Originator Outlooks: 2021 Can Build on New Reverse Mortgage Attention

To close out Reverse Mortgage Daily’s industry coverage in 2020, we took a look at the top stories of the year that garnered the highest readership based on our internal data. To begin the new year, we also took a look at four key trends that the reverse mortgage industry should keep an eye out for in 2021.

Now that the new year has arrived and is bringing with it some notable new elements of the industry status quo, we thought we would briefly step aside and let some of the industry’s “front-lines soldiers” — namely, reverse mortgage loan originators across the country, and one executive overseeing a major lender’s originator corps — do more of the talking to provide that industry with their unique perspectives, and what they are looking out for as we dive deeper into the new year.

Last month, RMD solicited the perspectives of reverse mortgage loan originators across America, with a general prompt so that they did not feel tied down to focusing on a specific topic. We’re presenting their perspectives to you in their own words, with responses only edited for clarity and concision.

Some of the major topics for originators include ongoing relief measures for seniors related to the COVID-19 pandemic, additional attention given to the reverse mortgage industry in 2020 and the increased attention the product has garnered from other financial services professionals. We will present these originator perspectives in two parts, with the second part arriving soon.

Christina Harmes Hika, C2 Reverse (San Diego, Calif.)

Christina Harmes Hika

In the new year, I think we will likely still be focusing on helping people who opted for the forbearance and are looking for a more permanent retirement solution. We still have many people in forbearance that were granted an extension, those extensions will end during this upcoming year. In this time, though, they have experienced what it is like to not have to make a mortgage payment while still having a mortgage. For someone in retirement, that can be a really pleasant surprise and an eye-opening experience to see for the first time: that it’s possible to have a mortgage and not have to make a monthly payment on it. 

Many homeowners over age 60 have experienced interrupted or unexpectedly ended employment. 2020 really changed peoples’ outlooks and retirement plans. I think the reverse mortgage is beginning to get noticed and used as the retirement tool it’s meant to be, in a big way. In our industry, we have all been talking about the “Silver Tsunami” coming, and I think we are seeing the first signals that it’s upon us. This last year was one of preparation to ride that wave.

Personally, I’m preparing to serve and lead even more people. 2020 was really a big year of growth for my team as well as a transformation for me as a leader. Within my team, we trained more people, we tightened up processes, and we implemented more tech to become more effective and efficient to handle larger volume.

I also started speaking about reverse much more regularly; I realized this is what is needed to grow my business and the industry in general, I hope to lead and inspire other originators to start speaking up. I hope every reverse mortgage loan officer starts sharing the stories of clients’ lives they have helped improve, the amazing features of this mortgage we have the honor to help others understand. We all need to bring awareness to other professionals like financial planners, Realtors, CPA’s and attorneys whose clients need this solution.

Elena Katsulos-Sabbouh, Finance of America Reverse (Palm Harbor, Fla.)

Elena Katsulos-Sabbouh

Without giving away my “personal secret sauce,” what drives my activity all year long and specifically into the new year is keeping in touch with all my referral partners. This includes all borrowers who have ever made contact with me because, in my eyes, you shouldn’t ever let go of those folks. They had a need and which might not have been at that very moment, but it could be the right moment soon.

So, keeping in touch is key, and that means with everyone you may have touched across your work. If you are kind and personal and impress someone, then they will not forget you or misplace your information.

In 2021, one thing I am preparing to accomplish is to increase volume, because the need for this product has intensified. What 2020 brought to us is uncertainty: a lot of older adults are afraid, and that fear comes from the unknown. For those who do not have a comfortable cushion or nest egg to help in difficult times, then they likely have a mortgage or credit card debt acting as their cushion. One common theme I am seeing is that many aren’t willing or able to change their style of living at this later stage in life, so they are turning to home equity to help support that lifestyle that they are accustomed to and to avoid turning to other means of support.

2021 will be even better than 2020. Our industry needs to stay focused and on course. Try not to let obstacles that you may be dealing with get in the way. It’s tough, but we are all in this together. Don’t lose sight because many are in need of this great product.

Michael Zwerling, Mutual of Omaha Mortgage (Tustin, Calif.)

While 2020 has been an incredible year for Reverse Mortgage, 2021 will prove to be more challenging.  As we switch from the LIBOR to CMT we will see reduced principal limits across all ARM programs.  To combine with that, originators themselves will become less sold on their product and we will see a dip in origination numbers.

This does though create opportunity for those who choose to expand while the others contract. That means making more calls, sending more emails, more text messages, more promotion and more advertising.  Those that expand will do so because they believe so strongly that this is the single best product to solve an enormous problem that is facing our nation’s seniors.  That there is no money left at the end of the month.

Those that solve the most problems will generate the most revenue.  Promote, prospect, and convert.

Melanie Parks, Vice President of National Field Sales at American Advisors Group (AAG)

Melanie Parks

This past year, our National Field Sales team had an aggressive growth strategy centered around recruiting loan officers and creating advisor relationships. We’ll continue to build on that strategy as we anticipate 2021 to be a strong year with the nation hopefully coming out of lockdown. There are a lot of opportunities for families searching for ways to protect against future market volatility and create a safety net for their retirement.

The pandemic also heightened many older Americans desire to age in place and they are seeking financial solutions to make that arrangement. Whether that be creating a safety net alongside their retirement funds, completing home renovations, funding in-home nursing care or even downsizing to a smaller home, home equity is emerging as a viable solution.

In 2021, we’ll continue to expand our work with various senior focused organizations to help their clients obtain the retirement they deserve.

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