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Reverse Mortgage Counseling Q&A - Ask ARLO™

Hello! I’m ARLO™, your personal guide to navigating the complexities of reverse mortgages, with a special focus on HUD counseling requirements.

Start by entering your question into the search box below to discover if we’ve already provided answers.  If your query remains unanswered, feel free to submit it—I’m here to provide you with comprehensive, personalized information!


So far 2291 of your questions answered by ARLO™
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Expert Answers You Can Trust!

ARLO™ is moderated by All Reverse Mortgage, Inc. CEO & industry expert Michael G. Branson, with over 45 years of experience in the mortgage banking industry.

Important Resources on Counseling:


Answered By Our Experts

Question From Lone on 6/15/2024
We are trying to get a reverse mortgage, but there have been repeated delays. Now, we're facing a second counseling session and additional expenses, which we simply cannot afford. What can prevent further delays in moving this process forward?"
Expert Answer

That's a significant delay in closing your reverse mortgage, especially after over six months since your initial session without reaching closure. However, without knowing the specific challenges you've encountered or what still needs resolution, it's challenging to pinpoint the exact reasons for the delays. Often, unforeseen issues like property liens, necessary repairs, or title defects can extend the timeline, which might not be within the lender's control.

Your best course of action is to speak openly with your lender. Ask them directly to explain the delays and provide a clear timeline for closing. Evaluate their explanations carefully: if reasonable, switching lenders might not expedite the process significantly and could incur new costs. However, if your current lender fails to provide valid reasons or you suspect incomplete information, consulting with other reputable lenders could offer clarity on your situation.

Unlike some in our industry, we prioritize transparency over persuading borrowers to switch lenders unnecessarily. While moving a loan near completion may sometimes be necessary, it's generally advisable to understand the root causes of delays and work with your current lender to resolve them whenever possible.

If you decide to explore other options, keep in mind that a new lender will likely reuse the existing appraisal, provided it's less than six months old, which could streamline the process. Ultimately, ensuring a clear understanding of delays and potential benefits is crucial before making any decisions.

Question From Bettye D. on 5/11/2024
I did not receive reverse mortgage counseling from Financial Freedom when I took out my reverse mortgage loan in 1987. Since its origination date, the loan has been sold twice. Am I required now to go through the counseling process?
Expert Answer

Hi Bettye,

In 1987, a few provisions allowed borrowers to waive counseling that is no longer available. Regardless of changing counseling requirements, though, you are not required to attend counseling now for a loan you closed 17 years ago.  

The purpose of counseling is to ensure borrowers understand the terms of the loan and its implications.  Part of the counseling protocol requires counselors to ask questions of potential borrowers, and if it is clear the borrowers do not have the capacity to understand the loan and its terms, they are instructed to stop the session and not to supply the needed certificate that would enable the borrower(s) to obtain the reverse mortgage. 

It would be useless to conduct a session with a borrower who has had the loan for 17 years, not knowing their mental state when they closed the loan.  And what would they do if they deemed you no longer capable of being competent to understand the loan now?  The time to conduct the counseling would have been in 1987, and it would serve no useful purpose to require it now. 

Question From Larry on 3/15/2022
Can reverse mortgage counseling be conducted online?
Expert Answer

Hello Larry,

Some states allow counseling on the phone and some require face to face counseling (HUD encourages face to face counseling but if the state allows counseling by telephone HUD will accept it as well) but due to the fact that the counselor must determine that they are working with the actual borrower(s) and that they understand the program as they progress, they need the personal interaction with the borrower(s). 

HUD will also allow for other Mutually agreed upon formats such as live electronic dialog where the counselor and the borrower are able to see one another and speak to each other such as Skype, Webex, GoToMeeting, etc.). 

I included the portion of the HUD HECM Counseling Protocol that deals with this subject below.

Methods of Delivery for Reverse Mortgage Counseling Introduction This topic contains information on the methods for delivery of counseling, including · face-to-face counseling for HECM clients · telephone counseling · emergency counseling, and · other mutually-agreed upon formats for counseling.

