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.

Guilty as Charged

Laurie MacNaughton [506562]  © 2014

I could hear it in her voice, I could see it in her eyes – the fear, the sublimated guilt, the tears lurking just beneath her every word.

Her sin? Old age.

Her crime? The loss of her husband of 58 years. And, with his death went fully 50% of her household income.

And now a new challenge: she has suffered a stroke, and though her recovery is steady, it is slow, and the long-time family home is simply no longer appropriate.

I met with “Mrs. Jones” last night. Her darling middle-aged daughter joined us, and mentioned it was a realtor who had given them my name. After speaking with both mother and daughter it became clear just how good a call it was on the part of the realtor: Mrs. Jones needs out of this big house, and to get into a home appropriate to aging in place.

HECM for Purchase

HECM for Purchase (also known as Reverse for Purchase) is an FHA-insured home-purchase loan available to seniors aged 62 or older. The purchaser provides a down payment – often derived from the sale of the exit home – and the HECM for Purchase loan provides the rest of the purchase funds.

Punto. That’s is. That is the last mortgage payment the home buyer will make on that home until s/he permanently leaves the home. At that point the loan will be repaid from the proceeds of the sale, and the remaining equity will belong to the homeowner, or to the heirs.

Property taxes (if applicable), homeowners insurance, and routine upkeep of the home are still required.

Are you in a home too big, or with too much upkeep, or with too many stairs? Have your longtime neighbors moved, leaving you in a neighborhood you no longer recognize? Has traffic become such an ordeal you are afraid to leave your house?

Give me a call and let’s talk. Include your adult children on the conversation. And together, let’s explore your options. You may have far more than you know.

Laurie

Laurie MacNaughton [NMLS# 506562] · Reverse Mortgage Consultant, President’s Club · Middleburg Mortgage · 20937 Ashburn Road, Suite 115 ·Ashburn, Virginia 20147 · 703-477-1183 Direct · Laurie@MiddleburgReverse.com

   Visit me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MiddleburgReverseMortgage

Licensed in: Maryland (MD), Washington, DC, Virginia (VA), Pennsylvania (PA), Delaware (DE), North Carolina (NC), South Carolina (SC), Georgia (GA), Tennessee (TN).

Reversing Years’ Worth of Skepticism

Even if they don’t adhere to it, most people have at least heard of the “bucket” strategy of saving for retirement. Basically, it’s a method of asset allocation, a way to diversify investments and save for the day you’re no longer working full time.

But here’s a question you might not know the answer to: for most people, what is the biggest – and best funded – bucket?  Cash equivalents? Fixed-income securities? Pension?

Answer: No, no, and no. For most people, the single biggest “investment bucket” is their home.

You can think about it this way: you might have designated several buckets. But if you didn’t put sufficient money into them during the working years, those buckets are not going to get you through retirement. However, most Americans paid into their home, even during the past few years when times were tough.

But here’s the problem: after spending years pouring the first fruits of one’s income into the home, that money is frozen, tied up in an illiquid asset. It’s an investment, certainly. But it’s not one easily converted into an income stream for retirement.

Increasingly, however, drawing upon that bucket by means of an FHA reverse mortgage is being recommended as a way to meet seniors’ financial needs during retirement.

FHA reverse mortgages have been around since 1988. But until recently, the financial planning community viewed them as the dirty underbelly of financial products.  It was the rare financial planner who saw any legitimate use for them whatsoever, let alone who used them in a strategic way.

However, within the past few years scores of scholarly studies have shown both the near-term and long-term positive impact of reverse on standard of living, financial portfolios, and estates.

In “How Important Is Asset Allocation To Financial Security in Retirement?” authors Munnell, Orlova, and Webb with Center for Retirement Research at Boston College state:

…[F]inancial advice…tends to focus on financial assets, applying tools that give prominence to the asset allocation decision. But most people have little financial wealth, and financial tools are often silent on the levers that will have a much larger effect on retirement security for the majority of Americans. These levers include delaying retirement, tapping housing equity through a reverse mortgage, and controlling spending [emphasis added].

Of particular interest to many financial planners is that, when set up as a monthly payment option, a reverse mortgage basically annuitizes the home – and it’s a considerably bigger annuity than most people would have been able to establish in the years they were supporting their family, helping with college tuitions…and paying their mortgage.

