Solving The Reverse Mortgage Puzzle For You

Solving Reverse Mortgage PuzzleI’ve always loved doing puzzles and problem solving whether doing jig saw puzzles or finding resources and solutions to various issues.  Much of this led me to the reverse mortgage industry back in 1999.  Unfortunately, I come across many who still find the reverse mortgage puzzling.  So let me help solve this puzzle for you.

We assisted solving Marion’s puzzle.  Recently widowed, Marion’s income changed because with the passing of her husband she was now only receiving one Social Security check.  Having recently moved to a new home, she did the reverse mortgage to do some updates on her home and improve her cash flow into her future retirement years.

The majority of seniors want to remain in home.  Depending on report, it’s somewhere between 80% and 90+%.  A reverse mortgage is an option to help them remain in their home and have improved cash flow for current or future needs.

A reverse mortgage is a mortgage like any other mortgage where borrowers retain title and borrow against their home equity, but the reverse mortgage offers special terms for seniors home owners 62 and older.

The Home Equity Conversion Mortgage, or HECM, is the most common reverse mortgage and only one available in Minnesota.  The HECM was first insured by FHA in 1989 for the purpose of providing a valuable financing alternative for senior homeowners to help them remain in their home and have access to funds by withdrawing a portion of their home equity.

To determine the Principal Limit or the maximum funds available at closing, HUD’s formula is the age of the youngest borrower or non-borrowing spouse, the Expected Interest Rate, the program chosen and the lower of the home value or FHA Lending Limit, currently $636,150, or in the case of a home purchase or home purchased in the last 12 months, the lower of the appraised value or purchase price.

Borrowers must meet HUD’s Financial Assessment requirements to qualify which means we obtain documentation demonstrating their ability and willingness to pay property taxes and insurance into the future.  In some circumstances a Life Expectancy Set Aside (LESA) may be required to cover the property taxes and insurance.

The net amount available is based on the Principal Limit, less closing costs, paying off any mortgages, liens and/or judgements, and the LESA if required.

If all available funds are used to pay off current mortgages or liens, the borrower’s cash flow will still improve because the monthly mortgage payment is eliminated.

Unlike other mortgages, an advantage for seniors is with the reverse mortgage there are no monthly payment requirements although borrowers are responsible for paying property taxes and insurance.  While monthly payments aren’t required, one can make a payment or payments when and how much they choose.

The interest rate depends on the program chosen and is either adjustable or fixed.  While an adjustable rate often scares people, that is because on a conventional mortgage if the interest goes up, so does one’s payment.  With the reverse mortgage, because monthly mortgage payments are not required, this is not a factor.  It only impacts the amount that needs to be repaid when the loan is due and payable.

Offering more flexibility with the Adjustable Rate option, the funds available can be received in a lump sum, monthly payments, a line of credit or a combination of these.  The monthly payments can be structured as one needs (term) or for life as long as the home is the primary residence (tenure).  Funds in the line of credit grow so more funds can be available in the future.  The line of credit growth rate is a feature that makes the reverse mortgage a tool for financial and long term care planning.

The fixed rate option requires funds to be pulled only as a lump sum draw.  The draw amount is limited to the 60% of the Principal Limit (an additional 10% is available in some circumstances).

Because the closing costs are up-front, they are often perceived as high.  On conventional mortgages people usually focus on the payment and interest rate, not really looking at the closing costs so they don’t realize the costs are comparable.  However, reverse mortgage closing fees are comparable to the traditional closing costs of a conventional loan including an origination fee, appraisal, title fees, title insurance and recording fees.  As a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insured loan, with the HECM borrowers also pay the FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP).

The FHA MIP offer significant benefits for reverse mortgage lenders, investors, as well as the borrowers.

  • The insurance protects the investors against risk and loss.

There are also advantages and increased borrowing power for the borrowers with FHA insuring the reverse mortgage.  These  include:

  • Guaranteeing the funds are available for you, the borrower, during the term of the loan.  With HELOCs the bank/lender can call the loan due and payable if there are changes with the bank, for example they merge with another bank/lender or they close their doors.  Insured by HUD, HECMs are still available even if something happens to the lender.
  • Guaranteeing the reverse mortgage lender against default or shortfalls means the interest rates are lower compared to other mortgages for the benefits one receives with the reverse mortgage.  i.e.,
    • With conventional loans the interest is impacted by one’s credit score.  With the reverse mortgage one’s credit, even if it’s poor, does not impact the interest rate.
    • The FHA insurance on the HECM loans keep the interest rate low and allows more dollars to be loaned than with proprietary programs.  Proprietary reverse mortgage programs have a higher interest rate to cover the lender’s and investor’s risks and loss.
  • Providing a line of credit growth rate (available only with reverse mortgages).  The tenure monthly payment option also has a growth rate factored in when the tenure payment is calculated.
  • As a reverse mortgage it is a non-recourse (no personal liability) loan.  What this means is if the loan balance on the reverse mortgage is higher than what the fair market value is on the home when the loan is due and payable, the FHA MIP will cover the difference to the lender rather than the borrowers or their heirs having to come up with the difference.

When the loan becomes due and payable, generally when the borrowers pass away, sell or move, the repayment amount is the lesser of the loan balance or fair market value of the home.  If there is remaining equity, it goes to the borrowers or their heirs.  As a non-recourse loan there is no personal liability to the borrowers or their estate for repayment.  If an heir wants to keep the home, they can do so by paying off the reverse mortgage loan balance.

Lee who had some credit card debt, and while still working and having some retirement accounts he needed improved cash flow and didn’t want to tap the retirement accounts.  Doing the reverse mortgage allowed him to access cash to pay his credit card debt and do some home improvements.  It also meant he didn’t have to pull funds from his retirement accounts, but leave those for the future, maybe even being able to leave his heirs some funds.  And with the reverse mortgage line of credit, when he does retire, he’ll still have some funds available to replace his income.

Sometimes there are situations that pose puzzles during the process that I face in order to be able to do the loan for borrowers.  Through my experience and knowledge of the product and industry along with my problem solving skills, I work hard to solve the puzzle and will do so if at all possible.

Another puzzle we helped solve was for Marilyn.  During the probate of her mother’s estate, Marilyn wanted to keep the family home.  Sorting through the process of the probate and transferring the home’s title to Marilyn, the reverse mortgage provided the funds to pay her siblings their shares of the estate so she could keep the home and live there as her primary residence.

Reverse Mortgage Puzzle SolvedIf you’d like to improve your retirement cash flow now or for the future and want to solve the reverse mortgage puzzle, contact us if you are in Minnesota.  As your local broker, we work with several lenders and provide free information and facts with no obligation, meeting in person whenever possible.

For other states, contact your local reverse mortgage specialist who is a broker, one who works with several lenders, has their Broker License/NMLS and preferably holds the Certified Reverse Mortgage Professional (CRMP) designation.

© 2017 Beth Paterson, CRMP, Beth’s Reverse Mortgage Blog, 651-762-9648

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