Face-to-face Counseling for HECM Clients HUD encourages face-to-face counseling, and certain states require face-to-face counseling for all borrowers considering reverse mortgages. Counselors who meet with clients face-to-face may be better able to assess their clients’ needs and comprehension. A counselor who is unable to meet with a client face-to-face and who instead engages in telephone counseling must be particularly sensitive to the client’s engagement in the session and understanding of the topics covered.

Telephone Counseling for HECM Clients may receive telephone counseling unless such counseling is prohibited in their state. Telephone counseling must not commence until the client has · received HUD’s required handouts listed in HECM Protocol 7.B.1, and · had adequate time to review the documents. The client may receive the required HUD handouts from a lender or from HUD. If the lender provides the handouts, a copy of the handouts must be made available to the HECM counselor. Because the counselor may have difficulty gauging the client’s engagement in the counseling session, the counselor must prompt the client for questions, concerns or points of confusion during and after the counseling session.  

Methods of Delivery for Reverse Mortgage Counseling

Emergency Counseling for HECM Clients Emergency counseling is HECM counseling that occurs without the client scheduling an appointment in advance. The client may receive emergency counseling by phone or in person only if the client · is in imminent danger of losing his/her home, or · requires access to funds for impending medical treatment, and he/she is not able to access these funds without obtaining proceeds from a HECM. Required Borrower Documentation HUD requires that the borrowers provide documentation that the emergency counseling is necessary. The documentation should indicate that the client’s home is in imminent danger of being foreclosed or that the client needs impending medical treatment. Provision of Required Handouts/Materials by the Counselor HUD permits emergency counseling without a prior appointment, and recognizes that in emergency circumstances, it is unlikely that the client has received HUD’s required handouts, unless a lender has provided them previously. Unlike scheduled face-to-face or telephone counseling, counselors who are participating in emergency counseling are not required to provide relevant materials to clients prior to the counseling session, but must provide HUD’s required handouts and other resource material immediately after the session via · email · fax, or · regular mail. Reference: For a listing of HUD’s required handouts to clients,  

HECM Protocol Chapter 1 1-13 3. Methods of Delivery for Reverse Mortgage Counseling, Continued PROTCL 1.3.d Other Mutually Agreed Upon Formats for Counseling Other types of mutually-agreed upon formats are acceptable for counseling. Such formats include any live electronic method of dialogue (e.g., Skype, webinar, Webex, GoToMeeting, etc.) where both the HECM counselor and client can speak to each other to ask questions and discuss the information being presented. Clients may receive counseling in a mutually-agreed upon format unless such counseling is prohibited in their state. This type of counseling must not commence until the client has · received HUD’s required handouts listed in HECM Protocol 7.B.1, and · had adequate time to review the documents. The client may receive the required HUD handouts from a lender or from HUD. If the lender provides the handouts, a copy of the handouts must be made available to the HECM counselor. Because the counselor may have difficulty gauging the client’s engagement in the counseling session, the counselor must prompt the client for questions, concerns, or points of confusion during and after the counseling session.


Question From Lorena on 12/21/2021
I need a reverse mortgage counselor who is free.
Expert Answer

Hello Lorena,

Counselors are able to offer free counseling to the public when they receive a grant which pays for the counseling on behalf of the borrowers.  The grants are limited and are only available for short periods of time when they do have them. 

We have never known which counseling agencies have received a grant or the status of the grant (how much it was for or how much is left at any given time). 

Borrowers have actually told us from time to time when they were lucky enough to locate a company who was offering free counseling due to having received a grant for such.  We can’t even promise that there is any grant money available to pay for borrower’s counseling at any given time and lenders are not allowed to pay for the borrower’s counseling. 

If this is important to you, you can call a company, ask if they can offer free to the borrower or financed counseling and if not, you can thank them for their time but move on to another counselor until you find one who can accommodate your needs.

Question From joe on 6/13/2019
Where are the counselors in delaware?
Expert Answer

Hello Joe,

HUD has a site on which you can search for approved agencies at this url:  When I type in DE for the state (don’t limit it to just the city or zip because that search will most often come back with no results unless you get really lucky), the HUD site tells me that there are no approved counselors in the entire state of DE.  So then if you want a counselor who is close by, you need to pick an adjoining state and check to see if there is one within easy driving distance in that state.  I don’t know where in the state of DE you are located or which state would be your next best choice, if any are but this would be your only option if you want to do your counseling in person. 

