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Retirement Planning and the False Hope of Reverse Mortgages – part one and two July 24, 2008

Posted by retirementwithaplan in Uncategorized.
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This blog post came in two parts and was published on 03.25.08 and 03.26.08 on another blog server. Both entries are published as one for your convenience.

Reversing Mortgages

The post I stumbled upon suggesting that seniors – because they are the only ones eligible for such a program look at the possibility of reverse mortgages as part of their retirement income went something like this:

(My comments follow)

“Life after retirement is never easy, especially if you are facing a financial crunch. It is a very well known fact that after retirement the monthly flow of income stops and this can have adverse impact on the life of the senior citizen. It goes without saying that money plays a very important part in the life of an individual and no matter whether you are retired or working you need to have a constant flow of money to take care of all your needs. Reverse mortgage is something which can help out the senior citizens who are looking for a constant flow of money even after retirement. It becomes very difficult for an individual to lead a life of dignity and honor if there is lack of money and this can set this just right for you. Reverse mortgage is something that citizens residing in and around California can use for their benefit.

“To be eligible to get money through this, the person must be the owner of a house. “The California reverse mortgage loan is available to any senior citizen above the age of 62 years who owns a house on the equity of the house. The person who takes the reverse mortgage loan will not have to repay the loan amount till the time he decides to sell the house, move out of the house or the borrower passes away. One of the main advantages of this is that this will never be passed on to the heirs if and when that person who takes the loan passes away. The loan amount will be automatically paid off as the person who provides the reverse mortgage loan will become the owner of the house after the house owner passes away. The loan amount will vary based on the equity of the home.

“To be eligible for any reverse mortgage loan in California a person must fulfill certain eligibility criteria. First the person must be a senior citizen, which means that he must be more than 62 years of age. The other primary requirement to get a reverse mortgage loan is that the loan seeker must in possession of a home. Therefore, if you want to take a loan from a broker, you must make sure that you know about the various things that are associated with taking the loan amount. Since you want to take a loan, it will be best for you to be informed about these aspects, so that you do not fall prey to any fraud loan brokers.

“Life is full of both pleasant and unpleasant surprises and that is why we need to be prepared to deal with any eventualities at any time. Taking a California reverse mortgage loan is one way to deal with the financial aspect of any emergence that you may face in your life and especially if you are retired you need the money form this loan to take care of all your day to day needs. You can take the loan money either in lump sum amount or in monthly installments based on your needs.

“Antonio Redford is a legal expert. He gives advice to clients who are looking for expert counsel on reverse mortgage. For more queries about reverse mortgages loan, American reverse mortgage, California reverse mortgage and California reverse mortgage visit http://www.reverse-mortgage-seniors.com”

Which is all fine and good with the following exceptions.

I wrote in reply to this “I am increasingly worried that this will be the new sub-prime. I see folks reaching for cash from their equity that has been appraised much lower than market value because the home is technically not sale-able. The current resident, if they are considering a reverse mortgage just to stay in the house, is not going to use the money for maintenance or improvements but for day-to-day living expenses, which is not what equity should be used for. Lenders will use actuarial tables to determine the worth of the home against the length of life left in the borrower.

“Once the borrower hits the “dire straights” that forces them to consider this option, they often forget that they are indeed entering a loan, that the fees and interest rate are never advertised and are often not competitive with home refinancing or even second mortgages and that the contract will impact what they may have wished to do with the home in the future. The word “lien” is often played down.

“Reverse mortgages are an option of last resort and should only be entered into with legal, financial, and tax counsel and, if at all possible, the help of the homeowner’s family.”

Retirement Planning and the False Hope of Reverse Mortgages, Part two

As fate would have it, there was a front page story in the New York Times today suggested counseling for a mortgage holder who had fallen behind in his payments on a new row house in East Baltimore. Only the mortgage holder in question was 75.

According to the article, this 75 year old man and his wife had purchased the home in 1988 for $55,000 and refinanced it in 2006 with an adjustable rate mortgage that, like many of these sad tales tell, raised the payment to untenable levels. They missed a couple of payments as a result.

Now what does this have to do with reverse mortgages? And, who lends to a 75 year old man?

Yesterday, in response to an entry about reverse mortgages, Cory Matelli a reverse mortgage specialist took me to task. His comments basically focused on my lack of facts and figures and politely asking me to not make blanket statements about an industry that is his livelihood.

He wrote the following, with my comments at the end.

“Thank you for your article. While I don’t agree with entire presentation quoted in the article you featured in your post, I also take exception to some of what you wrote, as well.

“You make a blanket statement that people don’t use the proceeds from their reverse mortgage for maintenance or home improvement. How do you know this? Each borrower and their needs are different. There is no way you can make such a statement without knowing the individual borrower.

