Customer Connections Key to HECM, Proprietary Success at C2 Reverse

Emphasis on customer service and going the — literal — extra mile have spelled success for San Diego-based C2 Financial’s reverse mortgage division.

For Christina Harmes, assistant manager at C2 Reverse and a certified reverse mortgage professional, this dedication to the customer experience would mean making the 5 1/2 hour roundtrip drive from her office in San Diego to the home of her jumbo loan client in Venice Beach.

“I usually drive about 30 to 40 minutes, but in this particular case, there was a connection and [the client] needed the extra assurance, so it just felt right,” she said. “If I can meet a client and they are near enough, I always do.”

Harmes and her father, Scott Harmes — who together took over as managers of C2 Reverse in 2016 — call this the “C2 face-to-face advantage,” and it’s emphasized in their C2 Reverse training certification and origination program. Of C2 Financial’s 600 loan officers, 130 are graduates of the program, which consists of 30 online course hours followed by a certification test.

The in-depth curriculum was developed through partnerships with American Advisors Group, Finance of America Reverse, HighTechLending, Inc., Reverse Mortgage Funding, and Liberty Home Equity Solutions. Located across nine states, C2 Financial’s loan officers closed $2.4 billion in forward and reverse loans last year.

For C2 loan officers who are new to reverse mortgages or interested in the products, Christina Harmes said the program stresses how to nurture the client relationship through phone calls, answering questions, and meeting in person — when possible — for the sometimes months-long reverse mortgage origination process.

In total, Harmes said she has spent about 20 hours on the phone with her Venice Beach client, a financially savvy man in his 70s who had already contacted about 16 reverse lenders in a six-month period. Harmes established a connection early on when she realized that she and the client had gone to the same tiny grade school in La Jolla, Calif., just outside of San Diego.

“And then when he talked about this school, he mentioned the mural in the chapel, so I found a picture of it and sent it to him,” she said.

Needless to say, Harmes recently closed the $1.1 million FAR HomeSafe loan — which included an underwriting exception — for the client’s property and she credits the personal connections for why he chose C2 over the other 16 options.

Scott Harmes, also a CRMP, said the individual attention allowed them to closely look at the options and find the best product for his needs.

“That face-to-face gave him the confidence to really stick with the process through closing and disbursement — and he is very happy,” he said.

“We tell our loan officers to concentrate on an area within 10 miles,” he said. “That’s so we can really have a customer-centric approach where we meet with a customer three or four times during the loan process.”

Of their certified loan officers, Christina Harmes said about 50 focus on reverse along with forward mortgages, and 20 work exclusively with reverse mortgages. The other 60 market reverse as another offering for their clients. For these LOs used to the fast-paced forward loan process, slowing down for a reverse client can be eye-opening.

“The forward loan officers are always in such a hurry,” she said. “They are used to hearing, ‘If the numbers make sense, we want to buy the house,’ or ‘If the numbers make sense, we want to refinance,’” she said. “Rushing [a reverse borrower] is not going to work.”

Although not her own quote, she has a particular phrase she likes to share with her loan officers.

“Nobody cares what you know until they know that you care,” she said. “Our loan officers care so much and that makes such a big difference.”

In addition to individual attention, Christina Harmes also credits the company’s online presence. After her Venice Beach client found Harmes’s name on the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association’s roster of certified reverse mortgage professionals, he did some online research, finding C2 Reverse’s website, and Yelp and LinkedIn pages.

“If we just had the website stuff, and we didn’t have Yelp or LinkedIn, it sounds like we wouldn’t have had that much credibility,” she said.

Written By Maggie Callahan

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