Grassroots Effort: Bringing Reverse Mortgage Experiences to Capitol Hill

With the industry relying almost entirely on the support of a government insured HECM product, the need to communicate the importance of the product to representatives in Washington, DC, has never been more important.  Even with the support of organizations like the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association and Coalition for Independent Seniors, there hasn’t been a system in place to contact reverse mortgage borrowers and communicate the important role they can play in ensuring the HECM products future until now.

Developed by John Mitchell, Founder of 1st AA Reverse Mortgage, Inc., Reverse Voice is an independent grassroots campaign designed to help lenders reach out to customers and explain the value of writing local representatives if they feel reverse mortgages have had a positive impact in their lives.

The process begins when lenders send out a customer satisfaction inquiry after their loan closes.  Included in the survey is an additional one page letter provided by Reverse Voice explaining why the industry needs their support. Within a week of receiving the one-page letter, an independent company follows up with a phone call to each customer to determine their interest in writing their representative(s) a letter.

The call is non-invasive and respectful of the seniors time and only communicates the merit of sending it out to their local representative.  Mitchell understands that people could be concerned about a call center contacting its clients but he says it’s essential to the process.

“The call center is really what makes it work, just sending a letter won’t be effective” he says. “Our call center won’t strong arm people to write letters, rather, it will be to answer any questions they might have regarding the process of writing their representative.”

The company used is Senior Voice, staffed with employees who are trained to work with seniors. On a quarterly basis, participating companies will receive a report showing the number of letters sent to representatives from their company as well as the industry as a whole. According to data provided to RMD, Mitchell’s company sent out 370 letters to clients and was able to talk to 75% of the people who received letters.  Of those, 38% (105 people) said they would write a letter.

A follow up call to those same people two weeks later found that 86% (90 people) sent a letter. Other lenders including Stay In Home Mortgage and Generation Mortgage have had similar success using the system according to Mitchell.  The cost to participate is minimal, “we will provide each lender that wants to participate with the standard letter to send out after their loans close.”  The lender must pay for the cost of sending the surveys, but the call center is something that everyone will have to fund.  “I really wouldn’t expect the cost of more than five dollars a loan,” he said.

After developing the process for his company, Mitchell tells RMD he felt the need to lead the industry effort for two reasons.

“First, it ensures the long-term viability of my own business. Secondly, as the largest reverse mortgage broker in the country, I’d like to give back to this business that has given me so much.” The group plans to seek the support and endorsement of NRMLA, which Mitchell believes “would only help make NRMLA’s lobbying effort all the more effective.”

The organization said it hopes to officially launch during the associations annual conference in New Orleans.

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