Written by John LaRose, as originally published in The Reverse Review.

I was introduced to the reverse mortgage industry in April 2004, and after being in the servicing business for almost 20 years, I felt as though I had found my true calling. I was impressed with what reverse mortgages could do for our seniors; I was equally impressed by the many dedicated professionals involved in this product.

When I first came to Celink in 1985, I cut my teeth servicing loans for a number of state housing agencies. I felt proud then, as I do today, that we were serving those less fortunate by giving them a hand up – not a handout. It really hit home when I talked to a single mom with four kids making $7/hour. This hard-working woman was so happy to have a 1 percent, 20-year home improvement loan to fix her leaky roof. I remember her monthly payments being around $35 – and she never missed one.

Over time, many state housing agencies turned their attention to multifamily efforts. It became impossible to stay in business by serving this declining market niche, and after a little research in mid-2004, I decided to get into reverse mortgage servicing. My entry into the reverse mortgage world was a daunting challenge. Fannie Mae was the only buyer of HECMs, and it was not allowing new lenders or, worse yet, new servicers to be approved.

I was not easily swayed by the multiple obstacles on the path, and in July 2005, my company became a Fannie Mae-approved servicer of reverse mortgages. This gave me the opportunity to build a servicing operation from the ground up, and I had one all-encompassing goal: to develop a business model that would “honor a lifetime.”

The people applying for reverse mortgages come from all walks of life, but a prevailing theme is that they desperately want to stay in their homes. They have been making payments and taking care of their property for decades, and in many cases, their home was paid off years ago. Now they need help staying in their homes, which is not just a building, but defines who they are. They raised children in that home, they had hundreds of holidays and gatherings in that home, and the home is decorated with pictures and mementos of all of the wonderful (and yes, some sad) memories of their lifetime.

Each of these lifetimes deserves to be honored with respect and dignity. Respect and dignity means providing those who want to live out the remaining years of their lives in their own home with the opportunity to do so. In my mind and experience, there is no better vehicle to provide that opportunity than a reverse mortgage.

Since I came into this industry six years ago, I have had the pleasure of coming to know so many people who have also found this career path a calling. To those people, I say thank you for everything you do for so many people in need. At the same time, I feel sorry for those who view the reverse mortgage as a purely financial transaction. It is so much more.

I shared my feelings on this subject with a highly respected industry colleague a few years ago and he said to me, “I

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feel the same way. In fact, I have told more than one person that if there is not at least a nano-inch in your body that believes you are doing God’s will, then I suggest you find a different career.” Since this column gives me the last word, to that I say, “Amen.”