If done with seniors’ best interests in mind, reverse mortgage seminars can be a highly effective marketing tool, especially for smaller shop lenders and brokers.
Hosting seminars and other free events helps reverse lenders target not only prospective borrowers and their families, but also other professionals like Realtors and financial advisers. And for regional lenders, these events can be good for business, especially when it comes to helping seniors get “off the fence.”
Whereas only a few seminar attendees might be ready to move forward with a reverse mortgage, others just need some extra reassurance, said Steve Sless, who has been conducting seminars for the past three years in his time spent with lenders like Maverick Funding and Bayshore Mortgage Funding. Most recently, Sless has become branch manager for Home Point Financial, where he plans to continue his seminar activities.
Last year, in his time with Bayshore, Sless hit the live seminar circuit aggressively, hosting at least one seminar per week. For the most part, these seminars were held within driving distance of the company’s headquarters in the Maryland and Washington, D.C. area, though the company has hosted events in nearby Delaware and Pennsylvania.
One of the most successful seminars, Sless notes, occurred in York, Pa. Located only a few hours drive north of the nation’s capital, York is the 11th largest city in the state of Pennsylvania with a population just over 43,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The location of York, which sits about 50 miles north and 100 miles west of major cities like Baltimore and Philadelphia, provided an opportunity to market its seminars to this area which may often be overlooked by direct reverse mortgage marketing.
“Over two days, we had 109 people show up to the event and closed more loans from that seminar than any we put on last year,” Sless told RMD.
By using direct mailing pieces, which Sless would send several times per month, the seminars were advertised as a broad plan to incorporate reverse mortgages into an existing retirement plan.
“We get people showing up who are not necessarily looking to get a reverse mortgage, but are looking to broaden their horizons in looking to retire,” Sless said. “I can’t tell you how many loans we closed where people showed up and had no interest in getting a reverse mortgage, but then we put on our hour-long class and we get an appointment.”
Sless estimates the conversion rate averages between 7-8% per seminar, which typically hosts an average of 30 people.
“There is more of an incubation period with these clients,” Sless said. “They want to do their due diligence and a lot of times their financial planners or families are involved. They are very loyal clients; it’s a different trust factor to meet with them, shake their hand and drive out to meet them.”
While it is normal for seniors to attend a seminar with the anxiety that they are going to be deliberately sold on reverse mortgages, it is equally important to put those fears to rest by conducting the seminar in both an educational and motivational way; one that not only teaches attendees about the benefits of reverse mortgages, but also shows how a reverse mortgage can create success stories.
“If you start to sell at a seminar, you’re just going to turn people off,” said Sless. “Everyone in our industry needs to make sure education comes first. This is a very different [HECM] program and there are a lot of misconceptions about it. But once you teach clients, you’re opening people up to explore the reverse mortgage where otherwise they wouldn’t.”
Retirement Life Funding in Silver Spring, Md., also directs marketing efforts into advertising seminars. In doing so, the company publishes content in a local paper called the Senior Beacon, a regional publication for the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. area, according to Patty Wills, a certified reverse mortgage professional who serves as the company’s president.
These small, group meetings provide a question and answer forum for anyone seeking more information about reverse mortgages. The advertisements for the seminar not only attracted seniors interested in the product, but financial planners as well.
“I actually ended up setting up a meeting and getting really a good response with a group of financial planners,” said Wills, during a panel discussion on marketing and advertising for originators and brokers at the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association annual conference in San Francisco last November.
The goal, Wills said, is to keep the advertisements running in the local paper and see if this has any influence on increased participation in the seminars.
“We’re actually trying to talk to people who aren’t ready necessarily to do it [a reverse mortgage] yet with this ad,” said Wills. “Obviously, it’s better if they are ready, but we’re just trying to set the stage to increase awareness and interest and build our base.”
Hosting seminars to convert senior attendees into borrowers requires a lot of patience, and for smaller shop lenders, they can be pricey depending on the scale of the events.
“It takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of follow-up,” said Sless. “Most importantly, you have to have a true commitment to it. You also need to be patient and willing to put money into it, knowing that if you do it right, you’re going to be capturing customers other companies haven’t been able to capture.”
Written by Jason Oliva