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Reverse Mortgage Lenders’ New Tack

Seniors lobby AARP supports a Department of Housing and Urban Development program with which the majority of reverse mortgage lenders comply. But in testimony last month before a House Financial Services subcommittee, Lori Trawinski, a senior strategic policy adviser with AARP, said: “Some advertisements may inadvertently create the impression that a reverse mortgage is a federal benefit rather than a financial product.”

Consumers Union and some Members of Congress have called for preloan counseling sessions to take place face-to-face. That’s something Bell says the industry opposes because it would make it more difficult for seniors, who might not live close to a certified counseling center or who might want to include family members who live in other states. The HUD program already requires a counseling session that can be done by phone.

“Reverse mortgages can be a critical tool for seniors to help pay off debt or simply ease the strains of monthly expenses,” said Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), ranking member of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity, at the hearing last month. He added that “strong consumer protections are essential to the success of this product.”

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