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Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation
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Lender Name: Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation

Headquarters: Madison, Wisconsin

States licensed: 50, plus the District of Columbia

Company leadership: Founder and CEO Steve Jacobson

Product offerings: HECM, proprietary reverse mortgages

Lender ranking: #9 based on HECM endorsement data compiled in January 2020

Brief history: While primarily seeing itself as a forward mortgage lender first and foremost, Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation has nonetheless grown into a force to be reckoned with in the reverse mortgage industry. Founded in April of 1996 by Steve Jacobson and given its name by one of Jacobson’s lifelong friends, Fairway grew significantly over the next five years.

By the end of 2001, the company had grown to have closed over $1 billion in annual loans, and continued to grow at a marked place over the next several years after that. By 2007, Fairway had become a mortgage broker/banker with over 100 branches spread out across 40 states.

In December of 2007, Fairway made the decision to create its own, dedicated reverse mortgage division, primarily identifying that the business segment and the demographic it aimed to serve was showing visible and projected signs of significant growth. The already-established 40-state footprint of Fairway ideally placed it to become a major player in the reverse mortgage business soon after it implemented the product into its catalog of offerings.

“In order to properly service this growing segment, we knew we'd need to establish a division that ensures consistency and compliance,” said Gary Nelson, VP of national sales at Fairway Independent Mortgage at the time the division was first created to business publication Mortgage Orb. “Our reverse mortgage division provides support and training to all of our regional offices, so that they in turn can better serve the customer.”

Standardizing the way that reverse mortgages are delivered to seniors was a primary focus of the company at the time it decided to enter the space, Nelson said.

“As baby boomers age, more and more homeowners are becoming qualified for reverse mortgages every day,” he continued. “We're establishing a program to provide standardized delivery of reverse mortgages, so obtaining a reverse mortgage will be just as consistent, convenient and straightforward as getting a standard mortgage from any Fairway location.”

Like much of the reverse mortgage industry, Fairway was impacted by structural changes to the HECM program handed down by the Federal Housing Administration in October of 2017. These included a reduction in principal limit factors (PLFs), as well as a 2018 institution of a collateral risk assessment which sometimes results in the need for a property to require a second appraisal before a reverse mortgage loan is approved. The fundamental result from these changes – which were primarily made to stabilize the HECM program within its federal insurance fund – was an industry-wide drop in loan volume to record lows.

Fairway was not spared this fate either, but it has shown a surprising amount of resiliency in bouncing back from reduced volume levels just a couple of years after the HECM program changes were introduced. Not only did the company grow its total market share in the reverse mortgage industry by over 1% between 2018 and 2019, but its reverse mortgage endorsements in that same period were up nearly 4%. This is particularly stark when compared with the wider industry, which in the same time period saw a volume loss of over 30%.

One of the reasons that the company says it has had the success it has in a generally difficult reverse mortgage climate is its dedication to borrower education, and its position as a forward mortgage lender first is key to loan originators’ ability to present reverse mortgages side-by-side with other options.

“Fairway has a unique culture. The leadership, branch managers, and many loan officers have embraced the product and it is gradually spreading throughout the organization which is hard to find in a forward mortgage company,” says Jared Gibbons, national reverse mortgage sales manager at Fairway to industry publication Reverse Mortgage Daily. “[Our] culture of doing what is right for the client helps reverse mortgages to be accepted.”

One avenue that Fairway has not significantly explored is proprietary reverse mortgages, which many other companies have seen as a potential source for growth in the wake of current and potential future changes that the HECM program could receive from FHA. While Fairway has the ability to offer proprietary reverse mortgage products, they have not yet been a major focus of the reverse mortgage division.

“We are just getting started with proprietary and it has not had a big impact [on us] yet,” Gibbons continued in the Reverse Mortgage Daily article. “But we believe it will be in the future.”

Fairway is the ninth-largest reverse mortgage lender in the nation based on January 2020 HECM endorsement data. It continues to see significant potential in the future of the reverse mortgage market primarily because of the massive amounts of home equity that seniors have access to, and many older Americans will need to look at employing their home equity in order to achieve their retirement goals. This is according to Harlan Accola, Fairway’s national director in a 2019 interview with Financial Advisor magazine.

“There is over $7.1 trillion in home equity owned by seniors over the age of 62,” Accola told the magazine. “Let’s put the size of this potential solution in context – there are currently outstanding over $1 trillion in car loans, over $1 trillion in student loans, and in excess of $800 billion in credit card balances. The truth is that using the $7 trillion in home equity must be [leveraged] in order to give baby boomers, the retirement they need and want.”

