Did you know?

Did you know the average reverse mortgage borrower is not in financial distress?

Rather, the typical person doing a reverse mortgage is the retiring boomer who watched a parent’s financial situation later in life and is determined to avoid a financial crunch down the road.

And did you know there are two “flavors” of reverse mortgage, a refinance and a purchase?

Typically, the homeowner doing a reverse mortgage refinance is the baby boomer putting together a long-range financial plan.  The homebuyer using a reverse for purchase is looking to buy a home without pinning down a huge chunk of cash or taking on a new 30-year mortgage during retirement.

A reverse mortgage is not mysterious, nor exotic, nor any more complex than any other loan. It is simply a home loan repaid when the last title-holder permanently vacates the property.

So if this looks like it fits your retirement goals, or the goals of someone you love, give me a call. I always love hearing from you.

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Can a reverse mortgage create a financial safety net?

Laurie MacNaughton © 2018

Can a reverse mortgage create a financial safety net in retirement?

In a word, yes.

This morning I received a call from a wealth manager who led off by saying he wasn’t “that familiar with reverse mortgages.” He specifically wanted to know whether a reverse mortgage could offer retirement-aged clients a measure of security during market fluctuations.

Here was my answer: the most familiar “flavor” of reverse mortgage is the line of credit. It’s an equity line that is repaid when the last person on title permanently vacates the home. Once the home is no longer the primary residence, typically it is sold and the loan is repaid; the homeowner, heirs, or estate get the remaining equity. End of story. No mystery here, nothing “too good to be true.”

Many wealth managers routinely recommend traditional equity lines. However, with a traditional line of credit, once homeowners draw funds they then have a monthly mortgage payment due. Because the retirement years can be a time when access to liquidity is crucially important, a monthly mortgage payment can create an increasingly unstable financial environment.

A reverse mortgage line of credit does not have a monthly repayment obligation. This means that if homeowners need a cash infusion, they do not pick up a monthly mortgage payment. Furthermore, the unused portion of a reverse mortgage line of credit grows larger over time, making more funds available for future use.

As is the case with other homeownership, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and home repairs must be kept current, and if there are condo dues or a homeowner’s association, fees must be paid on time.

The FHA-insured reverse mortgage is not exotic, mysterious, nor even particularly complex. It can be, however, a helpful financial safety net when life becomes unpredictable.

For more information on reverse mortgage, give me a call. I always love hearing from you.

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Market volatility and reverse mortgage

Laurie MacNaughton © 2018

If you’re even a casual market observer, Monday’s financial news grabbed your attention as the Dow plunged 1175 points, the biggest point drop in history.

As a result of the market turbulence, the first call I took Tuesday went like this: “In light of the market crash, should I do a reverse mortgage?”

So…a couple things here.

First, and perhaps most importantly, a loan officer is not the same thing as a financial planner, wealth manager, nor accountant; most loan officers are neither estate attorneys nor CPAs. Even if your particular loan officer does carry one or more of these designations, he or she should not be dispensing advice across disciplines, as conflicts of interest might quickly become an issue.

Second, even though 1175 is an uncomfortably large number, percentage-wise it’s not anywhere near a big enough drop to qualify as a market “crash” by any reasonable definition.

Third – and I want to emphasize this – if a reverse mortgage was a good fit before a market plunge, it’s a good fit following a market plunge. If it was a poor fit before a drop, it may well continue to be a poor fit. And for those urgent reverse mortgage sales pitches? It’s always a good idea to listen to a “sky-is-falling” message with a healthy measure of skepticism.

But this topic does suggest a very real question, namely what are some factors that make a reverse mortgage a good fit?

Optimally, a reverse mortgage is one part of a long-range financial plan in retirement.

Here’s what I mean: as life expectancies continue to increase, retirement is going to take more than just Social Security. It’s going to take more than a well-funded 401-K. In fact, it’s going to take more than a pension, an annuity, an IRA, or a bank account – or a reverse mortgage. But when added together, these can combine to create a long-term means of maintaining dignity and independence in retirement.

So, don’t panic. And certainly don’t get caught up in catchy sales pitches. But do understand your options – and how a reverse mortgage can fit into your long-range financial plans.

If you would like more information on reverse mortgage, give me a call. I always love hearing from you.

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How is a Reverse Mortgage different from an Equity Line of Credit?

Laurie MacNaughton 2017

Answer? In several important ways…

Or…you can just strike oil

Laurie MacNaughton [506562] © 2017

When I was little I played house. I played school. I played orphan, pilgrim, mommy, fairy, and – as we called it then – Indian. In another nod to the political incorrectness of the time, my sister and I once played Siamese twins by tying ourselves together using my father’s neckties. Notice…”once.”

But never among the roles my siblings and I played did we include “adult child of an aging parent.” I didn’t see this role in the families I knew nor did I read about it in the books I read. In fact, the role wasn’t really much of a “thing” back then – and by “back then” I mean the 1970’s.

