Local Reverse Mortgage LO Sees Benefits of National Lenders Advertising

Reverse mortgage industry activity is ramping up in the early months of 2022, as evidenced by volume levels on the home equity conversion mortgage (HECM) side not seen since more than a decade and which happened as recently as March. While higher rates might indicate some slowdown is inevitable, some pockets of the country are conforming to higher levels of industrial activity, including the Pacific Northwest.

That’s according to Brandi Braley, reverse mortgage originator at Neighborhood Mortgage in Bellingham, Washington. With the visible slowdown in local business at the end of 2021, Braley believed that higher rates could start to slow the number of incoming reverse mortgage applications she would see. However, the pace of business at the start of the year accelerated rather than diminished.

A potential source of increased activity could be mailings from domestic lenders, which would lead to more inquiries from local customers, she says.

Pace of Reverse Mortgage Business, Source of Interest

Brandi Braley, Reverse Mortgage Originator in Washington State.
Brandi Braley

For Braley, the holidays are always a time of year when things tend to slow down, she tells RMD. Since people are generally more focused on celebrating the holidays, it’s natural for calls to slow down and she expects external factors such as tariffs could cause a slowdown in 2022.

After the first of the year, however, she noticed the opposite was happening in her office.

“Year-to-date, I’ve seen a lot of people calling and inquiring about reverse mortgages, and I’ve been a little surprised at the volume I’ve seen year-to-date,” Braley said. “Immediately after the first of the year, I was getting so many phone calls and inquiries about reverse mortgages. Many of them were new customers who had never taken a reverse mortgage before. C It was honestly quite surprising how many people were calling.

One of the reasons why inquiries started coming in a little faster after the first of the year — at least from the perceptions of Braley and her boss — might be the very factor that she thinks , could lower incoming requests: higher rates.

“I think one of the things we’ve found is that people are hearing that rates are going up,” she says. “And while reverse mortgage rates don’t always match what’s happening on the [forward] On the mortgage side, there is still interest. So […] Anyone who’s thought about considering a reverse mortgage, they hear that interest rates are going up, so they think they might as well look into it now.

Many of Braley’s more recent conversations with customers have focused on pricing, lending credence to that perception, she says.

“That’s my thinking, because a lot of the conversations I’ve had were about raising rates, so I think that’s where it came from,” she says. “The fear factor is climbing, and people want to take advantage of it before it gets too high.”

Advisor recommendations and local preference

Something else that could play a role in speeding up business is more of potential customers’ trusted advisors recommending at least exploring reverse mortgage options, Braley says.

“Often people have heard about a reverse mortgage from friends or their financial planner,” she says. “I’ve heard a lot about how people are starting to recommend reverse mortgages more. And of course, I think a lot of times people just haven’t saved as much money as they thought they’d need in retirement, so they see this product as something they can definitely take advantage of.

However, another thing that could help drive more business, Braley says, is actually its competitors. With many reverse mortgage lenders recently embarking on increased refinancing activity, many are sending more direct promotional material through the mail. Instead of this responsive senior executive talking to the company that sent the mail in some cases, he’s talking to Braley instead.

“One of the things I’ve noticed is people calling me because they’re starting to get reverse mortgages in the mail,” she says. “And often it’s the big companies that send out these documents offering information on how to get a reverse mortgage. But then people want to deal with someone local. So when they start looking for local businesses, they find me.

House price appreciation

While the Seattle area has made national headlines for the heat of its housing market, other areas, including the Braley area of ​​the state just below the Canadian border, have also seen levels home price appreciation (HPA) pronouncements. Given the proliferation of promotional material some major lenders send out, it has benefited from greater activity resulting from both the HPA and more active industry publicity.

“Whatcom County is in this little bubble area, and people haven’t always explored it as an alternative or a place to live,” she says. “All of a sudden people are reaching out, and there are a lot of people moving here. This, of course, drives up house prices significantly. And so, I think when people start to see the value of their homes increase that much, then of course if they’ve had a reverse mortgage in the past, they’re going to start exploring that option again.

Seeing how HPA remains on the rise — but not at the pace of 2021 — seems to be motivating residents of upstate Washington to explore options for tapping into the newly available equity in their homes, Braley says. In terms of refinance activity, Braley says much of her activity is roughly evenly split between refis and new borrowers, although the rate of new borrowers appears to be increasing, she explains.

Braley’s ratio of new business to refinances is reasonably well in line with last year’s national averages. HECM-to-HECM refinances accounted for 45.9% of all HECM loans in 2021 and 50.8% of all loans in the fourth quarter of the year, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).


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