In 1991, Alison Calamia became the first person in her native Louisiana to offer reverse mortgages. With over 28 years in the industry, Alison has worked on the retail side of the business, originating reverse mortgages, and on the wholesale side as an account executive. She has experience in virtually every aspect of the reverse mortgage business and brings an extensive background to every client she serves. Alison served on the original Independent Certification Committee that developed the Certified Reverse Mortgage Professional designation. This past January, she became the second person in Louisiana to become a CRMP. Weekly Report interviewed Alison to get her perspectives on the current marketplace.
Weekly Report: How are you adapting to today’s reverse mortgage market?
Calamia: After nearly 30 years in this business I find that adapting to reverse mortgage changes has become second nature. You just do it. I have changed from a “needs” driven approach to a financial “sustainability” or financial “security” approach. This approach seems to reach those who want to use a RM as a financial tool. It also opens the eyes of their financial advisors. I’m also training realtors on the HECM for Purchase product which has brought a lot of value to their business. Interestingly, I do more H4Ps for the realtors themselves than I do for their buyers. For both realtors and financial advisors, I have conversations about their clients using a reverse to downsize, move closer to family or right size and how by doing this it could work well into a financial plan. For those who have large payoffs, I adjust my rates or lower the origination fee to make it work. I won’t earn much on those loans but it’s just the nature of today’s business.
WR: Has the conversation changed at all between you and your clients in terms of helping sell the product?
Calamia: The reverse mortgage concept has not changed, so this part of the conversation hasn’t changed at all. When financial assessment was introduced it felt awkward for me to have that conversation, but it didn’t seem any different to the borrowers who have had to qualify for traditional mortgages at some point in their life. To date, the biggest change in conversation is when I must tell a prospect that I can’t qualify them. Sadly, I find that I’m saying this more often than I like. However, what I can do is give them options to correct what’s keeping them from qualifying, so that they can come back in a year or two and try again.
WR: What is your favorite reverse mortgage story?
Calamia: I have so many great stories over my nearly 30 year career in this biz. Most recently, it is was the Smiths, who had a number of hardships that caused them to have poor credit. Prior to meeting me, lenders had required a LESA which would have killed the deal. I got to know them well and I felt strongly that everything that occurred was beyond their control. After reviewing what the previous originating company had asked them to supply, I realized that the originating company wasn’t willing to go the extra mile to try and get the LESA waived. I knew I could get it approved without a LESA, so we went to work. My borrowers, who kept meticulous records, supplied everything I needed to document the unfortunate circumstances. We submitted it for approval without a LESA and after jumping through a few hoops, WE WON! My call to the Smiths was the best day ever, literally jumping and crying with happiness. It took a lot of time and hard work, but it was worth every minute to finally see my borrowers benefit from this product I love so much.
WR: How do you all reach consumers today? Social media?
Calamia: Feet on the street is the most productive. This is the how I started in this business so long ago and it’s still the best approach in my opinion. Meeting with realtors, financial advisors, seminars to seniors themselves and any other way to meet potential borrowers or referral sources. We do a good bit of social media, but it doesn’t produce near as many prospects as face-to-face meetings. We run commercials on local news channels which reaches a much larger number of older homeowners. Commercials are great because prospects see that we’re local and that is what they prefer.
WR: What is one (positive) take away for the coming year?
Calamia: Reverse mortgages will remain a valuable product in retirement. We know the statistics, so we know that using home equity to help sustain retirement is going to be needed. We’ve powered through previous changes and survived the impact and we’ll do it again if we must.