Fast forward: today most of us are either dealing with aging-related issues as they impact ones we love, or we have friends who are. And, typically, chief among the issues is the financial cost of care.

This Saturday past I met with an impressive couple in their lovely home. Both retired medical doctors, they did everything right – saved, lived within their means, engaged in a healthy lifestyle. But now, though only in their late-seventies, they’re beginning to worry their retirement savings may not be sufficient.

So what’s the deal here? How could a solidly upper-middleclass couple have made a significant dent in their savings ahead of schedule?

Easy: they’re bankrolling the wife’s 96-year-old mother. And in this case, though Mom is advanced-elderly, she’s by no means at death’s door. From all appearances, she could live another five years, maybe more. She’s not going back to work, however, and she long ago exhausted her own retirement savings. That means her daughter and son-in-law are probably looking at several more years of providing for Mom – and Mom’s care costs are unlikely to decrease over time.

Scarcely does a week go by that I don’t see some variation on this same theme: a couple who indeed planned appropriately for retirement, but was thrown a curve ball in the form of financing a relative’s longevity. Good health insurance is not a cure, as insurance doesn’t pay for many goods and services attendant with aging, and family typically foots the bill for non-medical sundries.

We hear a lot about a sustainable drawdown of retirement savings. But the not-uncommon situation I’m describing is a double drawdown, meaning the retired couple is funding their own retirement and a parent’s longevity. If the couple also goes on to enjoy a long life, they are likely to need someone to step in to help finance them. You can see a multigenerational impact in the making.

I hasten to add I was privileged to assist in the care of my parents, both of whom died of cancer a few years back. However, I am still in the workforce, and consequently did not experience a drawdown of my retirement funds, let alone a double drawdown. At least not on the surface.

Look a little closer, however, and there was a very real long-term financial cost: every dollar I spent flying to Arizona to spend weekends with my parents was a dollar I was not putting into retirement savings – and transit costs barely scratched the surface of my expenditures. Don’t get me wrong: I wouldn’t have traded those months with my parents for all the 401(k)’s in the world. But the point remains: the financial reality of caring for aging parents carries a long-range impact.

So what’s the cure here? Well, one is what J. Paul Getty said, namely, “Rise early, work hard, strike oil.” Sign me up.

For the rest of us, there are several things financial professionals recommend, including  becoming a lifelong saver – meaning continuing to save even once you’re receiving Social Security or other retirement benefits. Increasingly I hear financial advisors say they’re incorporating aging-parent care-costs into discussions even with younger clients.

But here’s also where a discussion of reverse mortgage comes in. Along with many others, when I first heard the term I assumed reverse mortgages were some shady mess cooked up in the back alley – and there’s a historical reason most of us think that. However, the modern reverse mortgage is an FHA-insured home equity line of credit designed to give homeowners access to some of their home’s equity, while not creating a monthly repayment obligation.

Reverse mortgage is going to play a role in the long-term financial well-being of many boomers as they age. Furthermore, if boomers’ parents are homeowners themselves, the parents’ reverse mortgage can help fund their care, taking some of the financial burden off adult children. Indeed, over the years I have done several “twin” reverse mortgages – one for the adult children and one for the advanced-elderly parent.

With longevity increasing, none of us is likely to get by on just our Social Security. Few will survive just on an IRA, a 401(k), or pension – or, for that matter, on a reverse mortgage. But when added together, all these contribute to becoming “self-pay” through the end of life.

A reverse mortgage is not a fit for everyone – no one financial product is.

But a reverse mortgage is going to play an important role in many homeowners’ financial health in retirement, particularly when used as part of a sound, long-term retirement plan.

Or…you can just strike oil.

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Understandable issues, unintended consequences

Laurie MacNaughton © 2017

The call seemed like an outlier: the elder law attorney said her widowed, wheelchair-bound client was poised to lose her home due to foreclosure of a HECM after the homeowner failed to pay her property taxes.

Weird thing was, the homeowner had long had a full property tax waiver.

And then came another call, and then another – all within a couple weeks. All borrowers involved had had property tax waivers.

The question then became the following: had anything in the tax code changed regarding property tax waivers for senior homeowners?

Bingo.

A few months earlier tax waivers for the elderly had been changed to tax deferrals. And that’s a big deal.

Here’s why: the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) citation addressing tax deferrals as they impact HECM reads:

The mortgagor shall not participate in a real estate tax deferral program or permit any liens to be recorded against the property, unless such liens are subordinate to the insured mortgage and any second mortgage held by the Secretary (24 C.F.R. PART 206, § 206.27 (B)(3)).  [Emphasis added]

Tax deferrals are also addressed in the HUD Handbook:

The mortgagor is prohibited from participating in any real estate tax deferral program unless the lien created by this program is subordinate to the insured mortgage held by the mortgagee (HUD Handbook, 4330.1, chapter 13, section 12). [Emphasis added]

Due to federal guidelines on deferrals, if a HECM-holder’s tax waiver is turned into a deferral, the homeowner is subject to a clawback of the full amount of back taxes. If they cannot come up with the clawback and report late on their property taxes, their HECM is in default.