Rick Gow, wealth manager with the independent investment firm Lara, Shull, and May in Falls Church, Virginia, cites the example of a 66-year-old with a house valued at $400,000.

After subtracting closing costs, the retiree could receive a tax-free, monthly check of $1,252 for as long as the home remains the primary residence. By the time the homeowner turns 85, disbursements would total more than $289,100; by age 95, the total payouts would be over $435,600.

If the homeowner were to take a onetime, lump sum payout, he or she would receive approximately $256,800.  A third option would set aside that amount in a line of credit, the balance of which grows over time, tax free.

There is also a newer, reduced fee FHA reverse mortgage, called the HECM Saver. The over-all payout is less with this option, but Gow points out the lower closing costs make it a good option for some.

The majority of Americans fear running out of money in retirement more than they fear death, according to a May, 2012 AARP bulletin. In an America where 10,000 boomers a day turn 62, the FHA reverse mortgage has an increasingly pivotal role to play in retirement planning.

I always love hearing from you. Call me at any time with questions.

Laurie

Laurie MacNaughton [NMLS# 506562] · Reverse Mortgage Consultant · Middleburg Mortgage, a Division of Middleburg Bank · 20937 Ashburn Road, Suite 115 ·Ashburn, Virginia 20147 · 703-477-1183 Direct · LMacNaughton@MiddleburgBank.com · www.middleburgmortgage.com/lauriem

Visit my Informational Blog at https://middleburgreverselady.wordpress.com/

Babies Don’t Have Dumb Ideas

When my daughters were teenagers I often said the biggest difference between teens and babies is that babies don’t have dumb ideas yet.

But both teens and babies have this in common: just a couple years later, both are more capable, more independent, and better able to care for themselves.

It’s tough to acknowledge, but I now have to add my mother to the comparison.

My mother is probably the most gifted person I know: brilliant, beautiful, funny, well read, extensively traveled, graceful and poised.

But she is getting old, and her proficiency in daily tasks is falling away at a relentless pace. And, unlike either babies or teens, a couple more years is not going to make the issue any better.

NPR Morning Edition’s Jessica Smith, in “Baby Boomer Money Squeeze Worsens, Multi-Gen Households Rise” (June 6, 2012), writes,

Roughly 78 million baby boomers are moving into their retirement years now. At first, they will be the “young” old. Legions of retired boomers soon will be walking around the mall, volunteering with community groups and taking grandchildren on trips.

At first, that can be good for the economy. But this immense generation, born between 1946 and 1964, will keep aging. Based on current medical outcomes, most of the people who live beyond age 85 will end up with dementia or other disabilities that require costly care.

Here’s how fast the numbers will ratchet up: In 1990, only about 3 million Americans were over the age of 85. Today, the figure is 6 million. By 2050, the United States will be home to about 19 million people older than 85, according to U.S. Census projections.(http://www.npr.org/2012/06/05/154001412/baby-boom-money-squeeze-is-set-to-get-tighter)

Almost 20 percent of advanced elderly Americans now live with their aging adult children, putting tremendous pressure on “leading edge” boomers who are hitting traditional retirement age. Boomers tended to have fewer children, later in life, which in some cases has resulted in their still having dependents at home at a time previous generations would have been saving intensively for retirement. Additionally, many middle-aged parents find themselves helping grown children who have lost jobs, homes, and businesses – the classic “sandwich generation” squeeze, made more intense by a prolonged recession.

We are a becoming a nation of the old and the older, the squeezed and the very squeezed.

Writes Ms. Smith, “For individuals, families, local government officials and federal taxpayers, this demographic shift will drain dollars and attention, and force extremely difficult decisions about living arrangements, as well as end-of-life care.”

When we have these talks about taxes and government, what kind of numbers are we talking about?  The primary number to watch is the national debt: in 1970, when boomers were young, the national debt ran about 28 percent of gross domestic product. It now stands at 70 percent.

And, as in the case of my mother, a couple more years is not going to make this issue any better.

According to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Medicare will remain solvent until 2024. Starting last year, Social Security already began paying out more than it takes in.

As former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, a federal spending expert says, “Government has grown too big, promised too much and waited too long to restructure. It is going to spend less over time … which means that individuals will have to plan, save and invest for the future.”

Plan, save, invest…and take out a reverse mortgage, according to research put out by Boston College in May, 2012.

….but more in my next piece about several watershed reverse mortgage articles published this spring by major research institutions.

