Ten Things You Need To Know About FHA Reverse Mortgages

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The Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) is FHA’s reverse mortgage program, which enables you to withdraw some of the equity in your home.  The HECM is a safe plan that can give older Americans greater financial security. Many seniors use it to supplement Social Security, meet unexpected medical expenses, make home improvements and more.

1. What is a reverse mortgage?
A reverse mortgage is a special type of home loan that lets you convert a portion of the equity in your home into cash. The equity that you built up over years of making mortgage payments can be paid to you.  However, unlike a traditional home equity loan or second mortgage, HECM borrowers do not have to repay the HECM loan until the borrowers no longer use the home as their principal residence or fail to meet the obligations of the mortgage.

2. Can I qualify for FHA’s HECM reverse mortgage?
To be eligible for a FHA HECM, the FHA requires that you be a homeowner 62 years of age or older, own your home have a low mortgage balance that can be paid off at closing with proceeds from the reverse loan or your loan has been paid off and you must live in the home. You are also required to receive consumer information at a cost from a HECM counselor prior to obtaining the loan

3. Can I apply for a HECM even if I did not buy my present house with FHA mortgage insurance?
Yes.  You may apply for a HECM regardless of whether or not you purchased your home with an FHA-insured mortgage.

4. What types of homes are eligible?
To be eligible for the FHA HECM, your home must be a single family home or a 2-4 unit home with one unit occupied by the borrower. HUD-approved condominiums and manufactured homes that meet FHA requirements are also eligible.

5. What are the differences between a reverse mortgage and a home equity loan?
With a second mortgage, or a home equity line of credit, borrowers must have adequate   income to qualify for the loan, and they make monthly payments on the principal and interest.  A reverse mortgage is different there are no monthly principal and interest payments.  With a reverse mortgage, you are required to pay real estate taxes, utilities, and hazard and flood insurance premiums.

6. Will we have an estate that we can leave to heirs?
When the home is sold or no longer used as a primary residence, the cash, interest, and other HECM finance charges must be repaid.  All proceeds beyond the amount owed belong to your spouse or estate.  This means any remaining equity can be transferred to heirs.

7. How much money can I get from my home?
The amount you may borrower will depend on:

  • Age of the youngest borrower
  • Current interest rate
  • Lesser of appraised value or the HECM FHA mortgage limit or the sales price; and
  • Initial Mortgage Insurance Premium

In addition, the more valuable your home is, the older you are, and the lower the interest rate, the more you can borrow.  If there is more than one borrower, the age of the youngest borrower is used to determine the amount you can borrow.

8. Should I use an estate planning service to find a reverse mortgage lender?
FHA does NOT recommend using any service that charges a fee for referring a borrower to an FHA-approved lender.   Services rendered by HUD approved HECM counselors.

9. How do I receive my payments?
You can select from different plans:

  • Term- receive available cash at closing and additional funds at 12 months 1 day
  • Tenure- equal monthly payments as long as at least one borrower lives and continues to occupy the property as a principal residence.
  • Term- equal monthly payments for a fixed period of months selected.
  • Line of Credit- unscheduled payments or in installments, at times and in an amount of your choosing until the line of credit is exhausted.
  • Modified Tenure- combination of line of credit and scheduled monthly payments for as long as you remain in the home.
  • Modified Term- combination of line of credit plus monthly payments for a fixed period of months selected by the borrower.

10. What if I change my mind and no longer want the loan after I go to closing?  How do I do this?
By law, you have three calendar days to change your mind and cancel the loan.  This is called a three day right of rescission.  The process of canceling the loan should be explained at loan closing.  Be sure to ask the lender for instructions on this process.