Reverse Mortgage Loan for Purchase Program

22 08 2009

There is a new program designed to help seniors use a reverse mortgage to help buy a home, provided they can come up with a large down payment. In fact, it’s a significant down payment (twice the amount of a normal down payment.) It is the same underlying product that has been around for 21 years but it allows people to use it for purchase finance as opposed to a refinancing tool.

Before the Home Equity Conversion for Purchase program rolled out in January, seniors 62 years and older could only use reverse mortgage loans to draw out tax-free payments from the equity held in an existing home while continuing to live in it. Many lenders are now starting to offer these new loans in addition to traditional reverse mortgage products. But as with traditional reverse mortgages, there are costs involved that can add thousands of dollars to the loan amount, which grows over time and has to be repaid after the last borrower leaves or sells the property or dies and the home is passed on to heirs.

Program participants are required to make a downpayment typically ranging from 30 to 40 percent. The reverse mortgage loan amount is used to pay off the balance of the new home’s purchase price.

People who have a traditional reverse mortgage on an existing home cannot refinance it into a reverse mortgage for purchase to buy a new home. Instead, the reverse mortgage on the existing home would have to be paid off before applying for the reverse mortgage for purchase.

The reverse mortgage for purchase program requires that the new home be the primary home, which means living it in for at least six months of the year. The home can be located anywhere in the United States.

Borrowers never have to make a mortgage payment as long as they live in the primary home. Unlike with traditional reverse mortgages that require seniors to be homeowners, renters are not excluded from the new program. And if you already own a home, there is no requirement to sell it. In fact, you could rent it out.

Before taking out a reverse mortgage for purchase loan, borrowers are required to receive counseling from a nonprofit agency approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“It’s a new way to use a reverse mortgage. It’s catching on pretty fast,” said Tricia Smith of San Mateo-based HIP Housing, a HUD-approved loan counseling agency in San Mateo.

While it may be the right move for some people, borrowers need to be aware of closing costs, fees and Federal Housing Administration mortgage insurance premiums that can add thousands of dollars to the cost of the loan. Typically, those extras are financed in the loan amount.

The loan amount available to borrowers is tied to a percentage of the current reverse mortgage $625,500 lending limit or appraised value of the purchased home, whichever is lower. The older the borrower, the higher the percentage. The $625,500 lending limit amount expires at the end of 2009 unless Congress acts to extend it.

The down payment money that borrowers have to come up with has to be from savings, retirement income or proceeds from the sale of an existing home. If the existing home is sold to provide the down payment for the new home, there are fewer closing costs involved than if the transactions were done separately.

Once the title on the home changes hands, the loan amount, along with accrued interest, mortgage insurance premiums and other fees, has to be repaid to the lender.

“It’s not free money. It’s a rising debt loan,” said Smith.

That said, the product can be used to help retirees downsize to a smaller home or help renters become homeowners, she said. “They won’t have to make a (mortgage) payment for the rest of their life,” Smith said.

Source: Contra Costa Times


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