Headquarters: Madison, Wisconsin
States licensed: 50, plus the District of Columbia
Company leadership: Founder and CEO Steve Jacobson
Product offerings: HECM, proprietary reverse mortgages Lender ranking: #9 based on HECM endorsement data compiled in January 2020
Customer Reviews (17)
Earl S, MD   June 5, 2020
Peter and his Team went absolutely above and beyond to make sure that me and my fiancé not only knew what was going on but completely understood the entire first time buying a Home process. After Speaking to Peter the very first time I honesty knew we were dealing with a very knowledgeable professional that put our worries to rest right away. I cannot Thank Peter and his entire team for all of the Help And Knowledge that they shared with me and my family for helping us get our beautiful first home. We not only look forward to using him again but with out a Doubt referring him to All of our Family and Friends.
Celio C., WA   June 1, 2020
Marshall was professional, courteous and knowledgeable. He would send me the updated mortgage estimates and was always available over the phone to answer all my questions in detail. We did close on time and the final numbers were very close to the estimates. This was my best experience with a mortgage broker so far.
Kellie B, CT   May 15, 2020
Great timely service with the utmost customer service. Very knowledgeable in their profession
Brooke K, IA   May 15, 2020
Amy was fantastic and efficient in helping with my refinance! I highly recommend her services!
Rebecca D., WV   May 5, 2020
I just would like to give everyone a heads up if your looking at buying a home in Warner Robins area, especially if you have a spouse or your just a women in general! We were referred to a local lender here at fairway mortgage company as being a close hometown company with a person that you can work with face to face... that's awesome right? I mean no over phones or internet someone genuinely there... or so we thought! Me. Ralph B from Fairway had all our paperwork ready on a home we chose but when we stopped in things we're different and I questioned them, he brushed my questions off and kept referring back to my husband and after awhile I had enough stood up and said no we will not be signing today we will be shopping around and walked out to my vehicle... a few minutes later my husband came out and agreed that we should shop around. As we are talking Mr. B came to my driver window and was repeatedly told we had to go to the home inspection we would get back to him.... he would not leave my car and kept saying just come back in and we will get these papers taken care of. My husband finally had to step in and tell him NO we need to go! After shopping around we found a much better rate and terms and texted him back to inform him of our decision to go with another company, and we received a very upsetting message back basically telling my husband I should not have a say in the matter. We are military just moving here and wanting to buy a home and settle in this area so this was a very upsetting for us. It was disrespectful and disappointing because we truly wanted to work within the local community that we would be a part of for years to come but this misogynistic company is not one I would recommend any military nor women who wants to buy a home to work with!!!!! The message contents were "it's unfortunate your not in control of your decision..." to my husband!! I give one star because his boss tried to call and apologize for his actions. Nice gesture but still does not make things right!
Angela S., WA   May 5, 2020
I am extremely sad & angry about what happened with this company. Basically I have very poor credit and I know I can't get a loan. My dad, God bless him, agreed to cosign because we're in a two-story house but will need a one story house soon because my son has a progressive debilitating illness. Anyway, Susan with this company took it upon herself to "help" us by emailing confidential details she found in my credit report and my husband's credit report to my dad. Is this even legal?? We feel exposed, violated, my folks are asking me about things from many years ago, things from my husband's life from his first marriage before he ever knew me. We know our credit reports very well, we've been focused on improving them, we did not need her pointing out our issues. She had absolutely no business giving our information to another individual. Unprofessional, unethical, hopefully illegal. She says she's very sorry but she should have known better! Do you want your parents or in-laws knowing about mistakes you made years ago? I'd never disclose private info about someone in my daily life. Go anywhere but here.
Hal, IN   May 4, 2020
Vihn has twice helped with refi. Always helpful, competent and quick with his service. Utterly reliable for moral integrity. Glad to recommend him to our closest friends.
Robert S., VA   April 29, 2020
I have worked with Chris and his team with multiple transactions. Their committment to customer service is 2nd to none!! I highly recommend Chris and his team for all of your real estate mortgage needs!!!
Matthew H, KY   April 29, 2020
Fantastic job by Brad and the team at Fairway! Honest, hard working and caring staff who made my mortgage experience wonderful. Highly recommended!
Dan W., AL   April 25, 2020
Jay and his team made our dreams come true. Friendly, efficient, expedient, caring, and professional!
Lucas G, CT   April 16, 2020
Joe has done a great job for me. This is my third time using him and I could not have been happier all three times. He has done a great job. I recommend him to every one I can.