Laura Kiel, along with Dan, her husband of 50 years, founded Kiel Mortgage, Inc., based in Kent, WA, in 1996. While Laura is an expert in many loan products, she developed a passion for educating and serving her clients through the financial benefits of reverse mortgages, which she has originated exclusively for 10 years. In 2018, she and Dan joined Mortgage Master Service Corporation but still operate Kiel Mortgage as a DBA. This week, Laura became only the second person based in Washington state to earn the Certified Reverse Mortgage Professional designation. Weekly Report sat down with Kiel to talk about how she prepared for the CRMP exam and how she’s succeeding in today’s marketplace.
Weekly Report: You recently passed the CRMP exam, after failing it the first two times. How did you prepare differently the last time around? What has motivated you to pursue the CRMP designation?
Laura Kiel: I found the CRMP exam surprisingly difficult. I studied very hard and devoted significant time two weeks prior to the exam reading HUD handbooks, mortgagee letters and an entire underwriting manual. I told everyone about the exam and fully expected to pass. Carefully reviewing each test question at the end of the exam and changing answers as I had second thoughts to the questions, I was certain of a good outcome. It was so disappointing when the outcome was not as expected. I took the test again after waiting six months, again studying diligently and carefully. In retrospect, telling everyone about the exam once again actually may have added to my disappointing second downfall. Also, at test time I once again reviewed every question and made changes to my original answers based on rethinking the questions.
The third time I did absolutely NOTHING in preparation for the exam. I did not tell a single person I was taking the test, as the humiliation for a third failure would be more than I could take. I did not study, and I did not review or rethink a single question. I decided I knew the information, and it was not prudent to question or rethink my own knowledge. I concluded I always knew the information but over analyzed and over thought the test. Also, I had previously placed too much pressure on myself by so many people knowing about it and brain freeze occurred causing a lack of confidence in myself and my initial answers. I believe I literally “reviewed and over thought” myself out of passing the initial two attempts. Don’t feel bad if you don’t pass the first time, or even the second time. As I’ve come to learn, it’s possible to know the material and not pass the test. Why did I put myself through this process three times to earn the credential? Well, for me it’s just personal. I want to be the best I can be.
WR: What’s your favorite reverse mortgage story?
LK: Eve came to me after her sister entered a memory care facility. She and her sister had purchased a home together and lived together for many years. When Eve’s sister moved into the memory care center due to Alzheimers her sisters income went into that memory care center with her.
With this devastating emotional event for Eve, there were also staggering financial consequences. With the absence of her sisters income, Eve was left with a mortgage payment, property taxes and insurance, home maintenance and utilities and a little dog to feed. While she was very frugal, on a Social Security Income of only $737 a month this was an impossibility.
When I met Eve she was so frightened. Certain that she would lose her home that she and her sister had purchased together, she was quite emotional as we met together. I assured her we would do the best we could, and that a Reverse Mortgage could possibly provide a solution for her.
Thankfully, we were able to meet financial assessment, by only $5 though, but we met it!!!! We did so by having her secure a Senior property tax discount from the County and shop her home owners insurance to make sure she was adequately, but not over insured. She then opted for a full LESA and with that she met the Financial Assessment formula.
In addition she received some cash at closing for immediate needs and we got her a growing line of credit to assist with and supplement her income in the future.
She now had no monthly mortgage payment required, no property tax and insurance payment needed for her expected lifetime, a little cash for expenses needed right now and that amazing growing line of credit for her future.
Even on her very small income she now lives comfortably in her beautiful little home, where she is able to meet all her financial obligations and be with, feed and care for her precious little dog.
We all cried tears of joy the day this Reverse Mortgage was finalized. Without doubt, it is the most rewarding transaction of my lifetime career in mortgages.
WR: How are you achieving success in today’s market?
LK: Having specialized exclusively in reverse mortgages for over ten years now, I’m known in my area as an expert in this arena, taking advantage of any speaking or teaching opportunity that comes my way. To create opportunities for myself, I became licensed to teach Clock Hour classes to real estate agents. In addition, it has proven successful for me to host Lunch and Learns twice a month where a nice lunch is provided for those who attend. This is perhaps my favorite resource for educating homeowners interested in this remarkable product.
WR: How are you approaching proprietary reverse mortgages?
LK: The proprietary products are wonderful and I’m finding they fill very important needs. It is looking like this is fast becoming about 30 percent of my business, and I already have wonderful and rewarding stores regarding the impact of these products on the lives of my homeowners. I talk to everyone about these products, even if they are HECM eligible as I’m finding that in some instances the homeowners prefer these products for various reasons. For purchases and condos these proprietary products are fabulous! It’s very exciting and helpful to have these new products, and even just the ability to talk about them opens doors that were previously slammed shut.
WR: What is one (positive) take away for the coming year?
LK: I’m so excited about this year and the future of the reverse mortgage business. This is an amazing retirement tool. Education is the key! When well thought out, well prepared and frequent educational opportunities are offered to home owners, as well as related industry professionals, business will follow.