Every industry has their bad apples and reverse mortgages are no exception. However the few and far between “bad apples” in the reverse mortgage industry are not representative of the industry or the product as politicians, media and some reporters are stating. Headlines such as “Beware of Reverse Mortgages” is a disservice to seniors because it scares away the seniors who could benefit from a reverse mortgage. So even the reporters and politicians are bad apples spoiling the bushel of reverse mortgages.
There is little evidence of subprime lending and fraud with reverse mortgages. The National Consumer Law Center Report recently released which claims reverse mortgages are the next subprime mortgage is not based on statistical evidence. As Peter Bell, President of the National Reverse Mortgage Lender’s Association has pointed out, the cases sited in this report are over 3 years old and some have been dismissed in the legal system.
Some of the instances mentioned in this report are not abuses by lenders but by those who took advantage of seniors who had the reverse mortgage. My Blog article, “It is NOT Reverse Mortgage Fraud When…” outlines some claims of reverse mortgage fraud that aren’t really reverse mortgage fraud.
Let’s look at the bad apples of fraud in the reverse mortgage industry:
- One bad apple was where a scheme was set up to flip homes using a reverse mortgage.
- Another bad apple was an investor who sells the property using a quit claim deed then the buyer applies for a reverse mortgage using an inflated appraisal and a fake mortgage company. The senior then refinances using a reverse mortgage paying off all debts including the fake mortgage providing the investor funds – some of these seniors were homeless prior to the scheme and didn’t understand the terms of the loan or the need to pay taxes and insurance on the property. Protections have been implemented to stop these types of schemes.
- An originator who proceeded with the loan closing knowing the borrower had passed away was another bad apple.
- HUD has charged another bad apple for violating HUD’s regulations and is in the process of proceedings to have that company’s FHA license pulled and the people involved will be put on HUD’s sanction list and not be allowed to work in the industry. (This lender does both conventional and reverse mortgages – the violations were based on conventional loans, not reverse mortgages s0 this was not really reverse mortgage fraud but it likely could have been.)
Out of all the reverse mortgage lenders and reverse mortgages these are the only instances I found to be real fraud and this is not an issue with the product itself but with a person or persons. If there are more, I couldn’t find them in my search of reverse mortgage fraud through the many sites and articles found at the FBI, Federal Trade Commission, HUD, National Reverse Mortgage Lender Association, and other industry reports. Obviously with only these instances, reverse mortgage schemes and fraud are not increasing or set to be the next subprime focus.
Yes, there is always a risk of potential increase of scams and fraud as there is a risk of increase of scams with anything including increase of theft from a store, identity theft, medical or insurance practices or products, on and on. And while everyone doing a reverse mortgage, a conventional mortgage or any financial transaction should know the facts and beware of scams, three or four instances does not mean the product should be avoided. Would you stop shopping because it involves using cash or a bank card just because there is a risk of increase of theft or identity theft? No, you just take precautions. Do you stop driving your car because there is a risk of increase of car theft. No, of course not, you just take precautions.
HUD has many protections in place making the reverse mortgage the safest loan available to seniors. These protections include required third-party counseling, now with a new protocol (see my Blog article “New Protocol for Reverse Mortgage Counseling”), regulating fees, prohibiting cross-selling, implementing a wait period for home purchases (a result of a scam) as well as review of marketing practices and disclosure of fees.
Meg Burns, Director, FHA Single Family Program Development U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has stated, “the program has the potential to benefit seniors with a wide variety of financial needs and, as such, should be thoughtfully considered by all seniors making financial planning decisions.” She has stated that widespread abuse is unsubstantiated and shares the reverse mortgage industry’s concern about decisions based on lack of knowledge, as outlined in her statement, “I have grave concerns about the overzealous attention by legislators to the reverse-mortgage sector. Federal regulators are going to pay attention, but they don’t know the product. We have yet another party entering this world who wants to layer on additional consumer protection, but they don’t understand the product well enough-[and yet] we have auditors nipping at our heels.”
