Commentary: What an industry pro learned after helping his parents get a reverse mortgage

George Morales of Accenture talks about some key lessons he’s learned about reverse mortgages after helping his parents obtain one

I have been in the mortgage industry for more than two decades and have been working with reverse mortgages for about 12 of those years. Working in this space for so long, I thought I knew the ins and outs of a reverse mortgage, but it wasn’t until I experienced one firsthand that some things really hit home for me.

So many people have questions about reverse mortgages: how do they work? Are they the right choice? Can there be downsides? Since reverse mortgages generally are not talked about like traditional forward mortgages are, I want to walk through my experience with my parents’ reverse mortgage and talk about lessons I learned — even as someone who already had inside knowledge.

What happened

There are so many reasons that homeowners may seek out a reverse mortgage: funding retirement, sending kids to college, financing large purchases during retirement and the list goes on.

George Morales, reverse mortgage veteran and sales official with Mortgage Cadence.
George Morales

For my parents, specifically, they were aging and approaching retirement and were simply looking for ways to be more financially secure. They had retirement income but wanted an extra layer of financial protection while eliminating their mortgage payment.

This created a win-win for my parents and is a common reason older homeowners use a reverse mortgage: to leverage their home equity.

What I know

As someone who has worked in reverse for a long time, I knew that a reverse mortgage would give them peace of mind without putting their house at risk. A line of credit would simply allow them a safety net if the need ever arose.

I also knew a reverse mortgage would be a “set it and forget it” option, as there would be minimal interaction with the servicer — no mortgage payments, no due dates, no late payments, no phone calls, etc. For my parents, I knew it was important that they didn’t have a ton of back and forth to worry about or any additional due dates they needed to remember.

What I learned

As someone who was already well-versed in reverse, I knew there was still more to learn especially now that it was personal. I believe that experience is one of the best teachers and I am hopeful that my experience helps reverse lenders better serve their borrowers.

The first and most important lesson I learned is that borrowers will need education. In both forward and reverse lending, it’s common to have first-time borrowers that need to learn about the process they’re going through. While reverse mortgages are meant to be hands off, it was helpful to be hands on with helping my parents understand their loan options.

In my parents’ case, they faced a cultural/linguistic barrier that I was happy to help with, however, there were elements of a reverse mortgage that they – or anyone – would need some help to understand. For example, when they got their first annual recertification letter from the loan servicer, it worried them. They were not sure what it meant or what they should do about it.

After I explained the purpose and that it was routine, they were more comfortable and knew it would be coming each year.

Helping provide answers

Occasionally, they would have other questions they needed help with. For the borrowers that don’t have family that is a resource on reverse, they need to know they can reach out to their lender or servicer with questions. The way reverse works isn’t common knowledge for most people, so a little assistance and a little patience goes a long way.

Another lesson I learned is that reverse mortgages create a softer landing. This is something I already knew, but my personal experience really drove this idea home. Not only did their reverse mortgage help my parents during retirement, but it also helped my dad financially when my mom passed away.

Additionally, the relationship with the loan servicer after both my parents passed away did not create a huge burden on our family. Reverse mortgages allow you time to settle affairs after a homeowner passes away – it’s not like a traditional “forward” mortgage where a mortgage payment is due soon and, if not paid, late payment fees can start adding up.

Not to mention, the forward mortgage loan servicer starts to call your parents’ phone number looking to reach the borrower for a payment. None of those pressures exists with a reverse mortgage.

Settling the loan

As someone with loved ones who had a reverse mortgage, while you do have time after someone passes away, you still need to be mindful that the loan needs to be settled. Staying in touch with the servicer is recommended. Keep in mind that the estate has the option to sell or refinance the loan, the same as any borrower would with a traditional forward mortgage.

So much of these were things I already knew about reverse mortgages, but they came to life for me in a new way by helping my own family. After seeing it firsthand, I still strongly believe that reverse mortgages can be a great financial tool as part of an overall financial planning strategy.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Reverse Mortgage Daily and its owners.

To contact the author of this story: George Morales at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Clow at [email protected]

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