Reverse Mortgage Professionals find themselves constantly touting, defending, and pitching the numerous advantages of the federally insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM). The primary reason they put in so much effort is not to make a sale. It is because the public is still confused and largely unaware of the lifestyle and financial planning advantages of the product. After 30 years, many older homeowners still think they lose title and ownership of their homes with this financial tool.
However, most eligible candidates are ALSO unaware of the many reasons NOT to get one. The fact is, there are individuals for whom this is not a good fit. It would be best to identify them upfront before they spend the time, energy, and money it required to complete the mandatory HECM counseling. So, let’s highlight a few conditions that could mean that a reverse mortgage might not be a good option:
- If the home does not fit the homeowner’s long-term needs
If the homeowner has the intention of selling the home within the short-term, or if the home does not meet their long-term physical needs, a reverse mortgage may not be a good fit. While they can certainly sell the home at any time, the program was designed to meet the needs of older Americans who wish to age in place. If you want to stay, and are physically able to stay, you have passed my first test.
- If the Reverse Mortgage does not provide a tangible benefit
It not only has to make sense right now, but also needs to provide a sustainable solution throughout retirement. If the reverse mortgage offers little current or future advantage to a borrower, then the homeowner should look for other options.
And using a reverse mortgage to eliminate monthly mortgage payments does not always guarantee that a homeowner will have positive monthly cash flow. New regulations, however, were implemented to ensure that monthly residual income is considered in underwriting the loan.
- If the homeowner does not adequately understand the product
A HECM borrower or their trusted advisor must be comfortable paying property charges, maintaining the home, and managing finances. Unfortunately, many are not accustomed to handling these items. In addition, some may have competency issues that prevent them from fully understanding the complex loan product for which they are applying. Consequently, HECM Counseling is required to make sure all parties understand not only the product, but also other options that may be available to them.
- If the homeowner wishes to protect a legacy
I reluctantly include this item on the list. Many experts don’t consider inheritance a reason NOT to get a reverse mortgage. This is because homeowners who obtain a growing HECM line-of-credit early in retirement are better equipped to decide how future expenses are paid – by the homeowner, by the heirs, or by the home.
Some homeowners, however, wish to protect their home’s equity as a legacy for their heirs and would never consider accessing home equity in an emergency. That’s a very nice gesture, and I can understand wanting to leave this world giving an inheritance to those you love. The debate becomes whether an inheritance is a right of the heirs or a gift from the parents. That will be a blog for another day.
If the homeowner wants to stay in the home, and understands the advantages for themselves and their heirs, come explore the strategic uses of home equity in retirement. For more information, subscribe to this blog and purchase the book, Understanding Reverse.