Instead of highlighting how many seniors have benefitted from the hundreds of thousands reverse mortgages that have been done and how originators have bent over backwards to help seniors save their home from foreclosure, eliminate mortgage payments, have cash to repair or modify their home or have funds for medical expenses or home health care, or funds for their retirement during the economic downturn the media and politicians focus on the rare instance of fraud.
Consider a few of the many comments we have received on how the reverse mortgage made a difference for seniors:
- “Thank you! I now have my bills paid, money in the bank, and I can take a vacation this summer.”
- “It helps me keep up with bills I cannot cover with my limited income. It also allowed me to remodel my home to improve its value and be more comfortable. I greatly appreciate it.”
- “The Reverse Mortgage helps out a great deal and solves many problems.”
- “It has relieved us of a great deal of stress and makes grocery shopping a lot easier too.”
- “The only way we could comfortably stay in our home of 42 years”
- “A reverse mortgage means I’ll have a place to live even in case of serious illness.”
Options should be considered however their homework has not been done when reporters, politicians, and even “senior advocacy” groups state:
- “The reverse mortgage should be a last resort.” A last resort to what? As one of my borrowers stated, “When retired it is the last resort.”
- “Get a home-equity line.” First, most seniors don’t qualify for a conventional loan and if they could, they would have to make payments (often what they are trying to eliminate or avoid). And even if they can afford the payments today, what happens when “life happens” and they juggle between making mortgage payments, paying their utilities or paying medical bills and putting food on the table.
Besides, the reverse mortgage IS a home equity loan. It is a home equity loan with special terms for seniors including no income or credit score qualifications, no monthly payments and is a non-recourse loan insured by FHA with a lower interest than they can qualify for with a conventional “forward” loan. The loan is not due and payable until the home is no longer the primary residence or on their 150th birthday. It also offers more flexibility on how they can receive their funds including monthly payments, line of credit, lump sum or a combination of these.
- “Sell and move.” Most seniors want to stay in their home where they have raised their children, are familiar with the neighbors and neighborhood and have a lot of emotional ties. Additionally moving and selling can cost more than a reverse mortgage. Read my Blog, “I Want To Stay In My Home – Don’t Tell Me To Sell!” which compares the costs.
Another common misstatement and myth is “reverse mortgages have high fees.” Actually the costs of the reverse mortgage are comparable to a conventional FHA loan. When comparing costs side by side to a conventional loan the difference is the up-front FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium. The benefits of FHA insuring the loan include guaranteed funds, a lower interest and the loan being non-recourse. For a better understanding of costs and a comparison read “Reverse Mortgage Closing Costs – High or Mythical?”
To make sure you aren’t working with a predatory lender, check references, check to ensure they are a HUD approved lender, know they specialize in reverse mortgages, have experience, knowledge, and are willing to meet with you to review the details, before the application, during the application and at closing. You should review “Don’t Let Fear Keep You From A Reverse Mortgage But Know What To Look For In A Lender” to know the questions to ask when talking with an originator.
Our company is proud to receive comments such as “I am completely satisfied with all aspects of my reverse mortgage. From start to finish, it was handled very professionally. I never had a feeling that my questions and input were not of importance (thank you – I had many questions!!) Beth, you assured me that the procedure was on time and going smoothly, and that was a wonderful feeling! Thank you for being the kind of super advisor that makes you so special”
So don’t let the bad apple spoil the bushel of reverse mortgages for you. Get the facts, know what to look for in a lender, and explore the option to see if it might benefit you as it has benefitted hundreds of thousands of senior homeowners.
To get the details and facts straight, the media should read a couple of my other Blog articles: “The Media Needs Their Reverse Mortgage Facts!” “But Wait, There’s More… Reverse Mortgage Facts the Media Needs To Know” and “When You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know About Reverse Mortgages.”
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