Mar 19, 2021

Tim Hemmen Reverses the Notion He “Sells” Reverse Mortgages

His goal, he says, is to educate, not advocate

By Ed Goldman

Tim Hemmen—a reverse-mortgage loan broker, longtime friend and even onetime student of mine at Sacramento State University—is mock-bemoaning a contract that got away from him.

At the last moment, the 94-year-old woman he’d been working with decided to go with the loan company for which actor Tom Selleck, the original “Magnum, P.I.” and star of NBC’s Boston cops show ”Blue Bloods” has been a paid spokesman (AAG). “I tried to explain that if she signed with the other company, Tom Selleck wouldn’t be coming by to help see her through the process. But I would. I’d even hold her hand.”

Edgy Cartoon

Tim Hemmen

I’m guessing that was one of the rare deals Hemmen hasn’t closed. He’s been presenting this still comparatively new product for six years. He’d got me into a reverse mortgage when I downsized four years ago—I’d also purchased one a few years before that so I had a pretty good idea how they worked—and several months ago, helped me refinance it when market conditions were a tad more optimal than my spending habits.

(To explain those spending habits: If you watch a video about personal finance management, and it features two people who made drastically different choices, I’d be the guy wearing the barrel by the conclusion. And whenever the camera cut to me, the musical score would feature a bassoon’s mocking wah-wah-wah sound.)

If you haven’t been indoctrinated on reverse mortgages—which I neither recommend nor condemn but find to be clever and for me, helpful—as you close in on the age of 62, or once you’ve passed it, you can apply for one—as a line of credit, monthly payments or a lump sum, based on the equity in your home, even if you’ve paid it off. You can use the money to pay off debts (as I did), thereby leaving you with a huge new debt (as it did me). You can try to pay it back (as I finally did, before and after selling my former home). Or you can just leave it alone and know it’s there in case of an emergency. (You’d be surprised what I can consider an emergency. To give a hint, it can involve Air France business class tickets and Champagne. But I digress.)

If you stay in your home for the rest of your life (which I didn’t do), and even spend all the dough (which, as we’ve learned, I did do), after you die the mortgage holder comes forward to claim the money from the presumed sale of your home. If you’ve left the home to your kids or pet puffin, they can remain in the home but they have to pay back the loan. A cautionary note here: Puffins are notorious deadbeats when it comes to repaying money. Especially gambling debts.)

Finally—I’m starting to sound, but wish I actually looked, like Tom Selleck—during the time you have the loan, you’re still responsible for paying the property taxes, utilities and so forth. Oh, and you have to actually live in the home, not use it primarily as a setting for shooting OnlyFans videos.

Hemmen says that “one of the mantras we have” at American Pacific Reverse Mortgage Group “is never to sell a reverse mortgage, but to educate and let the borrowers make the decision for themselves. We consider ourselves advocates for seniors. We’re here to help if our solution is right. We also watch for elder abuse and report it.”

He continues: “What’s important about what we do is that we only do what is right for the client. Projecting any other way would sink our battleship. There’s a lot that is unseen and unknown how we support seniors. Someone has to care. We try to do our part. That’s our modus operandi.”

I tell Hemmen, whom I’m fond of, that no matter what he calls it, a sales pitch is a sales pitch. With a smile, he says, “Educating is selling—everybody sells something—and so is promotion. But for us, the word ‘sell’ isn’t spoken in any part of our work. Reverse Mortgages can trigger a negative connotation for some. If I sold, quote unquote, a reverse mortgage using coercive language and tactics, I would be out of business.”

He gives me an example of how he handled a lost sale—I mean, a missed educational opportunity.

“Yesterday, after speaking with a potential borrower for several months, she completed the counseling for the reverse mortgage,” Hemmen says. “What she realized after doing the counseling is that she didn’t want to age in place in her home. She wants to downsize to a manufactured home in Petaluma.

“All I said is, ‘Alice, that’s great that the counseling helped you get clarity on what you really want. If you change your mind, I’d be glad to help you in the future.’ This was supporting her decision and leaving it right there. If she changes her mind, great, but there’s no follow-up call. This is a drastic turn from my years of selling telecommunications, where persistence was a big part of the business.”

Hemmen, 63, has been with his wife, Angela Gitt, an acknowledged superstar Realtor in the Sacramento region, since 1990. They have two daughters, Sarah, 26 and Maddie, 24, and when the girls are home from college, their Facebook posts always show them biking, hiking or finding obscure wineries to explore. But rarely watching anything on TV that stars Tom Selleck.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).