Virginia elder law attorney Veronica E. Williams cites an example.

She says:

My client, a participant in a senior homeowner tax relief program, has a reverse mortgage. Per county requirement, my client filed his annual application for tax relief and it was accepted.

Due to a municipal change from tax waivers to tax deferrals, my client’s reverse mortgage servicer became aware of the fact he now has tax deferral status instead of tax exempt status. As a result, the servicer advised that he had to withdraw his application for tax relief. When my client withdrew the application all deferred taxes became due and payable. The reverse mortgage servicer then notified him he had to pay all back real estate taxes.

The story gets worse. Attorney Williams continues:

My client advised the servicer he was unable to pay the taxes all at once because he was on a fixed income.  The servicer offered to put him on an affordable installment plan, and he agreed to the terms of the plan.  However, the servicer also advised that HUD would have to approve the payment plan.

Unfortunately, HUD did not approve the payment plan. This lack of approval was not based upon any fault on the part of my client, but instead was based upon the fact my client’s reverse mortgage didn’t contain funds enough to pay the back taxes.

The reverse mortgage servicer paid my client’s real estate taxes and then sent notice he would be subject to foreclosure and eviction if he did not reimburse them for paying back real estate taxes.

This homeowner did nothing wrong. The rules changed and now he stands to lose his home.

From the county or municipality viewpoint the issues here are understandable: county boards concede the point that payment of property taxes can be a crushing burden in the retirement years. However, many counties face declining revenues, have yet to recover financially from the recession. For this reason they feel they cannot forfeit taxes outright, and instead recover back taxes after the property has been vacated by the senior homeowner.

But here’s where the math becomes complex: if seniors who were successfully aging in place and on track to being self-pay through the end of life lose their homes, solutions can represent a pricy fix. Long-term solutions potentially carry a price tag that far exceeds the tax revenue the county recovered. For instance, is there affordable housing sufficient to accommodate the newly displaced senior? And, does the county want to foot bill for aging homeowners who cannot qualify for reverse mortgages in the future due to property tax policies?

One last twist here: If the senior homeowner had Medicaid home-based care (also called an EDCD Waiver), and now has no home in which to receive care, are there enough Medicaid-approved nursing home beds to house the Medicaid recipients?

Medicaid is a cooperative between states and the federal government, meaning the financial burden does not fall upon individual counties’ shoulders. If counties inadvertently cause a care crisis, they don’t foot the bill; rather, the burden falls to the state and federal governments. No county would dare say, “We are a senior un-friendly community, and our goal is to disenfranchise our older homeowners.”

And yet – and yet – this can be precisely the unintended consequence if counties move forward with tax deferrals in a manner that does not take HECM guidelines into account.

There are examples of states successfully addressing the waiver/deferral issue. National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association Executive Vice President Steve Irwin says California, Oregon, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire record tax liens subordinate to a HECM, thus fulfilling both the CFR and HUD Handbook qualifying requirements. Oregon is taking it one step further and moving legislation on the matter.

Making a way forward for as many people as possible to be self-pay through the end of life is a goal shared by many homeowners and municipalities alike – and reverse mortgage plays an integral role in achieving this goal.

Informed tax policy is going to prove a determining factor for many as to whether aging in place remains a viable option. As author Eckhart Tolle says, “Awareness is the greatest agent for change.” ‘Tis indeed, ‘tis indeed.

Yes You CAN Buy a Home With a Reverse Mortgage

I got quite a humorous call from a darling client who purchased a home using a Reverse Mortgage.

I’ll call her Mia – and I need to mention she immigrated here from overseas and speaks with an accent.

So here’s what Mia told me: When she tells people she bought her home using a Reverse Mortgage, and that she’ll never have a monthly mortgage payment, they tell her she didn’t really understand the transaction. Never mind that Mia’s adult daughter, American born and raised – and a highly successful realtor in Northern Virginia – walked through every step of the transaction with Mia. Never mind that Mia has a PhD in applied physics. Because Mia’s friends don’t know about Reverse for Purchase, Mia must be wrong.

Well, Mia isn’t wrong. But it is true that many people don’t know about Reverse for Purchase.

And because of that, I’ve put together a short video on how it works.

Give me a call with questions. I always love hearing from you!

Laurie

Laurie MacNaughton [506562] is a freelance writer and a Reverse Mortgage Consultant at Southern Trust Mortgage. She can be reached at: 703-477-1183 Direct, or Laurie@MiddleburgReverse.com