Written by Brian Cook, as originally published in The Reverse Review.

Last year an associate was teaching a class in our conference room to a group of 20 Realtors about various mortgages and programs available to homeowners and buyers, including reverse mortgages. He asked that I come in and answer some questions for the group as a longtime reverse mortgage originator.

I answered typical questions about the product and made light of some of the facts and myths about reverse mortgages: who owns the title, how does the loan work, what options are available, etc. One of the Realtor’s mothers actually had a reverse mortgage and she shared a bit about her mother’s experience. Many had no idea how a senior utilizes and benefits from this type of loan and knew only what they had read or heard in the media.

The group became more interested once I started to discuss how the reverse mortgage can assist seniors in transition, enabling them to downsize through the use of a HECM for Purchase. Most of the Realtors did not even know this product existed, and those who did had no knowledge about the details of a Purchase transaction. I could see the wheels turning as the group became more engaged in our discussion about this product.

A pivotal moment occurred when one of the Realtors asked, “Do you offer a reverse mortgage class? If you don’t, you need to. We have no knowledge of them, and there is just nothing out there for Realtors.” So began my path to becoming a certified real estate clock-hours instructor.

The key to expanding the reach of the reverse mortgage product will be changing public perception. As an originator, perception is often the greatest barrier to gaining more business within my community. If part of your marketing plan includes working with local seniors, educating the people working within your community also has to be part of your business plan.

Many people in the industry promote their business by offering seminars or workshops for seniors. This is highly encouraged, but it does limit your reach to the senior demographic. To increase referrals, originators need to establish relationships with those who are in contact with or are working directly with seniors: financial planners, CPAs, elder law attorneys, home care agencies, etc. However, I see a huge potential with another demographic: Realtors.

Realtors have an extended reach in our communities and regularly connect with seniors and their families. I spoke with several Realtors for this article who agreed that there is great potential for a partnership between real estate professionals and reverse mortgage specialists.

Mindy Garner with Coldwell Banker Bain’s Elder Move Alliance acknowledges that improving the real estate community’s negative perception of the product will be key to connecting with Realtors and encouraging them to engage the reverse mortgage market. “Knowing what reverse mortgages are really capable of doing for seniors can help Realtors with their clients by [explaining how HECMs can help them] reach their goals as well as figure out future goals,” Garner says. “Realtors run into different people and the more Realtors understand how they can help people and why, the more they can pass this information on to others.”

The majority of Realtors are not educated about reverse mortgages. Dan Faulkner Jr. with John L. Scott Real Estate agrees that most professionals in his line of work are unaware of the details of a HECM. Faulkner says even he was uneducated about the product before meeting me about a year ago. “There is not a high amount of understanding about reverse mortgages in the real estate industry,” he says. “Mostly because of a possible lack of trust.”

Marketing to and networking with Realtors is a great way to not only help change product perception and understanding, but also increase your referrals and build trust. Realtors can sometimes be perceived as individuals looking to “move” property and make a profit. But Garner insists that many Realtors are sensitive to their clients’ needs and would find value in their knowledge or reverse mortgages. “People have different needs. The reverse mortgage and reverse mortgage Purchase can be a tool in the toolbox for Realtors to use,” she says.

Realtors looking to enter the baby boomer niche can find a great amount of opportunity in those looking to downsize or move in retirement, and knowledge of the HECM product would be helpful when working with this demographic.

A reverse mortgage clock-hours class is a great introductory way for Realtors to obtain direct knowledge of the reverse mortgage, and reverse mortgage professionals can take advantage of this opportunity by teaching a class.

Each reverse mortgage clock-hours class is like a workshop, with the instructor reviewing a planned curriculum before presenting scenarios for the class to dissect and discuss. Specifically addressing the details of the HECM for Purchase product is certain to garner the class’ attention, although I’ve also found that many Realtors are interested in the details of a HECM Saver as well.

As an originator looking to increase business and connect with referral sources, connecting with Realtors in your community could go a long way, making you the go-to person for any reverse mortgage needs. By becoming a certified real estate clock-hours instructor, you are providing a resource for Realtors to obtain continuing education credits, and can enlist professionals in your community to be educated advocates for the reverse program.

Tips for becoming a real estate clock-hours certified instructor:

\\ Check with your state. Persons able to teach certified clock-hour classes vary from state to state. Many states allow any interested individual to attend the necessary classes and apply for instructor certification.

\\ Ask local Realtors where they obtain their CE credits and inquire with that provider. Many state-certified CE providers will offer courses to become an instructor.

\\ Provide the CE provider a reverse mortgage course curriculum. They might help you submit the information for state approval and offer to assist in initial classes.

\\ Team up with a title/escrow office. Some title offices will market your class to their real estate lists for you, and some will even provide a meeting area or sponsor lunch after your class.

\\ Offer a free one-on-one class to a Realtor you work with and obtain feedback.

Teaching a successful class:

\\ Provide a binder of the curriculum and related materials for every attendant and include your contact information or business card. This will provide a valuable reference source for their office bookshelf, easily locatable if a client is interested in pursuing a HECM.

\\ Don’t do a PowerPoint presentation. Remember high school? Unengaging presentations can be snoozefests. Show videos, provide cartoons or create crossword puzzles.

\\ Make the class more like a workshop. Don’t worry about sticking to the curriculum as much as providing an interactive environment where attendees can ask questions and share ideas.

\\ Have a regular scheduled class every month, preferably a Tuesday or Wednesday (Realtors are often busy on the weekends).

\\ Host your class somewhere unique—it doesn’t have to be in a conference room. If there are just a few people, take them for coffee or meet at a park.

\\ Provide a sign-in roster and make sure attendees include their cell numbers, not their office numbers—Realtors can change offices frequently.

\\ Realize who is more engaging or supportive during the class. These are your advocates. Follow up and schedule a meeting with them over coffee; explore the potential to co-market with them.

\\ Have fun. You want your attendees to remember YOU, not how boring the class was.