Written by Allain Valles, as originally published in The Reverse Review.

I am an “old-school” reverse mortgage broker in that I originate my loans in person, often driving two hours each way, investing three hours with my client and sometimes meeting a second or third time. I often arrive home feeling jet-lagged. But recently I’ve talked to loan officers who do everything by mail and claim great borrower satisfaction.

Should you meet in person? The principal reason for meeting a borrower face-to-face is to create greater trust. It also gives me a better understanding of the senior’s environment, including any physical limitations, competency concerns, and condition of the property. It’s a chance to respond to body language. And it’s easier to explain disclosures and collect documentation.

But the opportunity costs of all that drive time (not to mention fuel cost and inherent driving dangers) are reason enough to explore originating by mail. Then there are the times when the senior feels pressure to “entertain” by cleaning their home or providing food that can be hard to swallow. And sometimes I’m just not sure the senior really wants to hear all my stories.

Top secrets of originating by mail Time to change my thinking! My discussions with successful “by mail” loan officers resulted in the following tips to share with you:

Use a three-call & mail approach First call – An introductory conversation explaining the loan officer’s goal of sharing information about HECMs and learning what the senior would like to accomplish. The goal of this call is to capture the borrower’s age, estimated property value, and current mortgage balance. The call ends with setting a time for the next call to discuss particular options after reviewing the information provided. Estimated call time: less than 25 minutes.

Second call – The purpose of this call is to share possible HECM options, discuss which option will best meet the senior’s goals, and educate the senior about how the HECM process works, including the requirement of a counseling session. When the senior desires to move forward, this call ends with the loan officer promising to overnight the loan package with accompanying disclosures and information, and a commitment to review the application materials on a certain date. Estimated call time: 30 minutes 1 hour-plus.

Third call – Now it is time to focus on explaining the loan package, having the senior sign the disclosures, reviewing the required supporting documentation, and explaining how to schedule the counseling session or call. Assuming this call ends well, the senior agrees to a time schedule to complete counseling and to mail back the loan package in the provided, prepaid overnight envelope.

•    Presentation is key – Make sure your loan packages are orderly, have your disclosures in large font, and are numbered. Provide a checklist of how the loan process flows and what documents are needed, and make sure you have a compliant list of HECM counselors. Including educational materials as well as a single-page summary of the borrower’s goals is appreciated.

•    Communication options – More and more seniors are computer savvy and many are creating their own Facebook pages to keep track of the grandkids. GoToMeetings and Skype are growing avenues to explain all those forms as well as having a face-to-face conversation for those with webcams. Have your support staff or processors join the call to let the senior know there’s a team eager to help them. Sending an “office team” picture helps to warm the relationship.

•    Supporting documentation – Make it easy for the borrower. Explain specifically what is needed and go the extra step by identifying places they can go to make copies, such as the local library or office supply store. Sometimes the inability to get a copy of a driver’s license can hold up a file for weeks.

•    Stay in touch – Communicate frequently throughout the entire process. The senior needs to know what’s going on and must never be made to feel like they’re just a number or have been forgotten. A weekly call from the loan officer is critical to monitoring the borrower’s emotions and addressing any new questions or issues.

Which is the best approach? In the end, both. Being proficient at originating both in person and by mail is probably the best solution. I’m adding to my infrastructure systems that will better allow me to eliminate hours of driving while improving productivity and reducing costs. Maybe it’s time you try too.


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