Reverse Mortgage

FAR Launches Borrower Engagement Division, Expands Private Help for Reverse Mortgage Debtors


Finance of America Reverse (FAR) on Wednesday announced the creation of a new Borrower Engagement department that will provide lender reverse mortgage customers with access to a dedicated team of professionals who will help assist borrowers with any issues related to them their reverse mortgage as well as personal milestones and disruptions they may have during the life of a loan.

Work to create the new division reportedly began more than two years ago and focused on paying more personal attention to borrowers on the lender’s proprietary reverse mortgage suite of products, HomeSafe. It was first found that HomeSafe borrowers need more personal attention to be guided through the servicing process of a loan, which has resulted in the team growing from a group of five in 2019 to a team of 25 in 2021.

To gain further insight into the creation of the new division, RMD sat down with Jill Portilla, VP of Borrower Engagement at FAR, to learn more about how the team is being used for FAR and its clients.

Why a separate department is needed

Traditional means of engaging post-lending borrowers can work for many people, Portilla says, but the need to put together a dedicated team of experts to resolve issues that certain borrowers may have encountered quickly became apparent.

“Traditional servicing can tend to be tightly focused and often only offers a limited amount of support to the borrower,” Portilla told RMD. “We believe that the relationship with the borrower begins with the signing of the loan and does not end. Throughout the loan relationship, borrowers and their families can reach out to a representative in the department for questions, help with processing forms, getting reminders of deadlines, and helping with anything from home improvement salespeople to help to contact the heirs of the estate will be passed on. “

Jill Portilla

This allows members of the department to act as concierges for HomeSafe borrowers, Portilla says, and when needed, enable creative solutions to ensure a loan stays in good shape. From the borrower’s perspective, engagement can come in the form of more continuity between servicing and origination, Portilla says.

“As more people learn about the Borrower Engagement Division, they rely on us to help with post-funding issues,” she explains. “Loan officers call or email our toll free number for help setting up Automated Clearing House (ACH), Urgent Line of Credit (LOC) inquiries, and / or Life Expectancy (LESA) questions, to name a few to name a few. Borrower engagement helps to close the gap between origination and service that often develops in traditional setups. “

To put it in a larger context, Portilla explained that the department could help figure out the difference between different methods of guiding someone through a process that requires running forms or engaging in a financial instrument.

“Think about a question about a statement, help them fill out forms, or talk to someone in person about how a life event will affect their finances – important conversations that provide additional context and peace of mind,” she says. “We also remind borrowers not to miss deadlines and contact them on special occasions. Our department prides itself on being able to provide advice and support from professionals who get to know the borrower and their families in order to better understand their circumstances and point out ways to financial well-being. “

Currently only proprietary, engagement with other services

Currently, efforts by the Borrower Engagement Department will focus solely on borrowers who have taken out a HomeSafe proprietary reverse mortgage loan. There are currently no plans to extend the department’s efforts to borrowers from a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) sponsored Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM).

“The division started two years ago when it saw the need to ensure that customers of their proprietary HomeSafe suite of products were guided through the entire maintenance process by experts,” she said. “In the beginning there were only a handful of representatives. Since then we have expanded the team to over 25 to attract more customers from our other products such as EquityAvail. There are pilot programs in place to reach HECM borrowers, but we haven’t expanded a full concierge service for these loans. As the division grows, we will evaluate our capacity to increase capacity and involve borrowers from our other offerings more. ”

Another component that the department can monitor are potential connections to other services of the larger Finance of America (FOA) organization and partnerships that FAR has previously formed itself.

“At around the one-year term of the loan, we will be in touch with the borrower to discuss the progress of their retirement savings,” she says. “We have a dedicated team running the FAR HECM portfolio and we contact borrowers to let them know that we are here to help with solutions. On the basis of this discussion, we can identify possible points of need for borrowers and assess which solutions suit their situation. “

Specifically, this could include services like Finance of America’s recently launched Vertical Home Improvement (FOAHI), or a partnership with Silvernest, the roommate search and house community company primarily geared towards baby boomers.

“This is why having access to a representative for the duration of the loan is so important to the borrower,” she says. “Your circumstances can change at any time and you need to speak to someone who is familiar with your credit and provide them with informed advice by presenting viable options that can relieve the stress immediately.”

Cost and partner loan access

In terms of additional costs, Portilla noted that the borrowers themselves will not see any impact on the pricing structure of their loan from the availability of these additional services.

“We are pleased that there are no additional costs for the borrower to use the Borrower Engagement Division,” she explains. “This service is included in the loan free of charge and for the entire term of the loan. We strive to help our customers and not to increase their financial burdens. At FAR, we understand that the process of getting a mortgage loan can be stressful and a lot to manage. However, with the right support, it can be manageable and calming and lift a weight. “

The department’s services will also be available on FAR brokerage partner loans as long as they remain on FAR’s non-agency books, she said.

“Our current services are offered for every loan in FAR’s own portfolio, regardless of where it came from,” she explains. “As long as the loan is currently with us, we will be happy to help. We are committed to providing our expertise and advice to all of our customers, working hard to give them a great experience as part of FAR, and doing everything we can to ensure they can stay in their homes. “