For instance, if I change to PA, the HUD results change to the information below:

But remember, this only matters if you plan to do your counseling in person.  If you decide to do the counseling over the phone as do many borrowers, you can choose a counselor who is located anywhere in the US and they can send you the certificate in the mail, usually with an electronic copy to you and your lender via email the same day.  Most phone customers don’t pay for long distance any longer and if you do, just be sure to pick a counselor who offers a toll-free number if you choose to proceed in this manner.

Question From Donna H. on 3/28/2019
Before going forward with a reverse mortgage, is it necessary to obtain a certificate after counseling and also a home appraisal?
Expert Answer

Hello Donna,

Yes, you must obtain a counseling certificate before a lender can order any services on your behalf.  In fact, some states require an additional waiting period after the servicing has been performed to give you a “cooling off” period before the lender can proceed with the loan after the counseling has been completed.

The appraisal is needed for the loan but can be completed any time after the lender has passed any mandatory cooling off periods prescribed by law.  In other words, if you are concerned about other possible issues, the lender can address those issues before ordering your appraisal.  This would delay your closing, but it can be done if you prefer.

Question From CK on 3/12/2019
Is there a cost for counseling?
Expert Answer

Good Morning,

Every company sets their own costs but typically, the costs run from $99 to $150.  This is definitely an area where borrowers can shop for the fee of their choice but it has been my experience that since the range is not that great (since the fee is under $150 in almost all cases anyway), most borrowers tend to go with the counselor who is the most convenient in terms of being able to meet the borrowers needs for timing, etc. 

Question From Drew on 1/29/2019
Can you waive counseling on a refinance?
Expert Answer

Hello Drew,

HUD allows you to waive the counseling if you did your first counseling session within the past 5 years and you request it but now many states require counseling for all reverse mortgages in any instance.  The state of California for instance not only requires the counseling, there is also a 7 day cooling off period from the date of counseling during which time the lender may not begin the loan process.  You need to check with your lender to determine when you did the last loan and the requirements for not only HUD but your state to see if you can waive counseling in your case.

Question From Jennifer L. on 12/02/2018
If I am an MLO licensed by the state of California and have a broker, can I be a counselor for reverse mortgages? Is it a full-time job I can apply for while I help my mortgage clients?
Question From Mike Davis on 12/01/2018
Hello, My mother was given a reverse mortgage in 2009 without any required counseling first. Does this still make it qualify as a legit reverse mortgage? Thanks.
Expert Answer

Hello Mike,

I would suggest you contact the servicer and ask for a copy of the counseling certificate.  I would be willing to bet that mom received the counseling and doesn’t remember it and may not have kept a copy of her certificate but did get it. 

Without the required counseling, not only are lenders not supposed to close the loan, but HUD will not insure it either.  It would be extremely unlikely that the lender never required it and then almost impossible for a lender to have the loan insured without it.  Contact the servicer with mom on the phone to grant authorization and request a copy from her file and see what they say.

Question From Pam F. on 10/18/2018
Can a person get council from a reverse mortgage counselor the very first day they contact them?
Expert Answer

Hi Pam,

Getting back to what we discussed earlier, that is not uncommon in this market.  If one counselor tells you that they cannot help you for several days and that does not work for your schedule, tell them no thanks and call another!  I am sure you can find someone who can accommodate your needs.

Question From Pam F. on 10/18/2018
Once you call a reverse mortgage counselor how long does it take for them to call you back to council you?
Expert Answer

Hi Pam,

Most of the counselors are not really busy right now and most are calling back within a few hours if not later the same day.  If you are not receiving this kind of service, you may want to consider calling another agency.  If you plan to do the counseling by telephone, it doesn’t make any difference where the counselor is located as almost all the calls are toll-free anyway.

