I’m am willing to bet every reverse mortgage professional has had this experience:
“What do you do?”
“I work in reverse mortgages.”
“Oh.” [Insert: Grimace. Silence. A pained look of some kind laden with a harsh and personal judgement of your character.]
It comes as a surprise to…well, no one, that reverse mortgages come with some deep-seated negative connotations attached, which is why the industry has long debated the so-called “name problem.”
Some avoid it by using the official term HECM, or Home Equity Conversion Mortgage. But any conversation that lasts longer than 30 seconds will reveal its more widely used moniker.
The name problem is two-fold.
Obviously, reverse mortgages have been marred by reputation issues, and some uninformed consumers associate the loan with a scam that targets the elderly (and really, that would be horrific, if it were remotely true).
Aside from that, the term “reverse” itself can be misleading, and it’s easy to see how it might incite fear. (Does it mean they are going to take my money and my house?)
It seems that despite nearly 30 years in action and numerous product improvements, reverse mortgages just can’t shake the bad rap.
Maybe the Brits have it right. A similar equity release product in the U.K. goes by a much more palatable name, one that succinctly describes the loan’s function – a home pension. Now that has a nice ring to it, no?
Spurred by a heated online debate on the topic last year, Reverse Mortgage Daily conducted a poll of its readers asking them to vote on their preferred name. While RMD did offer creative alternatives (equity release mortgage, anyone?), a 32% majority agreed that the industry should stick with “HECM.” (Just under 20% voted to stick with “reverse mortgage,” perhaps thinking it was a little late in the game to switch gears.)
What do you think? Will the product improvements made over the years, paired with a growing need for equity access in retirement, help the industry conquer the bias that holds us back?
Or, would a reverse mortgage by any other name smell sweeter?