know – about getting up to speed with the nuances of the reverse mortgage sales cycle.
“I started a master-class series for forward loan officers to learn reverse,” she says. “It’s more than the lender courses. I love lender courses, but what I found is that loan officers on the forward side don’t understand what they have to do as an originator on the reverse side, because it’s different. There are more steps.”
There are also a lot of other specific differences and scenarios that a forward-only professional may not anticipate having to deal with, particularly when it comes to the more consultative nature of the reverse mortgage industry, as well as client particulars that might need to be taken into account such as the health of the borrower, she says. Still, traditional lender courses are certainly valuable in teaching about loan details.
“A lot of lender courses are very topical, and we’ve ended up with a lot of people that went through the lender courses and became knowledgeable about the details of the loan,” she says. “But they had no clue and are sitting there frozen in fear as to what to do with that prospect that just called asking about the loan. And so, that was a gap in the market that I saw that I wanted to fill.”
Some of the content and discussions her course helps oversee includes the first steps to take upon receiving a product inquiry from an interested senior. There are step-by-step guides that can move someone progressively through to a loan being placed in process, she says.
Overcoming persistent misinformation
One of the keys for the future, Harmes Hika says, is for newly-initiated reverse mortgage professionals to speak up about what sets the reverse mortgage apart and to become visible in their local communities.
“I’m coaching these loan officers to speak up and out, and to get out there to become the face of reverse in their local market,” she says. “That way, people can ask questions and get straightforward, real answers. I think that’s really the biggest problem: really experienced reverse mortgage loan officers don’t need to market that much. But then, the big companies market in a very generic way which doesn’t really help address a lot of the education issues.”
Then, there are other adjacent professionals like financial planners, attorneys, forward mortgage loan officers and others that simply don’t understand reverse mortgages, and the needle may not be moving fast enough in that respect.
“There’s just this disconnect where education is the key,” she says. “And I know we say that all the time, but it’s not just educating in a one-on-one format. You’ve got to get out there and talk about your reverse stories. Storytelling has led to a lot of success for me personally because people can see themselves in those real stories. We all know how life-changing reverses can be, but nobody else knows that. A part of my mission with this coaching company is to stop [reverse mortgages from] being the best-kept secret.”
Learn more about the program at LearningReverse.com.