How Tom Selleck helped a reverse mortgage lender rise to the top – Orange County Register

He’s not a celebrity. You’ve never heard his name; you’ve probably never heard of his company.

But if you watch late-night TV you’ve seen his company’s ads. They’re the spots that feature Tom Selleck, the mustachioed star of “Blue Bloods” and, long-ago, “Magnum P.I.,” as the pitchman for reverse mortgages.

Reza Jahangiri knows the power of celebrity. He’s used it to push his Orange-based company — reverse mortgage lender American Advisors Group — to No. 1 in the nation.

In recent years, revenue at AAG has more than tripled, from $63 million in 2012 to $216 million last year. The number of jobs he’s created has jumped even faster, from 300 five years ago to more than 1,200 today. A new batch of recruits joins AAG every two weeks. Two-year veterans say they feel like old timers.

But those reassuring Tom Selleck ads are just one reason AAG originates one fourth of the nation’s reverse mortgages.

Jahangiri — the skateboarding, guitar-playing son of Iranian refugees — is another.

“I think Reza has tremendous vision, and he sees where his company and the entire industry can go,” said Jim Mahoney, a long-time industry leader and chairman of Celink, a reverse-mortgage servicer.

“He brought in the best talent possible to build a first-class organization. … He’s a person who rolls up his sleeves on any topic and finds the best solutions.”

Growth opportunity

The product Jahangiri sells, the reverse mortgage, is a mirror image of its home financing counterpart.

With regular mortgages, borrowers mail monthly payments to their lenders, paying down their loan over time. With reverse mortgages, lenders pay borrowers, and the debt increases over time.

With regular mortgages, the loan is retired when all the debt has been paid off. With reverse mortgages, the loan isn’t settled until the borrower sells his or her home, moves out or dies. Then the loan is repaid or the home is sold to pay off the debt.

If all the conditions are met, the borrower — who must be at least 62 when he or she takes out the loan — can live in the home as long as he or she wants. That holds true even if the debt (insured by the Federal Housing Administration) exceeds the home’s value.

But make no mistake, run afoul of the terms of either mortgage type, and the lender can take your home.

Reverse mortgages peaked in 2008, with about 115,000 a year nationally. But since then, in the wake of the economic downturn, the number has dropped by…

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