If one agency or counselor is not able to meet your time requirements or give you the service by scheduling an appointment that is convenient for you, I would advise you to call the next company on the list and keep going until you find one that will.

Many borrowers who like to stay up late or are very early risers often find they can schedule appointments that are more convenient for them on the opposite coast with the time changes.  If the counselor is not back to you within just a short while, there is no reason to keep waiting, especially now that they are not experiencing huge volumes. Acces the counseling roster here

Question From Pam on 7/24/2018
Are the lender of a reverse mortgage and the counselor supposed to converse with each other? Is it uncommon for them to know each other ?
Expert Answer

Hello Pam,

The reverse mortgage industry is not extremely large so it is not uncommon for lenders and counselors to cross paths while working with mutual borrowers from time to time – but that is typically only by email, not in person.  We see that our borrowers wind up using the same counseling companies from time to time and the same counselors every so often but it is very rare that we actually talk to the counselors, this interaction simply isn’t required most of the time. 

HUD does not allow lenders to steer borrowers to specific counseling companies.  That is why we give borrowers a list of 10 – 15 counselors from which to choose that are supplied by the computer software.  At least 5 of the counseling companies are nationwide companies chosen by HUD and then the computer tries to pick at least 5 companies based on proximity as determined by the zip code.  Then each lender identifies about 5 companies who have proven themselves to be strong service providers and borrowers have an opportunity to choose from the list provided or they can go onto the HUD website and choose anyone they wish as long as the company/counselor is approved by HUD.

We typically have very little interaction with the actual counselor.  Most of the time, if the counselor contacts the lender at all it is only with an email and then just to request information to make sure the borrower has received all the documents required or to get a copy of said documents.  If the borrower requests it, the counselor can email a copy of the counseling certificate to the lender which will allow them to print it and send with the loan package for signature so the borrower does not have to wait for mail times but again, the counselor in that case did not discuss anything with the lender and would only send the certificate with the borrower’s approval. 

Question From Pam on 6/19/2018
My mother and father took out a reverse mortgage on june 9th 2010. How many minutes should they have been counseled. My mom was 83 father 77
Expert Answer

Hello Pam,

HUD has changed their counseling requirements over the years and I was able to find their protocol training from September of 2010 but I don’t know if there was a change that prompted this printing from June of that same year.  But even in the September materials, HUD lays out a number of duties with which they charge the counselor but they do not specify a “minimum time” for which the borrowers must attend the counseling.  Counselors themselves had to attend HUD training and become certified to be able to conduct the counseling and were charged with knowing the borrowers circumstances and asking the borrowers questions to be certain that the borrowers understood the program.  I cannot speak for all counselors we have had counselors contact us to let us know that in their estimation, the borrowers were unable to comprehend the program and would not issue a certificate. 

To speak more directly to the question regarding time, it was pretty standard that a session usually ran anywhere from 45 minutes to well over 3 or 4 hours in some instances depending on the counselor and the borrowers.  The level of comprehension, the number of questions and how well the counselor was able to communicate with the borrowers all contributed to the amount of time required for the session.  Some borrowers were able to comprehend extremely well at the ages you mention and some were not able to understand the basic concept of the program at 62 so the age of your parents would not be as big a factor as their ability to understand what the counselor was telling them.  The counselor would have been asking questions as the session proceeds to “test” them of their level of comprehension and lenders are not allowed to be involved in the counseling process.

Question From Julie W. on 5/26/2018
Hi I will be 62 in Oct can I start the paper work for the review mortgage? Thank you
Expert Answer

Hi Julie,

HUD allows you to begin your application 60 days prior to your 62nd birthday.  You can do the counseling any time but it is only valid for 6 months so you would not want to complete it too soon or you would have to repeat the course.

Question From Rose V. on 12/28/2017
How long does the reverse mortgage counseling take?
Expert Answer

The protocol states that the reverse mortgage counseling session should last about an hour as they go over the programs, what happens when you pass and your financial picture to be sure that even with the reverse mortgage you are still not placing yourself in a bad position (after all, if even with the reverse mortgage you cannot achieve the goal of being able to live in your home comfortably for the rest of your life, it is probably not the best option).  However, I have known people who finished the counseling more quickly because of the extensive research they had done before they ever took the counseling and their high level of familiarity with the program and its features, and I had one customer who told me that they spent 3 ½ hours with the counselor! 

