As Funds Dry Up, Reverse Mortgage Counseling Startup Sees Opportunity

Many housing counseling agencies saw their government funding dry up on Oct. 1, 2011, the same day that QuickCert, a non-profit agency devoted solely to reverse mortgage pre-application counseling, opened its doors, boasting quick “turn times” compared to other agencies with two to three-week-long waiting lists.

Before transitioning into a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-approved counseling agency, QuickCert, headquartered in Tulsa, Okla., worked in a non-profit senior environment for about six years, offering financial counseling to seniors under the name Senior Independence.

As the topic of reverse mortgages increasingly cropped up as a viable solution for hundreds of seniors the agency was counseling, Team Manager Vince Bond said the transition to pre-application reverse mortgage counseling was “natural.”

“It got to the point where we found that some of the information they were getting wasn’t quite up to speed with the current market; some were having to wait two to three weeks for turn times,” Bond told RMD. “After investigating that, and doing discussions with HUD, we decided that we could really come out and make a dramatic impact on that.”

Right now, QuickCert is operating at 24- or 48-hour turn times.

This is partially due to the agency’s recent beginnings, and it currently has just six licensed counselors in its Oklahoma headquarters. Its plans for expansion include currently developing offices in North Carolina and Puerto Rico, with another office potentially located in Massachusetts.

Initial expectations will place anywhere from three to seven counselors at each location, says Bond, which were chosen carefully in consideration of certain state requirements for face-to-face counseling.

“It’s a numbers game,” he says, adding that they’ll add more staff to keep turn times low, depending on workload.

QuickCert’s goal is to gain 20% of the market within its first year, says Bond, which would put them at about 1200-1500 counselings a month. Like many other HUD-approved counseling agencies, including CredAbility or Cambridge Credit Counseling Corporation, QuickCert doesn’t have much in the way of funding, but Bond says they expected this.

“We put this in place because we knew the funding for counselors were going to be going out, and there would be a void that needed to be filled,” he says. And, as the need for senior financing and reverse mortgages rises, “more people are going to need services like ours.”

The agency charges $125 upfront for its counseling services, but in some circumstances works to finance the fee into the loan closing, says Bond. However, at least 30% of counselees never close on a loan, and the agency is already making use of licensed counselors’ volunteered time. However, if QuickCert is managed correctly, its counseling services can maintain itself, Bond added, although they may look into government funding “down the road.”

Other HUD-approved counseling agencies are also feeling the crunch, with those seeking free counseling often facing weeks-long waits. Some agencies who up until now offered free or pay-at-closing agencies have been forced to charge upfront fees.

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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