“You make another blanket statement that equity “should not be used” for day-to-day living expenses. I would agree with you if you’re talking about someone in their 30s, 40s or even 50s, but when you’re talking about retired seniors in their 60s on up, it very well may be the perfect avenue to help them with those very things.

“In most cases, seniors have lived in their homes for decades and have built an enormous amount of equity. Today, the senior homeowners throughout the United States combine for over 2 trillion dollars in home equity. When a senior has chosen to age in place, meaning they desire and intend to live the rest of their lives in their home, the infusion of cash generated by a reverse mortgage can be the very ticket to financial independence.

“It’s easy for people to press the panic button and compare something they don’t understand to something which is notably troubled, such as the sub-prime mess. For a variety of factual reasons, there is no comparison.

“None.

“You make an issue about reverse mortgages not “advertising” interest rates and fees. I don’t know about your marketing knowledge, but most effective advertising you see plays up the positive aspects of a product. I’ve never seen a conventional mortgage advertisement that broke down the fees, either. The fact is, current interest rates can be found under 5%. Fees by the lender are comparable to conventional mortgages. The key is that HUD charges 2% for mortgage insurance which can double the up front cost. All of these details are disclosed and given to prospective borrowers.

“Ok, I’ve gone quite long in my reply. In closing, I want to say that I can see you are interested in the best interest of seniors, as am I. I have seen, first hand, the incredible positive impact seniors have enjoyed in obtaining a reverse mortgage. 93% of seniors surveyed by AARP indicated that their reverse mortgage had a positive affect on their lives.

“Just be careful when making blanket statements. As with all loans, reverse mortgages are not for everyone. But for whom they are appropriate, they are a godsend.

“Have a great day.”

Thank you Mr. Matelli but that is not what I was questioning. So I replied, “True, each borrower is different. But you do not offer any statistics on who gets these types of loans or how they can attain financial freedom! Living in place has a warm and fuzzy tone but the truth is, no lender will give you what you think you deserve.

“Consider the following calculations done using my zip code on a $400,000 with no mortgage and no liens. The most available as cash is $171,280 through FHA and $62,289 from Fannie Mae. Monthly payments amount to $887 and $510 respectively.

“True, no other lender advertises the closing costs but neither do reverse mortgage lenders talk about the MIP (Mortgage Insurance Premium) at 2% (of the appraised value of the home – not the loan) or 0.5% limit on the premium. Some of the upfront fees have totaled $14,000 or more. Banks charge upfront fees of 2% or more on the home’s value (in addition to HUD) and levy annual servicing fees. Nowhere have I seen a 5% rate as you suggested.

“Even though I used a $400k figure, this exceeds the limits currently available (FHA loan limit varies from $200,160 for rural areas to $362,790 for high-cost areas).

“You say there are a variety of factual reasons why this does not compare to the sub-prime mess that I suggest this could become but you offer no facts. Each year, the amount of reverse mortgages has climbed with the latest figures available showing more than 85,639 homeowners taking advantage of these types of loans in 2006. That’s nearly double the amount from the previous year. That is due to aggressive promotions done by an industry fixated on making money.

“The average age of those seeking reverse mortgages is 73.62 with the primary purpose was to increase income: 73.2%, create an emergency Fund: 18.3% cover medical costs: 6% or fund a pending home project: 3%.

“There is no doubt that this is good for some who have no mortgage – which must be paid off before any money can begin to be dispersed.

“With your back against the wall because you have made bad financial decisions does not justify making yet another potentially harmful one. Taxes, insurance and upkeep do not go away either. What happens when HUD determines the home has not been kept up to their standards. How often will these appraisals be done?

“The sub-prime mess would never had happened had lenders offered detailed counseling to borrowers who could ill-afford a home in the first place. Disclosure was done then to uneducated first time buyers and, as many of us have found, did no good. Lenders are not the type to suddenly become beneficent just because grandma needs a few extra dollars to get by. There is money to be made with those gray hairs and they know it.

“Those blanket statements are generalizations and I hesitate to suggest, may also be predictive. Can you say, in all honesty, that reverse mortgages are the best option or is there some other less capitalistic method of helping seniors?”

Although the industry closely guards who applies for these types of loans/liens, the vast majority who consider reverse mortgages want to keep their homes, spending their last days in-place. But, and yes, here comes another blanket statement, they come with mortgages they should not have in the first place.

If the industry was truly focused on keeping these seniors where they want to be, wouldn’t so many fees be unwarranted? You secure the property. You charge them interest. You use the actuarial tables to predict their expected life.

My problem you see is not with the borrowers, it is with the lenders.

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