The Differences Between a HECM and a HELOC

I previously discussed in earlier posts some of the details and considerations when a senior might be thinking of borrowing equity from their home and they have four options.

  • Refinance their home using a traditional mortgage – There will be a monthly payment
  • Do a Home Equity Line of Credit/HELOC – % only for five years then become fully amortized for remaining 10 years.   There will be a jump in the monthly payment.   “Payment shock”
  • Get a Fixed rate 2nd. Deed of Trust – Fully amortized monthly payment for 15 years.
  • Use a HECM/Home Equity Conversion Mortgage; a “reverse” mortgage.   No payments or loan term.  It is in effect as long as the borrower continues to occupy the home and/or they”pass” away.

Let’s examine the options a little bit closer.  The first three choices all require the borrower to qualify using their income and credit, plus they will have monthly mortgage payments.

Initially, the first 3 options are less expensive in closing costs, but there are risks associated with obligating oneself for a mortgage payment in the later years of their life.

If the borrower is currently employed and plans on working for many more years, then maybe the first 3 choices are ideal.  But what if you want to retire?  The mortgage payments won’t go “away”, the borrower will have to continue to make them each month.

Doing a traditional “cash-out” refinance is certainly an option to consider especially if the existing mortgage is at a high interest rate or it’s an Adjustable Rate Mortgage  ( who knows what will happen with interest rates in the future?  They will probably increase).  And of course, there is a monthly mortgage payment to be made.

Is this a particularly good option for a senior to continue to maintain an ongoing mortgage for many more years?

I will discuss the other three mortgages in my next post and each of them can be appealing depending on the borrower’s circumstances and what they are attempting to accomplish.


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Borrow Money from HECM or HELOC?

This is not an easy question to answer because it depends entirely upon the details and circumstances of the potential borrower and what they are trying to achieve.

Whenever anyone is looking to borrow equity from their home they could possibly do a refinance of their existing mortgage and then request cash back at the close of escrow.

Ideally they would be reducing their interest rate on the mortgage they are refinancing and then receiving the extra funds they requested and are happy with their decision.

They will have a mortgage payment to make each month and it might be larger than what they had been previously paying, because they have taken out cash from their equity and increased their loan amount, even if they reduced the interest rate.

The applicant will have to go through a lengthy Underwriting process, have excellent credit, job stability, cash reserves and enough income to meet the “debt to income” ratios and of course  good FICO scores.

This can be a very stressful process as it is more difficult to qualify for traditional mortgages than it was in the past and a great deal of documentation must be “willingly” provided by the applicant to complete the loan process.

And of course, they will have points and fees included in their loan amount as well and depending upon the size of the loan and the interest rate they choose, those fees will vary.

But what if their current loan already has a low interest rate and they want to keep it?

They could consider a Second Trust Deed that would be at a Fixed rate, a Home-Equity-Line-of-Credit or if they are aged 62 or more, a reverse loan/HECM/Home Equity Conversion Mortgage.

Unlike a HELOC, an FHA HECM reverse mortgage will not record in a second position and any existing mortgages on the property will have to be repaid from the funds from the reverse loan.

I will discuss these last two options in my next post.


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Buying an Annuity with a Reverse Mortgage

In my previous post, I started a discussion about this topic and why it is never a good idea to use money from a reverse loan to purchase an annuity.

In general, an annuity may have high surrender fees and a deferred payment that tie up the borrower’s funds in an account that they would not have immediate access to and is of no benefit to them.

And why would an 80 year old senior buy one?   What’s the point?  It’s quite likely that they will die before they can ever withdraw any funds from it.

Because of this type of predatory lending, reverse loans developed a nasty image that continues to this day but is no longer true. A reverse mortgage is probably without a doubt the most regulated loan in the lending industry and the safest for the consumer.

At no time is a borrower obligated to buy any insurance products ( especially an annuity) as part of the loan process and within the loan application there are several forms asking the borrower if they intend to use their money from the loan to purchase an annuity and are they working with a retirement advisor?

Once the federal government stepped in and began managing this loan program along with individual state regulations, seniors are now protected from financial manipulation and the potential for financial abuse.

Plus a reverse loan is somewhat “like” an annuity, except the borrower doesn’t have to wait to receive their funds and there are no possible tax consequences.

Why is a HECM/Home Equity Conversion Mortgage better than an annuity?

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Reverse Mortgages and Annuities

An annuity should never be purchased using money from a reverse loan, but in the past there were times when a reverse loan borrower would unwisely do just that and sometimes these vulnerable seniors were (for lack of a less sensitive term) “robbed”.

But what has happened since then to protect seniors from this kind of scam?

In 1987 Congress passed the FHA Insurance and Uniform Lending practices and the FHA insurance bill that would insure Reverse mortgages.

The first reverse mortgage to be insured by FHA was in 1989 and they continue to oversee this program very closely as an added protection to seniors and since that time additional oversight has come from Housing & Economic Recovery Act, HUD, Ginnie Mae, the National Reverse Lenders Association and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Prior to this time, reverse loans were created and offered by other entities  such as insurance companies in exchange for a portion of the equity of the borrower’s home when they passed away and at very high interest rates.

And quite often an annuity was tied to this transaction by obligating the borrower to use the funds from the reverse loan to purchase  this insurance product.

Is this an acceptable suggestion for a senior to utilize in their “later” years?


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Reverse Loans and Divorcing

In my previous post I mentioned that since the 1990’s, “Gray” divorce  ( As senior divorce is often referred to) has increased.   As a matter of fact it has tripled and more seniors are splitting up than in any previous time.

More often than not, the “wife” will want to continue to live in the home but is unable to qualify for a traditional loan due to lack of income and cash reserves.

So what happens if one of them wants to keep the home and continue to live in it?

More than likely they won’t have enough income to qualify for a traditional loan and even if they are going to receive spousal support, a lender will not use it for qualifying purposes because there will be no history of it’s receipt to the spouse who has been awarded support.

And what would be her option?

Depending on her age, the value of the subject property and if there are any mortgages on it, she may be able to qualify for a reverse mortgage, pay off the spouse and continue to live in her home.

Her only responsibilities would be to continue to pay property taxes, home insurance and any HOA fees and keep the home in good repair.

Reverse loans are a financial tool.  A tool to leverage the longevity of a retirement portfolio, purchase a home, provide additional income for on going expenses and other aging concerns.

And it’s also an excellent tool that can help the pain of divorce be just a little bit less and allow one of the divorcing couples to remain living in their home and not be displaced.

My description is quite simplistic in this post and the borrower does need to qualify on their residual income, but overall using a Reverse mortgage as part an option to retain the property in a divorce is a very good suggestion and should be considered in the settlement process.


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