Do Reverse Mortgage Borrowers Prefer In-Person Counseling?

With ongoing legislative efforts in Massachusetts regarding a face-to-face reverse mortgage counseling mandate to resemble the in-person requirement found in the state of North Carolina, there has long been a question of how many borrowers prefer face-to-face counseling when it is available. There is agreement that in-person counseling is a valuable tool, but a question remains as to how many borrowers actually prefer it.

Often it has been said by reverse mortgage counseling participants that the “vast majority” of clients prefer telephone counseling, and some recent data shared by housing counseling agencies demonstrates just how vast that majority is.

Taking the greater Atlanta market for example, reverse mortgage counseling intermediary CredAbility cited its most recent data from the past two years to show that less than 1% of its roughly 11,000 Atlanta area reverse mortgage clients chose face-to-face counseling when offered the option between the two, both of which are available in that region.

CredAbility counted 100% of its 11,000 clients as opting for the phone counseling in the Atlanta area in 2011. In the previous year, the proportion of those opting for in-person sessions was 0.1%, again out of roughly 11,000 reverse mortgage counseling sessions in that region.

“The phone counseling is available in all 50 states, 24 hours per day,” says John McCosh, spokesman for CredAbility. “We do offer in person counseling where we have a brick and mortar presence where you’d think there would be demand for in person counseling.”

The option is not widely used, McCosh says, perhaps in part because many borrowers attend counseling with an out-of-state family member via conference call. Travel to and from the session is another issue to be considered.

Massachusetts counseling agency Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp. has seen a similar trend, weighing heavily toward phone counseling.

“Ninety-five percent of our counselees that are within a reasonable driving distance choose to do phone counseling over face to face,” says Tony Lopes, Cambridge’s housing director. That figure excludes the agency’s clients who live more than 30 miles from the office. Including those clients, the figure is close to 1% to 2%, he says. “When you factor in driving, mobility issues and wanting family involved on the session via conference call, most prefer phone.”

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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