FHA Seeks Tighter Reverse Mortgage Rules

July 26, 2013
Chicago Tribune  
mortgage lending news

While reverse mortgages work best as lines of credit that enable senior citizens to meet such immediate needs as home repairs, many such borrowers have used them as a lifeline to deal with more urgent financial needs like avoiding foreclosure. As a result, the FHA is looking to tighten its requirements for seniors who apply for a home equity conversion mortgage (HECM), its version of a reverse mortgage. According to the National Council on Aging, roughly 33 percent of its counseling clients have mortgage debt that is more than half of the value of their home. Using a reverse mortgage to pay off an existing mortgage and potentially other household debt is leaving these borrowers with little equity to fall back on. The fallout includes "technical" defaults and instances where borrowers cannot afford to pay their property taxes and homeowner insurance. The FHA is looking to impose a financial assessment test on borrowers that will determine if they have sufficient remaining cash flow to pay their living expenses after meeting their HECM obligation to pay taxes and insurance. For those borrowers who do not pass fiscal muster, the lender would be required to use a portion of the loan's proceeds to create an escrow account. The amount of the account is now under discussion among FHA officials.
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