Laurie

         Laurie MacNaughton [NMLS# 506562] · Reverse Mortgage Consultant · Middleburg Mortgage, a Division of Middleburg Bank ·                   20937 Ashburn Road, Suite 115 ·Ashburn, Virginia 20147 · 703-477-1183 Direct · LMacNaughton@MiddleburgBank.com www.middleburgmortgage.com/lauriem

Visit my Informational Blog at https://middleburgreverselady.wordpress.com/

FHA Weighs Rule Reversal, Boon for Condo Sales?

Daily Real Estate News | Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Federal Housing Administration is reportedly considering revising rules that many in the real estate industry have called overly strict and that have left many condo units ineligible for FHA’s low-downpayment mortgages.

For example, one sticking point under the FHA’s rules has been that “individual condo units cannot be sold to buyers using FHA-insured mortgages unless the property as a whole has been approved for financing,” The Wall Street Journal reports. However, condo association boards are increasingly opting not to obtain recertification of their buildings for FHA loans due to its tightened regulations against condo units.

FHA’s regulations “have had an enormous impact on individuals,” says Moe Veissi, president of the National Association of REALTORS®. More condo unit residents are finding they are unable to sell their unit because the condo board hasn’t obtained approval from FHA, Veissi told The Wall Street Journal. This then can have a roll-over affect that negatively impacts the price of condo units in the buildings then.

Half of all condo buyers tend to use FHA mortgages, and it’s an important source of lending for first-time and minority home buyers, Christopher L. Gardner, managing member of FHA Pros, a consulting firm that helps condo boards obtain FHA approvals, told The Wall Street Journal.

FHA officials say they are willing to reconsider some of their rules that have raised such an outcry among condo owners, lenders, and real estate professionals. For example, one rule the FHA is reportedly reconsidering is its stance on non-owner occupancy. As of now, FHA requires that no more than 50 percent of the units in a condo building be non-owner occupies. “This rule alone has made large numbers of condominiums in hard-hit markets ineligible for FHA financing, where investors have purchased units for cash to turn into rentals,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

FHA also is reportedly revisiting its condo rules on how many owners in a building can be delinquent on their fees. As of now, FHA refuses to approve a project if more than 15 percent of the condo units are 30 days or more late on their condo association fees, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Source: “Condo Sales May Become Easier if FHA Revises Rules Governing Mortgages,” The Wall Street Journal (May 18, 2012)

Financial Planners to Reverse Mortgage Lenders: Educate Us

by Elizabeth Ecker Published in News, Reverse Mortgage

A panel of financial planning professionals shared insight with attendees of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association conference in Irvine, California last week. By and large their message to reverse mortgage professionals was: education is paramount.

While some financial planners do understand the viability of reverse mortgage products and they ways in which they can work for clients, and even with the help of recent positive financial planning press on the products, there is still work to be done on the education front, they say.

“I was getting a lot of phone calls about reverse mortgages,” said Pat McClain, senior partner and founding principal of Hanson McClain Advisors of his early experience with reverse mortgages. “I initially had a negative attitude toward reverse mortgages. But I realized they weren’t the reverse mortgages of old; they actually help people if used correctly.”

McClain, who became one of the founders of Liberty Reverse, now advises clients on financial planning. While his mind was changed, there are still others who need help understanding how the products can work.

“In terms of clients’ perceptions, there is still a lot of work to be done,” says Jerry Clements, certified financial planner with Ameriprise. “For most there is a negative connotation when I talk to clients.”

But, Clements says, there are ways reverse mortgage professionals can work with financial planners to bring them up to speed. Some are working with reverse mortgage advisors already, others are not.

“A lot of us still have preconceived ideas. …hopefully over time with education [the reverse mortgage] could be something they integrate more as a tool to prevent portfolio failure,” he says.

While real estate professionals focus on location, location, location, McClain says, for financial planners, it’s education that counts.

“For us in the financial planning community, it’s education, education, education,” he says. “You may assume we understand how it works, but some do not have a clue. It’s a process. It may take years to develop the relationship, but if you do and there’s that trust, you will be top of mind. Our clients are asking about it and the more educated we are the more we can help our mutual clients.”

Looking ahead, McClain says, the reverse mortgage could be incorporated into financial planning calculators.

“Figure out as an industry how to bake calculators into financial planning software, so it shows up as a line item. It will make a difference in three to five years, whether they recognize it now, or not.”