Written by Mark Draper, as originally published in The Reverse Review.

As I was getting ready for a garage sale recently, I came across a box that contained documents with reverse mortgage news from September 2008. It made for a fascinating read, and here’s why: The headline was the Top 100 HECM lenders. Wow! Can you believe there were once 100?

Top HECM Lenders September 2008
#1 Wells Fargo
#2 Financial Freedom
#3 Countrywide
#4 World Alliance Financial
#5 Bank of America

Interestingly, MetLife was No. 98 at that time; it hadn’t climbed the ranks to No. 1 just yet before leaving the space in 2012. As for the status of today’s top lenders in 2008, AAG was No. 29, Security One Lending was No. 66, Urban Financial was No. 8 and Generation Mortgage Company came in at No. 11. Considering AAG recently ranked No. 1 on the most recent list of top lenders, much has changed in just five years. Many of the players from back then are still in the game, but now the total number of lenders has dropped to 61.

In September 2008 the monthly endorsement total that made Wells Fargo No. 1 was 1,858. The total number of endorsements industry-wide that month was 9,494. These high endorsement numbers in ’08 occurred in the height of the market’s meltdown, and the decline that has happened since then is obvious.

Why has industry volume declined in recent years? We all have our own opinions on that. After ’08, the industry rolled out the Saver, the fixed rate and, of course, the Standard, along with new counseling protocol. With all these changes, one might think the endorsements would increase, or at least remain strong, but they did not. Also, with the number of lenders that have left the space, freeing up their portion of the market share, you would think the major players would have achieved higher endorsement rates. But that didn’t happen to any major extent either.

With 10,000 seniors turning 65 every day, there has to be a tipping point for demand. But this tipping point has not happened yet and the decline has continued. We have not yet seen the effects of the changes implemented October 1, and we’ll also have to wait and see what the second wave of changes, those pertaining to Financial Assessment, will bring in 2014. Will the decline in endorsements continue? Will they even out? Will the endorsements slowly increase as the product’s

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headline risk diminishes? Will the HECM finally become more mainstream? The answers to these questions remain to be seen.

Regardless, I know what I am hoping for, and what I am working toward. As a humble reverse mortgage advisor who hits the streets daily, I think the demographics indicate that there has to be an uptick in volume at some point, and I wholeheartedly believe that those originators who remain focused will reap the rewards. I believe the program will get stronger, and that it will eventually be embraced by consumers and their advisors. (And lucky for us reverse professionals, there are only two programs to explain now.) Let’s hope this recent set of changes is final so that we can get on with the business that we love. Hopefully, in five years, I’ll review top lender endorsement numbers December 2013 and reflect on how far the industry has come.

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