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

Almost every loan appointment offers a life lesson and a tip on how to generate more business. Each reverse mortgage comes with a personal story. It may be a happy one, such as when grandparents are proudly taking out a reverse mortgage to pay for a grandchild’s college education. Or it may be heart-wrenching, as in the case of a guardian using reverse funds to support a parent with Alzheimer’s. Every story leads me to reflect on how I’m leading my life. I’m also cognizant of the fact that I must use my resources wisely to ensure lasting profitability. After each appointment I make notes of what I should adjust to efficiently have each client reach a decision in moving forward with a reverse mortgage. Here are a few of my favorite stories. Hopefully, they will help you.

The senior was a recent widower. During our initial phone conversation it was clear he was still grieving. I listened to his stories about his wife and their love for their cat, Morris. In preparing for my first meeting with any client I always try to think of a small gift to give at the end of my meeting. I brought cat treats to this man, which nearly brought him to tears. This small gesture quickly created a bond between us and demonstrated that I am a good listener.

I always carry a “pop-by” bag with little gift items that cost less than $2, such as a candle, a fly swatter, an outdoor thermometer with oversize numbers, and – the most popular one every year – a turkey baster. More often than not, the senior still has the family over for dinner and a new turkey baster always comes in handy.

I will stop by prospective, current, and past reverse clients and my referral sources with these “pop-by” gifts. It reaffirms that I am not just about the transaction, but that I am living up to my promise of staying in touch and being their hub to other trusted advisors. My goal is to give 10 pop-by gifts a week and try to keep the visit to 10 minutes or less. My conversation follows the rhythm of asking how they are doing, sharing how much I appreciate our relationship, and then reminding them that I’m never too busy for their referrals. My challenge is justifying driving an hour for a short visit to hand someone a silly gift. But I can assure you, the person is grateful, and more often than not, they say, “What a coincidence – I know someone that might need a reverse mortgage…”


This appointment started with a question: “How long will this take?” The senior wanted to be done in 40 minutes so that he could watch his favorite television show, The Biggest Loser. I explained that I might need more time and the

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client cut me off, saying he had already met with other companies and just wanted to get the paperwork under way.
When I stressed that a reverse is a long-term solution, he cut me off again and said in an agitated tone, “Listen, as soon as I get my reverse I’m going to list my house to sell.” I’d be lying if I didn’t think that was the “biggest loser” plan. But he continued, “You’re in my daughter’s house. I’m going to get a reverse, pay off my daughter’s mortgage, give the extra money to my son-in-law to build a full in-law apartment, then sell my home and invest the profit.”

He had caught me off guard, but I responded with, “Why not just sell your home?” He laughingly said, “What do you think I am – crazy? My son-in-law is in the trades and it will take months to finish the in-law apartment and there’s no way I’m sleeping on this couch for six months.” He understood the associated mortgage costs and felt they did not outweigh the quality-of-life balance.

Moral of the story: I was the “biggest loser” for assuming I knew what’s best for a borrower. Now I always ask lots of questions in order to better understand people’s goals and I never assume I know what’s best. I start my appointments with, “If I had a magic wand, what would be your best-case scenario if you got a reverse mortgage?” The answers will help guide you on what to focus on during your meeting. The other benefit of opening with this question is that it encourages your client to start talking and sharing their story. Don’t tell my teenagers, but I use the same “magic wand” technique on them with some success and try my best not to assume I know what’s best for them.


In this case, I nearly lost a loan because of a simple misunderstanding. My borrower owed about $150,000 and we were hoping the reverse would cover the current mortgage. I explained that there would be little available in terms of a line of credit or tenure plan. She fully understood.

The confusion came when I called the senior after her counseling call and detected a very perturbed tone. I asked how the counseling session went and she responded that the counselor said she would have a line of credit close to $150,000 or a large monthly check and was mad that I hadn’t shared those options. I was a bit confused. But after a little investigation, I found out that the counselor had asked the borrower if there were any “liens” on the property. Since my borrower didn’t know that a mortgage is a lien, she answered “no,” which led the counselor to state that more funds were available.

Now I ask the same question in different ways, such as, “Do you have a mortgage, equity line, line of credit, lien, or a second mortgage?” The funny part is the senior will say “no,” but when I ask the final question (whether they would owe money to someone if they sold their house), they quite often say, “Yes, I owe the local credit union $40,000…”
Don’t assume that because you explained everything that the other person actually understood what you said. I’m always trying to improve my explanation of complicated reverse mortgage terms with different analogies. I’m sure you’ve done a great job explaining how the unused portion of the line of credit grows only to be asked when the “interest income” is deposited into their checkbook note (email me if that doesn’t make sense to you).

The other technique I use to minimize word confusion is to have my client mirror back what I just explained. If they’re off a bit, I re-explain it using different words or examples. It’s my responsibility to make sure they understand how a reverse works.

Whether you’re a new originator or seasoned veteran, taking a little extra time to take note of a person’s wants and fears, giving a small token of appreciation, and not jumping to conclusions that you know what’s best will serve you well in building your referral network and just might help with your personal relationships too.