Origins: From teaching to local politics, to reverse mortgages

Reverse mortgage wholesale veteran Josh Moran wore many hats before finding a home in the reverse mortgage business, as he explains in the latest RMD “Origins” feature

In an ongoing quest to document the varied pathways that industry professionals take into the reverse mortgage business, a general pattern becomes clear: there is no pattern.

The reverse mortgage industry is not a typical focus of aspiration for many professionals, but many professionals who seemed to have started in wildly different occupations do have at least one attribute in common centered around finding something they really enjoy about serving the senior demographic through the reverse mortgage product category.

In our latest edition of “Origins,” RMD sat down with Ennkar’s recently-appointed wholesale division leader Josh Moran to chart his path into the reverse mortgage business.

Many hats

In thinking back on his life prior to the reverse mortgage industry, Moran relates a very different path that he envisioned for himself, as well as one that seemed different from his peers in college.

“I went to a very high profile government and econ college, Claremont McKenna,” he said. “And lo and behold, I go to that school where I should have come out and gone and gotten an M.B.A. or a J.D., and I graduated with a literature and philosophy major.”

The focus on humanities was uncommon among his peers, and makes his eventual arrival in the mortgage business even more unlikely, he said. From college, he went on to serve as an English teacher for 14 years but realized that a career change might be necessary.

“[I] then decided living in Southern California on a teacher’s salary was never an easy feat. And I realized that I needed to do something different with my life. Teaching was very fulfilling to the soul, but not very fulfilling to the bank account. So I racked my brain, and went to the headmaster who was gracious enough to give me a bunch of faculty growth money. With that, I went to Spain for a summer.”

After he arrived back home, he went into the residential real estate business in 2005. Things looked like they were going well, until the financial crisis reared its head.

Pivoting to reverse

Immediately prior to the onset of the crisis, Moran describes a confident attitude about the mortgage business overall before things went south.

“Heading into 2007, I was very confident that it was going to be a phenomenal year in real estate,” he said. “There were several multimillion dollar listings, including one house owned by Anthony Toro, who was and still is a managing director at Sun West Mortgage. When Bear Stearns collapsed, and AIG and all of those dominoes happened and all of the private money went out of the mortgage space for a while, Anthony invited me up to his house.”

Toro asked Moran what it would take to come work for Sun West, and when Moran inquired about what the company did, he recalls a sinking feeling when informed that they did reverse mortgages.

“I’m playing my cards tight to my chest, and casually say ‘okay,’” Moran recalls. “Deep down, I’m thinking, ‘those are terrible! I’ve only heard bad things about them from my parents and their generation, and how they take your house and kicking the little lady out of the shoe in her time of desperation.”

Still, his actual familiarity with the reverse mortgage business was minimal, so he agreed to come and work for Sun West, and in initial conversations with company officials found that the explanation they gave about the product allayed many of his concerns.

“They did a very fine job dispelling my initial reaction to the product, and taught me about the HECM program, its history, and went through a bunch of testimonials,” Moran recalls. “And I realized at that point that this is a very good product. Once I realized how it was being used, the safety guards in place and the counseling session that firmly educated the borrower about what this loan looks like financially for [borrowers and] heirs, I realized that this is a financial product that is desperately needed.”

In 2009, Moran joined Urban Financial (now known as Finance of America Reverse), coinciding closely with the debut of the fixed-rate reverse mortgage, as well as other product changes.

“The other big thing that happened around then was that Ginnie Mae finally removed the moratorium on adding new issuers and accepting new lenders into giving them their Ginnie Mae ticket,” he said. “So, it was a very good time. When Urban Financial finally got its ticket, it was phenomenal.”


Moran also has the distinction of being a reverse mortgage professional who served as the mayor of the town of Sierra Madre, Calif., having been rotated into the position by serving on the city council. Located in Los Angeles County just east of Pasadena, Moran grew up there feeling that it resembled the idyllic Mayberry from “The Andy Griffith Show.” He saw an opportunity to give back to his home, which led to a successful run for City Council.

“When I ran for public office, that was a part-time job,” he said. “I told the folks at Urban that I was running for city council, and all they asked was if it would affect my job. I told them it wouldn’t, since nobody there is doing it for the money. I think we got a whopping $227 a month to do the job, just for incidentals and driving to different meetings across the Southland. That was it. So on the outside, I got to give back to the community that I was lucky enough to be raised in.”

His political career came to an end, however, when he realized there were only so many directions he could be pulled without something having to give.

“It was nice,” he says. “It just made me feel better about giving back and giving up your spare, outside time. At the time we didn’t have kids. They came a couple of years later, and when that happened, I knew that I didn’t have [any more] time to devote to that.”

Staying the course

Reverse mortgage volume for the fiscal years 2009-2012 dropped significantly, exacerbated by the exit of major banking institutions into the space. Since it was still reasonably early in his reverse mortgage career when signs of a slowdown emerged, Moran likely could’ve made the choice to exit the industry. Instead, he wanted to stick with it.

“I was absolutely content,” he said. “I’d never thought about getting out of the reverse space, but I’ve definitely toyed with the idea of how it’s really nice on the broker side of things.”

Keeping connected with the stories that people would tell about how a reverse mortgage helped provide some needed financial stability in their lives was, and remains, a highlight, Moran says. Also, once he transitioned to the wholesale side, Moran would send out written stories of borrower interactions or opinion pieces that would come to include personal anecdotes about his family and how his kids were growing up.

“[The reverse mortgage] a product that I know and love, but I also wanted people to know who I was,” he said. “I’ve met so many people throughout the years, whom I’ve never met in person, tell me that they watched my kids grow up. Or, how they used to read my stories with their morning coffee, and it was such a thrill to know that what I was doing back then really paid off.”

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