Kristen Sieffert leads the reverse mortgage presence at The Gathering

By Real Estate News
Kristen Sieffert, president of Finance of America Reverse, speaks during The Gathering
by HousingWire on Monday, April 21, 2024. Photo credit: AJ Canaria

Reverse mortgages became an unexpectedly prominent topic during certain parts of The Gathering by HousingWire, held earlier this week in Scottsdale, Arizona. The reverse lending industry’s most prominent attendee — Kristen Sieffert of Finance of America Companies (FOA), parent company of industry-leading lender Finance of America Reverse (FAR) — offered insights into various topics about the reverse mortgage product category.

Among these topics, Sieffert addressed the recent acquisition of former leading industry lender American Advisors Group (AAG) and its integration into FOA. She also spoke about the unique stressors faced by seniors in retirement, the different applications of a reverse mortgage’s proceeds, and the reverse industry’s ongoing efforts to get in front of more potential clients and adjacent companies in the mortgage and real estate spaces.

Following the company’s initial public offering (IPO) and its choice to focus exclusively on retirement solutions, FOA’s acquisition of AAG was a natural way to stake a major claim of leadership in the business.

The acquisition has created opportunities for Sieffert in her new leadership position, having been elevated to the role of FOA president shortly after the acquisition of AAG was finalized.

“We believe there’s a significant opportunity to bring home equity for retirement into the mainstream,” she said.

Challenges associated with retirement help emphasize the importance of having a more mainstream conversation, since those living on fixed incomes find themselves worrying about costs of living stemming from inflation, longevity planning and unexpected health care costs, she said.

It’s becoming more important to emphasize that health care costs can often arise unexpectedly, she explained, and having a plan to deal with them can be critical to maintaining quality of life in retirement.

Reverse mortgages for purchase are taking up more conversation on the reverse side of the business recently. Sieffert explained how FOA and FAR see an opportunity there, particularly when it comes to bringing aboard partners from the real estate industry.

“Obviously, it’s hard to move right now, but people do have a lot of equity,” she said. “So, if you can afford to put maybe a 50% to 70% down payment on a home, but you still can’t afford the mortgage payment because of interest rates, you could use a reverse for purchase so that you don’t have a payment on that gap.”

Sieffert also suggested bringing more financial planners up to speed on the product mechanics. They could potentially advise their senior clients about the use of a reverse mortgage to protect against sequence-of-returns risk, where a reverse mortgage line of credit is tapped in times of market volatility until an investment portfolio stabilizes.

The acquisition of AAG also presents a unique marketing opportunity for FAR to make use of a ubiquitous spokesperson. Tom Selleck, as well as the development of additional products in the space to meet the growing needs of the senior demographic.

But by introducing the reverse mortgage product concept to more professionals in the forward mortgage and real estate spaces, Sieffert hopes that additional technology tools can be developed to further enhance the business- and consumer-facing sides of the industry.

Sieffert previously shared that FOA has a “word of the year,” and for 2020, that word was “resilience.” This year, while many are saying “survive until 2025,” she aimed to choose a different word for her team.

“This year, it’s ‘prevail,’” she said. “And really, the idea is we understand that the team feels in some ways like we’re in this battle. It feels hard, but we do feel confident that we will win, ultimately, and we’ll do that by providing the best value to everybody that we serve.”