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Servicing - Stories From the Servicing Home Front

The Reverse Review - May 2017

- May 2017

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Servicing - Servicing: The Unnatural Stress of Natural Disasters

When borrowers obtain a reverse mortgage to access home equity, their lenders take a substantial interest in their homes. More often than not, and unbeknownst to many homeowners, zoning requirements and standards of safety and operation change in the years their home has been occupied. Small repairs that may have been put off for years now become requirements for closing. For the majority of borrowers, bringing their homes into HUD compliance with these repairs comes as a relief. For some, this closing requirement feels intrusive and unwarranted.

Repair administration is a critical aspect of the reverse mortgage process. When a borrower applies for a reverse mortgage, an appraisal provides the lender and borrower with a full assessment of the property’s liabilities and assets. The structure must be brought up to code and put in good and proper repair prior to closing. Repair administration professionals oversee the process of a borrower bringing his/her/their home up to code and in full and safe working order. Servicing professionals in the repair administration department walk a tightrope between vigorously protecting the lender and HUD’s interests in the property while respecting and protecting the borrowers. In the best of circumstances, the process moves smoothly and without incident, and repair administration professionals will appear to glide across this wire.

After closing, the only time a borrower will encounter the repair administration department is if and when an insurance claim is made on the property for damages (commonly referred to as “loss drafts”). Servicing departments protect their clients’ interests and serve as the liaison between the lender, the borrower and the insurance company. What happens when natural disaster strikes, HECM properties are impacted, and countless insurance claims are made at once?

Celink’s repair administration department revisited this experience when the recent flooding in Louisiana and Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc throughout the South. Natural disasters throw the best people, places, systems and processes into disarray. Celink borrowers were impacted in great numbers by these instances. Phone calls were nonstop and borrowers were in a state of shock: they simply could not fully grasp what had just happened. They didn’t want to hear about procedures - they wanted their homes restored and their sense of safety returned. Repair administration professionals were charged with balancing borrower interest (“Get me back in my home!”) and protecting client interest.

Meetings were held to remind staff that while the workload was obviously overwhelming at times, and phone calls seemed to lead to upset borrowers rather than resolution, it was clear that making everyone happy might not happen right away. It was critical that the team be reminded that what it was going through could not possibly compare to what borrowers were going through.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew and any other natural disaster, repair administration professionals provide critical assistance to borrowers at a time when they are most vulnerable. Everything they know about “normal life” feels lost in the storm, and servicers are charged with helping piece their lives back together. Repair situations are never black and white; there are huge gray areas, and sometimes procedures need to adjust slightly in order to create the best outcome for all.

This touch point with borrowers, while they are hurting and vulnerable, must be handled gently and firmly at the same time. This is no small feat and requires care, professionalism, and great finesse. Repair administration professionals work with clients and borrowers to innovate procedures that work for all and make rocky roads smooth, always remembering that their primary goals are to get borrowers back to their lives as soon as possible and protect client interest in the property.

Sydney Godbehere serves as the Vice President of Loan Operations and oversees the efforts of the Loan Administration, Repair Administration, Loss Draft and Record Retention departments at Celink. 

- December 2016

The Last Word - The Importance of Partnership

by Jim Mahoney


This year our industry has been keenly focused on improving customers’ experience.

Even the theme for our upcoming Annual Meeting in Chicago is centered on improving the entire experience.

In keeping with that theme, industry experts have written several excellent articles pointing out the numerous traits and characteristics of successful loan offcers and other RM personnel.

When The Reverse Review asked me to write the “The Last Word” again, I focused on the use of “Word” in the title and thought of the movie The Graduate with Dustin Ho man. You probably remember the scene where one of Hoffman’s neighbors comes to him with career advice and says, “I just want to say one word to you ... plastics.” I asked myself if I could actually summarize what we have learned into one word. I decided to take a shot at it.

I selected the word “partner” and its derivative “partnership.” (OK, maybe that makes it two words instead of one!) The dictionary defines “partner” as “one who shares in an endeavor” with an associate, and “partnership” as the state of being in “joint interest.”

I think the meaningful aspect of these definitions is that it is a “shared” experience with shared goals. It is not, “I sell, you buy” or “I win, you lose.” When we think of successful teams in sports, it is not individual talents alone that win championships but teamwork, which means shared goals and experiences. Certainly a quarterback cannot be successful without a good line, good receivers and running backs. My guess is if you look back at your life and think of all your successes, they have been a result of partnerships rather than detached relationships. Success in school was assisted by committed teachers; success in sports came because of the one-on-one efforts of a coach, etc. Similarly, a successful loan officer cannot be successful without a good team of processors, underwriters, closers and servicers. In order for the process to be successful, everyone in the chain must share the same goals and work together.

At the customer level, we must always be thinking about their goals in this transaction, not just ours. The shared experience (i.e., partnering) is one where we understand their issues, concerns and obstacles and work jointly to solve them. Being empathetic rather than just sympathetic is the true characteristic of a partner. In my experience, our most satisfied customers spoke of the comfort they took in the fact that they felt their loan officer (and processors) was working with them and shared the customer’s success in meeting their goals. In turn, our customers were quite happy that our loan o cer made a commission and had a successful career.

It may start at the customer level between clients and their LO, but that is just the start. The LO needs to listen to the processor about issues and problems and work jointly to solve them. Too many times, LOs distance themselves from the internal processes for closing a loan and propagate the field versus office mentality. I have no doubt that a partnering mentality at all levels and viewing the process start to nish as a shared responsibility and shared experience, including servicing the loan until it matures and is repaid, yields a much more pleasant experience for everyone involved. And yes, we then close more loans, have more happy customers and have greater nancial success, too.

I believe “partner/partnership” can work for all of us, and as “The Last Word” maybe we ought to change the title of “reverse mortgage specialist” and “reverse mortgage officer/processor/underwriter/ servicer” to “reverse mortgage partner!”

- November 2016

Holding Creative Tension

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The Last Word - The Journey From the Sandlot to the Major Leagues

The Reverse Review

- September 2016

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Servicing - A Recipe for Successful Repair Administration, Part II

The Reverse Review

- May 2016

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Servicing - A Recipe for Successful Repair Administration

The Reverse Review

- March 2016

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The Four Ps of Marketing

The Reverse Review

- February 2016

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Servicing - HUD Issues a Game-Changer for T&I Defaults

The Reverse Review

- December 2015

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The Last Word - Our Customer’s Experience: Ordeal or Opportunity?

The Reverse Review

- December 2015

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