Your Cookies are Disabled! sets cookies on your computer to help improve performance and provide a more engaging user experience. By using this site, you accept the terms of our cookie policy. Learn more.

Why reverse mortgages are good for business


(Originally published in the January 2020 issue of The National Notary magazine.)

Updated 4-5-23. When it comes to building your mobile Notary business, Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs), also known as reverse mortgages, often are overlooked. It’s understandable because reverse mortgages represent only a small slice of the total mortgage market.

Over the years, however, I have assisted with several hundred HECM signings and discovered that they can be a good extra source of income, particularly if you live in an area with a lot of retirees and/or high home values (see chart). Apart from the business benefit, they also are personally rewarding.

As you may know, these loans are for people over the age of 62. They convert equity in their property into cash. Instead of making payments on a conventional mortgage, homeowners can draw money out and generally defer repaying the loan until the home is sold.

My goal here is to provide you with information that you, as a Notary Signing Agent, need to know to make both your experience and that of the borrower much more pleasant and productive.

What is a reverse mortgage?

With a traditional mortgage, the bank loans money to the borrower, who then pays off the loan over time. With a reverse mortgage, the bank loans money based on the equity in the home but no payments are made until the borrower either dies or moves out and the home is sold.

There are two types of reverse mortgages: the first is the HECM, or home equity conversion mortgage, which is issued by a private bank, but insured by the Federal Housing Administration. To qualify for an HECM, borrowers must be 62 years old, own their homes outright or have paid off a considerable portion of their mortgage, occupy the home, and maintain the property.

The other type is called a proprietary reverse mortgage, and these are privately insured. These are often called "jumbo" because they are taken on higher-value homes, generally worth $750,000 or more.

Availability of reverse mortgage assignments for Notary Signing Agents

Since HUD instituted its reverse mortgage program in 1990, market volume soared from just 157 loans to more than 114,000 loans at the program's peak in 2009. Since then, volume has fluctuated, with around 60,000 mortgages executed in fiscal year that ended September 30, 2013.

Though the forecast is poor for overall mortgage origination volumes (they are expected to decline in 2014 by 32 percent, according to the MBA), the NRMLA has launched an effort to drive up reverse mortgage volume to 300,000 by 2018. The Federal Housing Administration projects a more modest increase, and expects to see around 78,000 reverse mortgages by 2020.

Reverse mortgages also have become a hot topic among those at or nearing retirement age. According to a report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, about 32 million baby boomer households own their homes, and half of them have the bulk of their net worth tied up in their homes.

Getting reverse mortgage assignments

The best way to begin getting assignments is to reach out to the mortgage companies in your area. There are often smaller companies that specialize in reverse mortgages, and they usually are happy to hire local Notary Signing Agents.

For years I worked with mostly smaller local companies and got to know the loan officers well. They were at the signing table more times than not, and they were wonderful, caring people.

Also, let the companies that you work with on a regular basis know that you are interested in reverse mortgages.

Handling the signings

One of the things that can make these assignments enjoyable for everyone involved is the way we present ourselves when arriving for the appointment. When entering their home, always have a smile on your face and always be yourself. Don’t forget, elderly people often are very leery of people entering their homes and anything you can do to put them at ease will allow for a more comfortable signing.

Reverse mortgage signings often go more smoothly than conventional mortgages because senior borrowers have fewer questions. Before the closing, seniors go through a lot of counseling and education, so they already are familiar with many of the documents when you arrive. When conducting a loan signing, keep it simple. As I mentioned, the loan officers often are at the signing, so they can handle any questions.

There are obvious drawbacks to doing reverse mortgages. Anytime you are dealing with people in their senior years, you could encounter people who may be hard of hearing, have difficulty signing their name, are forgetful or ill. These assignments can take a longer time to complete than what is customary. Sometimes their homes are in disarray or are unclean and/or uncomfortable. You just must keep the thought in your mind regarding the wonderful opportunity you are instrumental in bringing to this person or couple. Someday you will be able to look back and know in your heart that you changed someone’s life.

Enjoying the personal benefits

One of the biggest reasons I love reverse mortgage assignments is the knowledge that I am genuinely helping people in need. Reverse mortgages often have a life-changing effect for seniors. These are people who have strived all their lives to be able live independently and responsibly but are no longer able to work and must depend solely on their Social Security income. Many live in terror that they will lose their homes because they cannot make their mortgage payments or afford to pay their taxes.

For me, the borrower’s immediate reaction to not having to make a mortgage payment is priceless. They almost always greet the news with a sigh of great relief, then a wave of sudden joy knowing that they will be able to enjoy the simplest things in life, such as going to the movies or spending a day at the zoo with grandchildren.

I remember one signing that left me feeling so happy. The borrower was so overcome with the realization that her financial circumstances had just dramatically improved that tears welled up in her eyes. She then laid her head on the table and sobbed and was unable to speak. She was one of many who had that same reaction.

[Editor’s Note: An important caution to Notaries doing reverse mortgages, as would be the case with any kind of specialized operation that requires notarization, is to be aware not to practice law by explaining or amplifying legal items, unless one is an attorney.]

Carol Ray is the owner of Notary2Pro, a training service for Notary Signing Agents that has been in operation since 2009.


Add your comment

Brian Kelly

24 Feb 2020

Re: "Why Reverse Mortgages Are Good For Business", I don't question Ms. Ray's sincerity, but my experience with HECMs has been just the opposite. The mortgage companies are often shoddy outfits who have not counseled their clients in any way. I show up to encounter a frightened borrower wary and suspicious of the process. Borrowers are convinced they will lose their homes. Indeed, HECMs come with high fees and maintenance costs that can, over time, outstrip the equity in the home. Borrowers often fail to understand they must pay property taxes and insurance. One borrower I helped had to take out an ELMORE hardest hit mortgage just to pay taxes and insurance. And that program comes with its own risks. HECMs are not a panacea. And lenders do a poor to nonexistent job explaining the benefits and risks. Borrowers have told me they received a cold call from a salesman who talked them into taking out a reverse mortgage. This industry is rife with fraud and vulnerable seniors are the targets.

24 Feb 2020

no comments just need this window to close

National Notary Association

24 Feb 2020

Hello. If you are having technical issues viewing Bulletin articles, please contact us at and we will try to help you resolve the issue.

Mary Richards

24 Feb 2020

“Thank you” for a very positive insight on this type of notary signing.

Cheri Dougherty

24 Feb 2020

I agree with Brian Kelly about reverse mortgages. My Mom & Dad had signed up for one & when I looked into it further, I was shocked to find the high costs they were paying to be in that loan program. Unbelievable!!!! My Dad was a Veteran & didn not realize he was entitled to VA benefits, we paid the costly termination fees of the reverse mortgage to get out of it & got them involved with the benefits offered through the VA. I could never notarize a reverse mortgage in all due consciousness. I do not believe in them & the money these companies are raking in off elderly people.

04 Sep 2023

very seldom is it truly a happy time in their lives, Giving up a home you have spent many happy hours.

Leave a Comment

Required *

All comments are reviewed and if approved, will display.