A New Reverse Mortgage Option, The HECM Saver… Is It A Good Option for Seniors?


MN Man benefited by reverse mortageIn 1989 FHA insured the first HUD reverse mortgage known as the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage or HECM.  Through the years it has pretty much been the same until October 2010 when HUD introduced the HECM Saver.  Before determining if the HECM Saver is a good option one must first have an understanding of reverse mortgages.

A mortgage just like any other mortgage, the reverse mortgage offers special terms for seniors home owners 62 and older.  Advantages for seniors are with the reverse mortgage there are no income or credit score requirements and no monthly payment requirements.

The Principal Limit or maximum loan amount is determined by the home value or FHA Lending Limit, the age of the youngest borrower (the older one is the more they can receive), the Expected Interest Rate, and the program chosen.  The funds available can be received in a lump sum, monthly payments, or a line of credit.  The monthly payments can be structured as one needs or for life as long as the home is the primary residence.  Funds in the line of credit grow so more funds can be available in the future.

The borrowers keep the title to the home and are responsible for taxes, insurance, and maintaining the home.  Unlike a conventional loan the interest accrues, increasing the balance with no payments due until the home is no longer the primary residence of the borrowers.  In addition, the reverse mortgage is a non-recourse loan which means there is no personal liability to the borrowers or their estate for repayment if they or their estate are not retaining ownership.  Remaining equity goes to the borrowers or their heirs.

One can have a trust, life estate, or receive Medical Assistance, Elderly Waiver or other public benefits.  In the case of a couple even if one of the borrowers goes into the nursing home or passes away, the other one can stay in the home.  Not considered income, Social Security and Medicare are not affected.

With no limitations on how the funds can be used, through the years hundreds of thousands of seniors have benefited from the reverse mortgage allowing them to stay in their home and have security, independence and control.

However the closing costs often scare people away.  As with a conventional loan, there are traditional closing costs including an origination fee, appraisal, title fees, title insurance and recording fees.  With the FHA HECM borrowers also pay a mortgage insurance premium (MIP).  Because the fees are upfront, they are often perceived as high.

With the introduction of the Saver, which has all the same features of the original HECM, the upfront FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium is 0.01% compared to 2.00% which helps reduce the upfront closing costs.  But it also reduces the Principal Limit available to borrowers.

The HECM Saver could be beneficial to those who don’t want to pay as much in the upfront closing costs but also don’t want to use as much equity from their home.  It can be ideal if one plans on moving in a shorter period of time or has a higher home value and wants to preserve more of the equity.

HECM Saver Good OptionTim and Mary have a conventional mortgage and they would like to eliminate the mortgage payments.  In addition they want to pull out as little of the equity as they can.  The HECM Saver is ideal for their situation because there are enough proceeds to pay off their current mortgage and use less of their equity.

Judy considered the HECM Saver but has chosen to go with the HECM Standard adjustable rate because after paying off her current mortgage and some other debts, she will have more funds in a line of credit for future use.

One must always look at their situation to determine which program will work best for their circumstances.  A consideration while reviewing the options between a HECM Saver and the HECM Standard (the original program), is whether in a few years one will have used all the proceeds from the HECM Saver and will need more funds.  While one can refinance a reverse mortgage when refinancing a mortgage one pays the closing costs again (just as is done with a conventional mortgage) and the first mortgage must be paid off.

Consequently while saving on the upfront MIP with the HECM Saver, if more funds are needed at a future date, it could be more costly when refinancing by paying the closing costs a second time.  And one may or may not even qualify to refinance their HECM Saver.

So is the HECM Saver a good option for those seeking a reverse mortgage?  It certainly should be an option considered and could be a good option depending on one’s circumstances.

© 2010 Beth Paterson, Beth’s Reverse Mortgage Blog, 651-762-9648

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