In challenging times, some see defeat and steer clear, while others see opportunity and dive in.

When it comes to reverse mortgages, US Mortgage Corporation has opted for the latter approach.

The lender has been largely focused on traditional purchase loans, but now it’s throwing some weight into growing its reverse mortgage channel.

In June, it hired veteran HECM specialist Steven Sless to launch a reverse mortgage division with a multi-layered curriculum designed to teach forward LOs how to originate HECMs.

US Mortgage has more than 100 loan officers operating in nearly 30 states. In the past, it would typically originate three or four reverse mortgages a month, earning a spot on the Top 100 HECM Lenders list, but coming in at No. 65 in the latest rankings.

Now, its setting its sights higher.

The company has launched an intensive curriculum designed to teach LOs the nuances of originating reverse mortgages, including courses on how home equity fits into the retirement income puzzle and how they can leverage their Realtor contacts to sell the HECM for Purchase.

Just last month, the lender announced the first 25 graduates of its HECM class. With more classes in the works, Sless said he expects to start the first quarter if 2019 with 50 US Mortgage-certified HECM professionals.

The second layer of US’s plan for growth in the sector includes the hiring of reverse-specific LOs.

“Our No. 1 goal to be a top 15 lender within 18-24 months. And then, in 24-48 months, we want to be a top 10 reverse lender,” Sless said. “I think the opportunity is there to strike when there’s a down market. There’s a lot less competition.”

According to Sless, the lender’s close ties with the Realtor community will be hugely beneficial for the growth of a solid HECM for Purchase business. In the eight weeks since it began its push, US has already closed six H4P loans.

US Mortgage President Scott Milner said the lender plans to work with its referral partners in the real estate community to build this business channel.

“We have proudly served the Realtor community for nearly 25 years and take great pride in the long-standing relationships we have developed,” Milner said. “We know our Realtor partners will be excited and will get behind the H4P product, which very few know about, thus positioning US Mortgage to be a dominate player and educator in that space.”

Milner also said the company sees an opportunity in the HECM market despite the current climate.

“As this next generation of HECM borrowers come of age, we see the usage of home wealth playing an even greater role in providing retirement cash flow solutions,” Milner said. “Our company and our reverse leader Steven Sless have proven to be battle-tested and able to adapt and overcome in trying times and in uncertain markets.”

“We see a great opportunity to play a big role in helping to solve America’s longevity funding dilemma through the HECM product,” Milner continued. “Certainly, from a market share perspective, as lenders are contracting in this space, we plan on picking up the pieces.”

Sless agreed.

“I think it’s a really good time to be able to capture market share in our own little unique way,” Sless said. “We’re going to use our own unique approach to take a bite out of the market.”

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