EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: NICRI director of the Equity Release and Reverse Mortgage Information Service (ERRMIS)

by Darren Moffatt on June 12, 2009

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Reverse Mortgage Watch has written about the new government reverse mortgage information service, ERRMIS, before . This is a free service provided through the National Information Centre on Retirement Investments (NICRI) that’s designed to help Australian seniors make more informed choices about equity release finance. In a coup for Reverse Mortgage Watch, we’re delighted to bring you an exclusive interview with the director of ERRMIS, Wendy Schilg.  

RMW: You’ve been up an running for a 4-5 months now, how has the public response been to the launch ERRMIS?Wendy Schilg: The response from the public has been really positive. The service has filled a much needed void in the market, and people have been relieved to find an impartial consumer organisation that provides independent information. To enter into a reverse mortgage is a major decision and obviously an emotional experience for many retirees. I think that our service offers support to people during the decision making process. As one caller said in a letter “Thank you so much for all your help – you have kept the nervous break-down at bay for the moment”  RMW: What are the main questions or issues that people are calling with?Wendy Schilg: Safety is the main issue people want to talk about. Questions may relate to any potential decreases in the pension as a result of the mortgage, the amount of interest that will accrue on the loan, who the providers are and what to look out for in the contract. We also have a lot of people new to reverse mortgages who want a 10 minute Reverse Mortgage 101 course.   Callers with a reverse mortgage, or about to take one out, will often have technical or specific questions – there are great calls to receive as they give us a greater insight into the various providers and product features. 

 

RMW: How many calls are you taking a week at the moment?Wendy Schilg: We are averaging around 150 calls per week. It was really busy for a period in late April as a result of an article in the Centrelink publication News for Seniors, but has settled down again. At one stage we were taking over 200 calls per day – quite a bit considering that there are only 2 information officers looking after the service!

 

RMW: From your discussions with consumers, what do you think industry (brokers, lenders and government) can do better?Wendy Schilg: We have made a submission to the Henry Review, and also provided Government Ministers with briefings on areas we think can be improved within the industry. These include: better disclosure of break fees – a recommendation SEQUAL has already acted upon; tighter regulation of reverse mortgage providers who leave the market but maintain services to existing clients; and clearer terms and conditions documents. The Government will be looking to enhance regulation and disclosure of the Reverse Mortgage industry by mid 2010, and we will continue to work with them by providing caller feedback and raising issues. 

RMW: What does the future hold for ERRMIS?

Wendy Schilg: The Federal Government originally funded ERRMIS for a 6 month pilot. The pilot is due to end within the next few weeks. Obviously we hope to maintain the service indefinitely and we are in talks with the Government for ongoing funding. Demand and feedback has indicated that ERRMIS is well needed, and I think the Government recognizes that ongoing independent support for retirees entering into reverse mortgages is essential.

 Thanks to Wendy Schilg and ERRMIS for their contribution to Reverse Mortgage Watch. Call ERRMIS on 1800 615 676. Readers can also download their free guide here and Reverse Mortgage Watch’s free consumer reports here.   For help comparing the lenders, call Seniors First on 1300 745 745 (Disclosure: the editor of this site is Managing Director of Seniors First)  

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