The borrowers in the case of the very long session told me that they sought their counseling before anything else and had no basis of knowledge when they first went in.  They were not even familiar with the basic concepts of a reverse mortgage and knew none of the terms when they went for counseling but wanted to talk first with someone who, in their words, “would teach them about the loan but would not try to sell them one”.  They told me that in retrospect, they would not recommend that course of action and would do more research before the counseling session if they had it to do all over again, but you can get your counseling before you have even spoken with a lender if you so choose.  The actual session time will depend a lot on you and your knowledge of the program before you start the session.

Question From Steve on 11/21/2017
I understand that counseling is required before entering into a reverse mortgage agreement? In what year did that become required? Is it a legal lien if the counseling never was received?
Expert Answer

Hi Steve,

HUD teamed up with AARP in 2001 to train and establish a counseling protocol for all borrowers.  The counseling requirement at that time was not a requirement in order to make the lien a “legal” lien, but one that HUD required in order to insure the loan.  Since that time, HUD implemented rules that allowed borrowers to waive counseling requirements in some instances (for example, if they were refinancing an existing reverse mortgage on which they had received counseling within the previous 5 years and for which the borrower received certain concrete benefits with the new loan).  Some states now require counseling as a part of their state laws so even in the instances where HUD would allow the borrower to waive the counseling requirement, the counseling would need to be completed for that loan in that state regardless of prior counseling. 

However, HUD will not insure the loan if the borrowers did not receive reverse mortgage counseling, either at the time of the loan’s origination or at some point in the previous 5 years on a previous HUD HECM loan if the current loan was a refinance of an existing reverse mortgage.  Proprietary or private reverse mortgage programs are not insured by HUD and the counseling protocol of these programs may be different.

Question From Patrick P. on 4/30/2016
After receiving counseling can I change my mind and cancel my reverse application?
Expert Answer

Hi Patrick,

You absolutely can! In fact, you have the right to cancel the transaction all the way up until the time the loan closes. But there is no reason you should go to the expense of ordering an appraisal if you know you don't want to proceed. The lender cannot charge you a cancellation fee if you know this is not the right loan for you I would recommend that you cancel this point in time. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

Question From Degolia on 9/30/2012
We called a counselor to make an appointment and they said that we were supposed to get a "packet" from you all. Do you know what they are talking about and can we access online and if so how? Thank you, Degolia
Expert Answer

Hi Degolia,

The counselor is "kind of right".  Borrowers do not need to contact a lender for anything prior to a session with a counselor and in fact, many borrowers choose to talk to a counselor before they even choose a lender.  However, if you do know who your lender is going to be, then the counselors want to see the Loan Comparison Page, the Amortization Schedule and the Total All Loan Costs (TALC) from the proposal that you received so that they can go over the actual numbers you received.  If you have never gotten these items, then they have to send them to you in the mail before they will even schedule the appointment and it slows down the process.

There are a number of ways to get the necessary documents to the counselor.  Here at All Reverse Mortgage, we set up a website and when we prepare a proposal for our customers we also give you the website address and an access code for you to give to your counselor.  They can then log on to the website and by using the code you supply to them, they can pull the forms they need right off their computer.  For those few who cannot access external websites, we also offer to have them contact us directly and we can send them the forms they need so as not to delay your appointment.

So if you have already obtained a proposal from us, you have the forms they require in the information we sent to you.  You can either give them the counseling access code and website address, you can just forward the proposal to the counselor directly from your computer and the forms they require are included, or you can have them contact us and we will be happy to help by sending them the specific forms listed above that they require.

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Author Michael Branson
About the Author, Michael G. Branson |
Michael G. Branson CEO, All Reverse Mortgage, Inc. and moderator of ARLO™ has 45 years of experience in the mortgage banking industry. He has devoted the past 19 years to reverse mortgages exclusively.
Reverse Mortgage Counseling Q&A – Ask ARLO™
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